“Close a School” Scare Resurfaces

Updated Feb. 15, 2015 — Fear of “closing a school’ peaked at the Feb. 4, 2015,  11th meeting of the LASD Facilities Master Plan Committee (FMPC), when a shocking crowd of ~75 persons came to give public comment (~15) or to at least watch the committee proceedings. The FMPC had to move from its usual room to the larger board room which had more seating. What the public witnessed that evening was the FMPC members “speed evaluate” [like speed dating] three ridiculous, non-viable options for accommodating enrollment growth.  Also the public was treated to a lengthy explanation which attempted to “position” the time the FMPC spent on the ridiculous options as just part of their assignment.  A public speaker from Bullis Charter said she was speaking for the BCS community which thought all options which  “closed or moved a district school” were unacceptable and opposed them.  At the Feb. 18 and March 4 meeting the FMPC will be composing a report for the board of trustees. That should be illuminating!

January 26, 2015 — The “close a school” scare has surfaced again. Here is a summary of the 10th meeting of the Facilities Master Plan Committee (FMPC)  on Jan. 21, 2015 in Los Altos, California. This committee was formed by the LASD board of trustees to consider the benefits and drawbacks of some generic options for accommodating enrollment growth and the charter school, aka, for spending Los Altos School District Measure N bond funds.

Apparently word got out to the public about the results of the 9th FMPC meeting, wherein the “committee voted” to pursue evaluation of only 4 of the ~20 “brainstormed” options for accommodating enrollment growth. Several of the 4 options (selected by voting) involved “closing a school” or “moving a school” (which some people see as the same thing) and “moving 6th grade to the junior highs.”  These were options that assume no new land or only micro-sites can be acquired.

At this 10th meeting Jan. 21, four public speakers showed up to ask why the FMPC was considering such unattractive options and to please stop doing so. Several speakers said they had worked for Measure N which “promised no school would be closed/moved.”  (Also, for the first time, 3 LASD board members came and observed a FMPC meeting.)

After public comments,  the committee started its evaluation of Option 4 – “a mega middle school with 4 schools on one junior high site, & with Bullis Charter on the other junior high site.” [This concept was initiated by LASD staff a couple of meetings ago ]. The committee completed its formal evaluation process of Option 4, and then —  rather than move on to Option 5 evaluation which was next on the agenda — the Co-chair initiated an “open mic” session for committee members.

About 30 minutes of committee member comments revealed a room consensus that all of the 4 brainstormed OPTIONS scheduled for evaluation were very politically unviable. There seemed to be a feeling it was not a good use of their time to evaluate these “second best and third-best scenarios.” Instead…some members suggested spending more time on the report to the board. Others suggested a closer look at the LASD board’s OPTION 1 – acquire one new site: let the committee evaluate some generic site size, site location variations.  Example: 10 acres in North Los Altos, 5 acres in North Los Altos, 8 acres in South Los Altos.  How would the FMPC recommend such new land be used? For what? For whom?

Also some suggested that the FMPC rank and weight all options — rather than just deliver verbal pros and cons — although this was “not the charge of the committee” as instructed by the board of trustees. Others thought it was pointless to involve options that required moving 6th grade to the junior highs, as this was a curriculum issue, not a facilities issue.

Trustees Ivan Ivanovich and Tamara Logan (on the right)  attend the Jan. 21, 2015  FMPC meeting of the Los Altos School District

Trustees Ivan Ivanovich and Tamara Logan attend the Jan. 21 FMPC meeting of the Los Altos School District along with members of the public.  Sangeeth Peruri also attended.

LALAHPOLITICO: The LASD staff, who constitute about a third of the committee membership, are having to zig and zag to keep this articulate group on  “the tracks.”  Katie Kinnaman, Principal at LASD’s Gardner Bullis school, is a dynamic and firm Co-chair. To staff’s credit, they were responsive to the members’ desire to brainstorm and did brainstorm a couple meetings ago. However, somehow the less toxic brainstormed concepts — those which did “not close or move a school” nor reconfigure junior high as 6 to 8 — lost the vote at a prior meeting. [Maybe because staff votes, and non-staff attendance has weakened?]

In particular,  the politically viable “no new land” concepts — such as putting the charter next to Covington without closing or moving Covington, or leaving the charter split on the two junior highs — have been inexplicably passed over by the FMPC.  Also the politically viable “no new land” option of  forming a new LASD school on the current site of the charter a Egan — a school that could take the enrollment pressure off of Santa Rita and Almond — has been passed over by the FMPC. BTW, it was former LASD board member, Mark Goines, who first proposed putting  an extra LASD k-6 school on Egan back in 2007.

It does feel like a “community perceptions” blunder for the staff who are on the FMPC to advance facilities “concepts” that close or move an existing LASD school.  I know, I know, these were labeled as worst case scenarios, but why consider those now just as the land consultant starts shopping? Now we just have another episode of baseless community agitation.


About the author


Norma Schroder is an economics & market researcher by trade and ardent independent journalist, photographer and videographer by avocation. Enthralled by the growth of the tech industry over the decades, she became fascinated with the business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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