Schools

New LASD School in LAH? Possible, Yes.

new school building in Menlo Park, Hillview School
There is 10 acres of land available in LAH for around $1 million per acre. Why pursue small, expensive sites in Mountain View?
Written by lalahpolitico
[Update: Correction. The LAH site discussed in this article is more like ~30 acres, not ~50 acres. Also there are two other smaller residential parcels available which John Swan suggests should be evaluated by LASD – both around 10 acres one is in PAUSD, the other in MV Whisman. These are not covered in this article]

 

There is a ~50 acre underdeveloped residential site — near 280 and Astradero Road — for sale within the confines of the City of Los Altos Hills. The seller prefers that most of it become a nature preserve, rather than be developed for a dozen or so luxury homes. Also the seller feels carving out 10 acres for a new LASD school in LAH would be fine and dandy.

According to LASD Citizens Oversight Committee member John Swan, certain members of LAH City Council are open to the idea of a nature preserve and a school site at his location. The idea has never been formally discussed by LAH City Council.   LASD would need to take the initiative  on how to pull together the funds for the seller’s suggested asking price of about $50 million — only $1-million an acre. Perhaps LASD would simply approach the seller asking to buy a 10 acre portion. Obviously LASD would pay for the 10 acres using Measure N funds.  Perhaps some kind of a joint citizens committee could be formed to explore raising private donations for the nature reserve portion.  It is likely that LASD might need to reach out to PAUSD.


$1M an acre LAH vs. $5-10 M an acre in MV

So this site opportunity for a new LASD school in LAH costs just $1M an acre. LASD could obtain 10 acres for around $10M. Meanwhile the the Los Altos School District Board is currently investigating urban sites from 4 to 8 acres costing $5-15M an acre in the San Antonio Precise Plan Area of Mountain View. Even with developer funds from the City of Mountain View and with TDR programs, such San Antonio sites will likely cost at least 5+ times as this suburban site  for a new LASD school in LAH. At $1M an acre in LAH, we can create the typical, spacious LASD 10-acre school site – the school type we all know and love — not some cramped ‘urban’ concoction.


Boundary Redraws no matter which new school?

If and whenever Los Altos School District adds a new school – whether it is on new MV land or on new LAH land or at an existing school site like Covington – there will be a attendance area redraw. Unless of course the new MV or LAH site is dedicated to Bullis Charter School. But for a magnet school like Bullis Charter, where the parents are already commuting their kids, a car trip to an exurban/suburban location like LAH is acceptable.

BCS is not a neighborhood school, unlike District-run schools which purport to be neighborhood schools. Parents expect to commute; certainly a bus program would be helpful for a magnet school like BCS no matter whether is were to be located  in MV or LAH or Covington.

A potential new LASD school site in LAH is about 1 mile from Gardener Bullis School shown at the right.  Pinewood private school, renting a school site owned by PAUSD, is in the center. There are almost 50 acres for sale in the 280 environs. [?] The bulk of the land could become a City of LAH nature preserve, but it is possible to set aside 10 acres for a new LASD school in LAH. The LAH Council is willing to work to try to make it all happen.


This potential City of LAH preserve/school site is about 1 mile – as the crow flies — from Gardner Bullis Elementary. Actual driving distance to this potential new LASD school in LAH is about 2 miles from Gardener Bullis because of the hills and ‘country’ roads.


Squishy Deadlines: Find New Site vs. Use Existing Site

Let’s remember that the Board promised in 2015 it was working its way through a finite list of potential school sites, and if they all proved infeasible, the Board would start to make plans in the summer or fall of 2016 for using an existing site to add a school. Well, that was a false promise.

LASD tried but failed to to buy this site for a new school

This Mountain View site was among the first on the LIST of potential sites to be evaluated by LASD Board for purchase. No deal could be struck.  Now two years later the LASD Board is looking again at the same MV sites and a couple of new long shots added in…


Instead of moving forward with planning for using Covington or another existing site, the Board said, “Oh, the City of MV has become much more helpful….so the District will revisit trying to buy San Antonio Precise area sites that we’ve looked at but rejected before…, etc.” So that’s were we are.

The District has set no deadlines for when it might give up on pursuing  sites in MV, when it might give up on constructing deals with TDRs, and when it might give up on collecting those luscious pots of MV developer fees. So this Board search ‘process,’ this ‘activity,’ could continue, and continue, and continue, an endless loop, with no decision to go to Plan B – use an existing school site like Covington for an additional school campus. [Are we waiting for Steve Taglio to term out on the Board?]

LASD though about purchasing this Los Altos site

This 4-acre office building was the LAST site on the original site LIST that LASD Board looked at and ultimately rejected. But once the list was exhausted they did NOT move on to Plan B – using an  existing site.


Meanwhile, Enrollment Growth Flatlines

Per the District’s Citizens Advisory Finance Committee (CACF) presentation planned for delivery June 5, 2017 to the Board, student enrollment has NOT grown in LASD for several years. [Note: San Antonio Ctr. East is the new apartment going across from the the new MV Safeway and the exisiting new high-rise Carmel Terrance Apts.. No one knows if there will be children or not.]


The whole rationale for voting for Measure N – the unprecedented “enrollment growth” caused by MV San Antonio developments – seems to have been a scare tactic?! The flatline in the chart gives Lalahpolitico pause. Have I been played?


Per the District’s CACF presentation, BCS has been absorbing all the new enrollment. BCS will perhaps drop its 900 student enrollment cap when it renegotiates the 5- year agreement in the 2017-2018 school year. Lalahpolitico suggests a new cap of 1200 students at least. Or no cap at all! The BCS “permanent school location” we expected to arise from Measure N bond funds has NOT materialized. LASD had not kept up its side of the bargain.


Meanwhile our Measure N Funds
NOT Used for Enrollment Growth

The spirit of the language of the Measure N bond was that the District would create at least one new school. Maybe for Bullis Charter, or maybe a district-run k6 for a North of ElCamino (NEC) constituency.

However, the bond language also allowed for all kinds of “improvements” to existing facilities. Many of us voters were hoping the Board would commit to solving “enrollment growth” BEFORE spending on needed improvements [and they are needed]. But they weaseled out of making that promise. And here we are.

Los Altos School District will be spending Measure N funds on solar, not enrollment growth solutions.  Not that solar is bad, but “Enrollment Growth Solutions” should be first.


So now Measure N funds are being used for a Solar Energy Program. The CACF has proposed moving Measure N funds into a routine Maintenance Fund and also into a Instructional Technology Upgrade Fund. Lalahpolitico: These are not bad uses of funds, but do break the implicit promises of Measure N — first fix the “enrollment growth” issue… first house the Charter permanently.   Where is the trust?


CACF slide. LASD may spend Measure N fund on instructional technology and on a maintenance fund before solving enrollment growth problems. Maintenance and instructional supplies are not ordinarily a long-term capital expenditure, so it should be paid out of the general operating fund, not Measure N? Shouldn’t it?

 


Meanwhile, No move to a Middle School Program

Almost everyone, including LASD teaching staff, have endorsed moving 6th grade to the Blach and Egan junior highs, for pedagogical reasons AND for social emotional reasons.  Pre-adolescents are different from the kids in the primary grades.

But the Board majority can’t bring themselves to do it.  Instead, they will keep seeking more and more information – lots of parent conversations, another round of parent surveys, new financials, effects on programs….etc.. And apparently the Board thinks that if there is even one 6th grade student who might be traumatized by walking among 7th and 8th graders, ALL must be held back.   Held back academically, but also socially and emotionally according to the teachers at the special March 13, 2017 meeting.

And also perhaps the Board is worried that moving District 6th graders to the Junior Highs — Blach and Egan — would create empty classrooms and fewer teachers… or smaller class sizes  at the elementary school sites! [This was predicted by a shrewd long-time observer of LASD Board antics. This observer concluded several years ago that moving to the middle school model would easily bring all the k-5 schools’ enrollments below capacity while better utilizing the existing excess capacity at the junior high sites. Voila, the “overcapacity” problem disappears.]

Town Crier article.March 29, 2017.

“Trustees [at the March 13 meeting] asked the committee for more information on how the move would affect the annual budget and on the potential negative impacts on students’ social-emotional well-being, and reviewed projections for how it would boost the total enrollment numbers at Blach Intermediate and Egan Junior High schools while shrinking them at the elementary schools.”

Video of March 13 2017 special LASD meeting. Sadly many speakers are not using a microphone. More transparency please! Leave your mic on always.

[Lalahpolitico: Are we waiting for Trustee Steve Taglio to term out so that these decisions can be taken? Though he was joined by Speiser and Peruri in wanting to SLOW, SLOW, SLOW  down deciding to plan for moving the 6th grades.  The transition would take two years of planning before it could be executed.  So there will be a minmum of 3 years before it might happen. Sad!]

Meanwhile, the Clock is running out on the BCS 5-year Agreement

The BCS – LASD 5 year agreement will expire soon. It needs to be renegotiated in the 2017-18 school year coming up this fall


This fall –the upcoming 2017-2018 school year — the two parties must start to renegotiate a new agreement. The existing one is expiring. There was an expectation that a “permanent solution/home for BCS” would be a known quantity by now. HA HA!

Lalahpolitico gets the feeling that the District would like Bullis Charter to stay split on Egan and Blach sites. The District has used Measure N funds to pay for some nice new temporary “portables” on Blach for BCS.

State of California Education Dept. now has much, much higher standards for new portables at public schools. So when the old ones age out at Egan or at Blach,  they will have to be replaced with these very, very,  expensive ones.

And portables for any BCS headcount expansion — say from 900 student to 1200 —  will be of the expensive type now required by the Dept. of Education. And as the 5-year agreement is now up for renewal, Lalahpolitico suggests that BCS demand to up its headcount limit from 900 to 1200… for the next 5-year agreement. Or have NO LIMIT AT ALL.

As even the District CACF notes, all the enrollment growth in the district has been absorbed by BCS.

PER CACF: THE DISTRICT HAS HAD NO EXPANSION IN K ENROLLMENTS!!!

Newcomers seem to prefer BCS, if they can get in.


Have you got the Measure N Blues?
Support John Swan’s “Minority Report” June 6


Figure: Agenda of COC June 6, 2017

If you object to using up Measure N funds on maintenance, solar, technology and existing sites….BEFORE funding a new school as was implicitly promised in Measured N… support John Swan by emailing the Board or speaking publicly at this COC meeting. If you object to paying $50M and up for land in MV when we could pay $10M instead in LAH, support John Swan.

 


John Swan

John Swan, Citizen’s Oversight Committee member, is NOT ok with how LASD is using Measure N funds.

Attend the June 6 Citizens Oversight Committe (COC) meeting at the Covington School iLearn room next to the Board Room. COC member John Swan will be delivering a “minority report” objecting to the spending of Measure N money so far. And he will also be objecting to the LACK OF SPENDING of Measure N money on actual enrollment growth solutions, and on the lack of progress in determining a permanent location for Bullis Charter School.

In particular, Swan believes pursuing pricey commercial Mountain View land is a dead-end. He urges that the LASD Board work with a willing LAH City Council to acquire the exurban 50 acre site in order to create a nature preserve and a new LASD school in LAH. Also the smaller residential parcels in LAH/PAUSD and in MV Whisman should be evaluated. Residential zoned parcels are much cheaper than commercial zoned parcels.


Obstacle – the LAH Site is within PAUSD

Let’s recall that a couple years or so ago a judge ruled that a Los Altos School District District School  for BCS needed to be within District boundaries or at least contiguous to the District boundary. This 50 acre LAH site is in PAUSD and is not contiguous to Los Altos School District. This looks like a problem.

Figure: Part of the LASD Boundary Map

Shown: relevant boundaries of LASD. Although the potential school site is in City of LAH and is only a mile from Gardener Bullis, it is in PAUSD, not LASD. It is not contiguous.


John Swan, a member of the LASD COC,  says, yes, yes,  it’s an issue so some mutually agreed “gerrymandering” of districts would need to be done. Or perhaps just a financial agreement allowing students in certain areas to attend either PAUSD or Los Altos School District. There are such agreements now. Some LAH residents can choose between PAUSD Nixon or Los Altos School District Bullis Gardner.

And could not the school district boundaries be tweaked? Today, for high school students, both PAUSD and MVLA students can apply to the “alternative” Middle School program housed at Foothill College.  Creativity is possible. PAUSD cooperation with LASD is possible.

Will the LASD Board pursue this LAH opportunity?  LASD doesn’t have to give up on pursuing MV sites yet, but it should also pursue this opportunity. Lalahpolitico: They can chew gum and walk at the same time, right?

If the Bullis Charter School were housed at this new LASD school in LAH, perhaps both LASD and PAUSD students could participate in the enrollment lottery? Could Bullis Charter work out the finances and enrollment lottery such that both Los Altos School District and PAUSD students could apply? There must be legal/financial arrangements that could work? Don’t ya think?

 

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Resources:

Figure: Screen showing meeting webstreaming/ archived video

LASD Board meetings are webcast live. The video is archived.

 


The June 5, 7 PM,  LASD Board meeting at Covington School will be streamed. You can find a link to the Board meeting webcast on this page when streaming starts on or after 7 pm. https://losaltos.agendaonline.net/public/

Item H. x.  A presentation from the Citizens Advisory Committee for Finance (CACF) about the forecast budget and forecast of enrollment growth  is scheduled for  7: 45 PM. ( with discussion .. 30 minutes)

The CACF .ppt is here. https://losaltos.agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=605707&IsArchive=0

. . . . . . .

Item H.5. Measure N Update scheduled for 8:45 PM.Mr. Baier will provide an update on Measure N and the work being done in the pursuit of an additional school site. [10 minutes – Discussion]

There is .ppt of bullet points for Baier’s update on Measure N. https://losaltos.agendaonline.net/public/Meeting/Attachments/DisplayAttachment.aspx?AttachmentID=604866&IsArchive=0

. . . . . . .

Item H.6. City of Los Altos/LASD Schools Subcommittee Report scheduled for 8:55 PM. Trustees Johnson and Speiser will report on the May 30, 2017 City of Los Altos/LASD Schools Subcommittee meeting. Here is what was supposed to have been discussed — SRS, busing for student and seniors, 10th school site, plans for Blach and Egan, back gates at Blach and Egan, Solar Project, other joint use city schools transportation or  facilities use opportunities.

…..

Any documents for the June 5 Board meeting are here.

https://losaltos.agendaonline.net/public/Meeting.aspx?AgencyID=77&MeetingID=43494&AgencyTypeID=1&IsArchived=False

 

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2) A 2004 History of LAH schools

http://www.losaltoshills.ca.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/55

And excerpt…[as of 2004]…”Although LAH has no public school in operation, there are two private schools operating within LAH town boundaries. Pinewood School is a secular private school serving grades 7-12, located at 26800 Fremont Road. Approximately 43 LAH students attend this chool, out of a total of 300 students. Pinewood leases the site from PAUSD for about $965,000 per renewed its lease in 2003 for 20 years with a bilateral escape clause after 12 years. It has also recently purchased the former Winbiglers property near the former [closed] Bullis-Purissima School. Pinewood has publicly announced its intention to seek from the Town a General Plan amendment and conditional use permit to operate a private high school at this location. At the time that this report was prepared, no formal project application has been submitted to the Town. However, Pinewood officials have met with Town staff and neighboring property owners to discuss their proposal

 

…The Bullis-Purissima Elementary School site located at 25890 Fremont Road was donated to LASD in 1956 by private. [Grant Deed of Victor and Jennie Magrin and Andrew and Madelyn Gawley to LASD; Santa Clara County Records ]

…At that time, the school site was referred to as West Fremont K-6 School. n 1962, LASD completed construction of a school on the site. The school was named Bullis in a student contest in 1962 to honor Gardner Bullis, the City Attorney of Los Altos and a leading proponent of incorporation of the town of LAH. The school’s name was changed to Bullis-Purissima after Purissima School closed in 1976.”

Authors: 2004 Los Altos Hills Public Education Committee: Roger Burnell (Chair), Edward Emling, Kathy Evans, Steve Hubbell, Jill Jensen, Kathleen Justice-Moore, Nancy Kelem, Jamie Lucia, Duncan MacMillan, John Radford, John Swan

3) The link to the agenda for John Swan’s “minority report” about Measure N spending at the June 6 Citizen’s Oversight Committee meeting.

 

About the author

lalahpolitico

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 only became fascinated with business of local politics only in the past couple of years.

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