Garden Party Benefits Museum

Posted on April 16, 2016 by  
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History Museum FundraiserThe Los Altos History Museum has scheduled its Spring Fundraising Gala at the 1920s estate of Nan and Chuck Geschke 4:30-7:30 p.m. May 7.

Guests will get a rare glimpse of the gardens of the historical Los Altos home. The garden party will feature wine and hors d’oeuvres, a classic-car display, plein-air artists, a garden boutique, chamber music and self-guided tours of the gardens.

In 1926, Frank Marini built the four-level Italianate home on the corner of University and Burke avenues as a summer home for himself and his four sisters. Marini’s contributions helped build St. Nicholas Church on Lincoln Avenue and Marini Hall at the Jesuit Retreat on University Avenue.

The Geschkes purchased the property in 1995 and began extensive restoration of the home and grounds.

Opened in 2001, the Los Altos History Museum features changing displays as well as the permanent exhibition “Crown of the Peninsula,” which chronicles the history of Los Altos. Across the courtyard is the J. Gilbert Smith House, the original museum that opened in 1977. The home, built circa 1905, has been refurbished to replicate a 1930s farmhouse.

Fundraisers such as the Spring Gala provide donations necessary to maintain and enhance the exhibitions and grounds.

Tickets are $150. Proceeds support the museum and its programs.

To reserve tickets and for more information, call 948-9427, ext. 14, or email


Music Unites Schools In Concert

Posted on April 13, 2016 by  
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LASD Choral ShowcaseMore than 200 students packed the Blach Intermediate School gym last week to unite the Los Altos School District community in song.

Blach hosted the fourth annual LASD Choral Showcase, featuring choral groups from Blach, Egan Junior High, Covington, Springer and Bullis Charter schools.

The conductors from the three junior highs – David Belles of Bullis Charter School, Mary Hamilton of Egan and Gail Wade of Blach – met at the beginning of the school year to select works the groups would sing together.

During the event, each choral group performed its own selections and then joined en masse, with directors each leading a different musical piece.

“All the kids, not only do they get to work with new students, they get to experience new conductors,” Wade said. “It is really great for them to test out their musicality. I always learn something when working with other conductors.”

Wade said she was pleased with the enthusiasm of everyone involved, from the students to the conductors to the parents.

“They are trying to create something beautiful, and everyone pulls their own weight,” she said. “Every single voice is important, and they all have a certain amount of musical education – there is a common language everyone speaks. They all feel engaged as part of a group.”

The choral groups that performed included the Blach Busters and Blachappella from Blach, the Covington Choir, the Egan Choir and Viking Voices, the Springer Singers and Bullis Charter School’s Sonore (grades 4-5) and Melodia (grades 6-8).

In addition to each choral group’s individual performance, the junior high groups combined choirs to perform two pieces, and two works showcased all of the students.




Successful First Year For Enchanté

Posted on April 4, 2016 by  
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Enchante Boutique HotelA year after opening the doors to Enchanté Boutique Hotel, proprietor Abigail Ahrens has her eyes on its renaissance.

“My job is to keep coming up with things that would have the community involved and make a difference,” said the longtime Los Altos resident and lifelong Francophile.

Styled with her collection of antiques, Ahrens’ hotel features 19 guest rooms ranging from $300 to $675 per night, as well as a canine concierge service, a public outdoor plaza and a bistro serving light afternoon fare. Beginning April 10, the bistro opens for Sunday brunch.

“It’s all about the comfort of the guests,” said assistant general manager Paula Nicolas. “What’s unique about this property is that it really feels like you’re staying in the guest rooms of an estate.”

Nicolas should know. The Los Altos native lived for a year with a family in the south of France, where she hoped eventually to work. And then she came home.

Before Enchanté, the triangular parcel at the corner of San Antonio Road and Main Street sat empty for 20 years. Developers planned an office building until Ahrens saw it as the ideal location for her boutique hotel.

Ahrens envisioned her business as a way to reinvest in the city – and in a way she thought would be familiar. Visitors frequently inquired about short-term rentals, and she began to consider the idea of opening a hotel.

The hotel stands as a gift to Los Altos, providing transient occupancy taxes in perpetuity. The aficionado of all things French sold her residence and spent three years gathering the artwork, fabrics and furnishings to add to her personal collection, such as the French farm table grounding the bistro.

The hotel’s 15 employees include management with experience at luxury hospitality companies – Nicolas from Four Seasons and general manager Josh Steinhart from Rosewood.

And the small-business structure enables Enchanté to cater to its visitors. If a guest makes a special request, a staff member can walk to the grocery store and purchase the item.

Of all the requests and queries Ahrens’ has received this year, food service has topped the list. The hotel’s executive chef Jaime Arteaga cooks up banquets for special events alongside candlelit dinners for two. In August last year, confusion over the hotel’s food service permit prompted a monthlong public review and city council vote to allow the business to serve patrons beyond its guests during select hours.

Ahrens developed the outdoor public plaza in exchange for an incentive of no onsite parking.  Looking toward the future, Ahrens plans to provide a “Suite Ride” concierge with luxury car rentals to and from the hotel. As to edible offerings, the hotel will add special-occasion high-tea events in addition to the weekly brunch.

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Coding For Junior High Students

Posted on April 2, 2016 by  
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Egan eighth-gradersCoding is getting more advanced for two classes of junior high students in the Los Altos School District.

In January, Blach Intermediate and Egan Junior High schools began offering an elective computer science course.

The course, which instructor and district computer science integration specialist Sheena Vaidyanathan said is a pilot program, is designed to provide students with more in-depth and challenging coding exercises.

All district students receive Computer Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (CSTEM) instruction once a week, which includes coding and computer science lessons. The new elective course meets daily.

“They are coming in every day,” Vaidyanathan said of her coding students. “The bar is set higher on how much I am expecting them to finish or complete. In CSTEM we are exposing them and getting them excited, and in the elective we are going a lot deeper.”

That deeper knowledge starts in the type of coding program the students are using – Python, a text-based coding language.

Last week the students prepared for presentations on their first collaborative coding assignment. Assembled in groups of three, each student wrote code to create a graphic – trees, a road, buildings, etc. Students then combined all three of their graphics into one element.

To take it one step further, she taught students a new function, enabling students in the class at Blach to manipulate their graphics.

In the course, Vaidyanathan teaches different coding basics and the class expands on the coding building blocks. Students are assigned a series of tasks and programming assignments to complete, using code from scratch.

Egan eighth-grader Boris Palant said the computer science course challenges him. “There is a lot of thinking involved,” he said. “You don’t always have all the commands – you have to remember what they are. I like that we have a lot of projects. It challenges you to remember and use the coding you have done before.”

Vaidyanathan said the tasks are clearly outlined and include a time limit as well as grading and assessment. She noted that she is designing the class to prepare students for higher-level computer science courses in high school.

The addition of computer science classes is one of the Los Altos Educational Foundation’s goals for the district, and foundation funds supported creation of the course.

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