News

LASD approves bond measure

Last minute adjustments made to knock parks out of the deal

Community members at the Los Altos School District board meeting got to see their feedback in action last night, as board members made one last adjustment to the wording of a $150 million bond measure before voting 4-0 to approve it.

The proposed bond would help finance new school facilities -- including a new school site -- to deal with increasing enrollment within the district.

After one final round of public comments, district Superintendent Jeff Baier did some real-time bond drafting at the Aug. 4 meeting, adding another "whereas" statement that prevented the school district from using city-owned land at Rosita and McKenzie parks for new school facilities.

The addition to the bond language comes in large part from the public outcry over the possibility that the school district might use one of the two city parks for a new school site through the bond measure.

Residents in Los Altos worried they might lose their local parks started a campaign called Save Los Altos Parks, or SLAP, and have aggressively advocated that the bond contain language that prevents the school district from using Rosita or McKenzie park. The campaign website says that both parks are not viable options for a school due to traffic congestion, expenses and the the loss of a valuable community resource.

Board member Pablo Luther was reluctant to accept bond language where both park sites were completely off the table because people want to keep the parks.

"Where do we draw the line where we have enough flexibility, but we keep peoples' lifestyles in mind?" Luther said. "I'd be willing to change language to accommodate people's opinions, but to a limited extent."

After the park exemption was added to the bond, Luther said he can deal with the change if it means voters will approve the bond measure come November.

"I don't like it. It's a tough pill for me to swallow," Luther said. "But if it's necessary to provide better education, I can deal with it."

Board member Mark Goines said there's definitely a trade-off when the two park sites are off the table, and voters advocating for the parks understand that.

"What I've heard in virtually every email exchange with voters is that they're willing to spend more to protect parks," Goines said. "It's hard to get everything you want, and I think this is a reasonable alternative."

The language of the bond all comes down to what voters are willing to accept if they decide to tax themselves, according to board member Doug Smith. He said that the board needs to take into account what the public will support in order to get the required 55 percent of the vote this November, and for that reason Smith said he would be willing to add language to the measure that says they will not build school facilities at either park.

Board member Steve Taglio did not vote to approve the bond measure because he felt he had a conflict of interest due to where he lives. He was not present during the discussion or the vote to approve the bond measure at the Aug. 4 meeting.

Vladimir Ivanovic, a Gardner Bullis parent and candidate for the school district board this November, said it's important that the board slowed down and didn't try to get too specific with bond language, which could lock the board into making unfavorable decisions down the road. This is in contrast with some of the public comments at the July 28 and Aug. 4 meetings calling for more specific language so voters know what exactly their money will be spent on.

In the coming months, the Los Altos School District will continue to look for a location for a new school -- only now with fewer options. District board members say the best location for a school is still in Mountain View, in the San Antonio area north of El Camino Real, where enrollment growth is highest and students have to be transported across El Camino Real and into Los Altos to get to school.

District board members declined to discuss any potential Mountain View sites that could house a school for the district.

Lenny Siegel, a Mountain View City Council candidate, made an appearance at the Aug. 4 board meeting, and told the board that it's clear the San Antonio area needs a neighborhood school even with the current housing. He said the school district needs to collaborate with the city of Mountain View to find affordable space in the area for a new school.

In a letter to Mountain View City Council and the Los Altos School District board, Siegel said the San Antonio area "presents an opportunity for a unique, more urban style school," and that window of opportunity may not last.

Comments

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Posted by Practical
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:32 pm

The Huttlinger Alliance controls what LASD will do. This small politcal organization of Los Altos residents thinks it owns the Los Altos School District. The problem with building a school in the San Antonio Area is that there are already 600 LASD kids who reside in this area. With growth that number could rise to 1000 or even more. So, if you built a school in the area, the LASD model of targeting an optimal school size of 450 students just doesn't work. Even at present, the LASD average school size is only 500 students. That's way small to permit a single neighborhood school in the San Antonio area to handle all of the students who live there.

They don't want to take away too many students, because without these students, the enrollment in schools like Santa Rita, Covington and Almond would drop to just 300 or maybe 350. How can LASD afford to operate such small schools? They already have the highest parcel tax around, on top of nearly the highest regular property tax revenue per student of any elementary district around. Breaking things up into the way things used to be back in 1950 doesn't work these days with the high cost of teacher pensions and benefits, special education, and Prop 13 revenue limits.

This is really conflicted. They also have a need to house the Bullis Charter School which has 700 students of its own.

Here's a simple cost-saving idea. Convert the Egan Jr High School just across El Camino from San Antonio into 2 schools, since it is situated on 18 acres. (1) A school to serve a large portion of the nearby area including much of San Antonio. This is the closest land LASD owns to San Antonio Center and its LASD surrounds. (2) Use the other half of the Egan site to house Bullis Charter school, where it is actually currently located in temporary buildings. But improve traffic by making a separate parking lot which opens directly onto San Antonio, not onto Portola.

To replace the missing Jr High School, the most logical choice is the Covington Elementary School. That was originally a Jr High School and it is big enough for 800 or so Jr High Students, being 16 acres.

Wouldn't this save spending all these tens of million dollars on land purchases?


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Posted by Practical
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 2:41 pm

I forgot to mention that 150 students from San Antonio already travel clear up 3 miles from their homes at the far end of the LASD boundaries in the Crossings/Old Mill complex to attend Covington. 200 somewhat closer students travel to Almond Elementary, and another 200 travel to the closest elementary school for San Antonio--Santa Rita on Los Altos Avenue. So, if you open one new school for San Antonio at Egan, that takes 350 kids away from Almond and Covington and leaves just 350 or so total at Covington and 200 at Almond. So, you could send the remaining Covington kids to Almond. A lot of their residences used to be assigned to Almond, and some are even closer to Almond than they are to Covington. So it's not like there's no place to put the kids from Covington.

Then you could use Santa Rita to handles some of the overflow from the San Antonio School, as it is will be the 2nd closest elementary school to that area and it too will be only 350 students.


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Posted by CMH
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 3:29 pm

"Practical's" suggestions make sense to me - and it would certainly save money since no additional land would have to be purchased. The downside is that Egan Jr. High School is an absolute gem - ranked among the top not just in CA but in the nation. There is significant risk that a new Jr. High at Covington would never be able to recapture that standing.


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Posted by Great Idea
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm

I like this idea. My kids are not yet in school - I love the Crossings but we are not looking forward to the long commute to Covington. Some the kids here also go to BCS and they ride their bikes to school. It would be great to have an LASD campus close by.


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Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 6:58 pm

David Roode (@Practical), as usual you have no idea what makes our schools so great and what the community demands from our schools. It would be wonderful if the Crossings gets a closer school, but not at the expense of reducing our other top performing schools. Stop working so hard to reduce our schools and kids to numbers and maximum efficiency/least cost. We pay the price for the school sizes and populations that we have because they work extremely well, be damned with what some dusty education codes claims is the minimum or what our neighbors in Cupertino do.

Roode, instead try being a part of the community by attending some PTA meetings and volunteering in our schools. You claim to be retired so you must have the time?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Practical
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 7:20 pm

CMH: If you want to keep smaller neighborhood schools, then relocating the North End Jr High to be more centrally located at Covington supports that. It could keep the name Egan. Certainly, it would keep the same staff, facilities and programs. It would just be a brand new school complex with everything modern. Why would this change the status of Egan? Are you saying that having partial composition of rundown portable buildings is somehow key to Egan's success? Where they are now, they only have 12 acres of land and only one modern 2 story building. The rest is quite old and primitive. There would be more ease of commuting for the students who attend, since it would be more centrally located. Otherwise you need to spend maybe $100 Million to buy land and construct buildings for a San Antonio School. Using the Egan 2 story modern building, the city gym, the huge MPR and constructing only maybe 1 new additional modern 2 story building at Egan would cut the cost of a San Antonio School down to $15 to $20 Million (vs $32 Million on a completely fresh smaller site), and it could have capacity to serve as many as live in the San Antonio area. Quite a cost savings.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 8:51 pm

David, (I'm not this Tom, Joe is my real first name), I'll say it again, you need to spend some real time working in the schools to realize no one in this community is going to either close down a school (moving is closing down) or reduce and/or increase their enrollment just for the sake of cost and efficiency. So, David Roode, will you take some of that ample time you have on hand (David, you admitted to being a retired senior citizen on NextDoor), and use that time to learn first hand what makes our schools great? Please do that instead of running spreadsheets on optimizing minimum school acreage, maximum enrollment, and lowest cost/sq-ft analysis then blathering on and on incoherently and out of touch at every online forum.

School starts 8/20, PTA meetings not long after. Plenty of volunteer activities and meetings for you to attend. Our schools are great for a reason. Come see why. Otherwise remain in the dark and continue to be ignored.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ROI
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 5, 2014 at 9:34 pm

Amen Joe. Spot on. I think David is most upset because this kills off the possibility that his (unhealthy) Covington + Rosita obsession will ever come to pass. It's odd that he and others will squawk about trustee corruption or incompetence when they are doing their duty as *elected* officials and actually listening to their constituents.

What people like Roode, and Ron Haley seem incapable of understanding is that many LASD voters (hopefully >55%!) don't expect, or even desire that the trustees optimize the whole district around minimizing use of tax dollars. Many of us are willing to pay a bit of a premium for a premium public school experience for our children (not to mention the "premium" effect on housing prices). Finally, suggesting that Roode actually crawl out from under his rock and engage in the community is like asking a leopard to change its spots (with all apologies to Leopards!). It will never happen. From what we've heard from the few people who have actually met Roode in person, it sounds like even one-on-one conversation is painfully difficult. Not a chance he'll actually constructively engage in any meaningful, personal way.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Limits
a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2014 at 10:37 pm

The uniformed School Board doesn't even understand apparently that they cannot do any more large bond measures after this one passes, not for 10 years or more. It's not a case of them being able to "double dip" on the taxpayer generosity. They're at an overall limit on the total amount they can borrow. In fact, they won't be able to issue all the debt included in $150 Million until 2018. They need to make this spending count, so it would be good to find alternatives to provide a school for San Antonio without using up 2/3 of this bond measure. They seem to think they can just come back again if they need to buy land.... well they can, around 2023 or 2024 they'll have a spare $200 Million which by inflation then will equal $130 Million from today.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of another community
on Aug 6, 2014 at 8:04 am

I like the solution of moving Egan to the Covington site. Then the District doesn't need to spend money on real estate. That will leave money to the do projects at all of the existing schools. The Blach campus is so much nicer than Egan. It would be great if Egan could have brand new campus.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by status quo
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2014 at 5:16 pm

just keep everything the way it is "cause that's the best"!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reader
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2014 at 7:15 am

Wake up people! The district is going to close a school whether the bond passes or not. Consider the following:

1) The bond measure, if passed, only has enough money for one new school.

2) LASD Board members now saying that the new school will be in North of El Camino area (i.e. for those residents and not for BCS)

3) To secure BCS support, they have been told they will have their own campus

Since the district is going to close a school anyway, why not do the following instead of wasting $150M on an unnecessary bond measure?

Step 1 - Close Gardner or Covington and give that campus to BCS
Step 2 - Move 6th grade to Egan/Blach
Step 3 - Re-draw attendance areas for the remaining schools


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sounds good to me
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:21 pm

Reader's 3-step scenario sounds reasonable to me! Except I don't think Gardner is big enough anymore to house BCS so they'll either have to give Covington to BCS or give Egan to BCS then move the 6-8 middle school to Covington. The NEC school could be built (also) at Egan as the campus is large enough to house two schools. This scenario would save the district taxpayers millions of dollars. Lets hope folks aren't going to quibble over something as minor as redrawing attendance boundaries to redistribute the Covington kids! Some of the Covington kids are currently coming from as far away as the most north Crossings area of NEC ( hardly a neighborhood school) and most don't walk to school. Many would be just as close or closer to their new school. It's also my understanding that Covington wasn't even reopened as a neighborhood school until 2003. Attendance boundaries were redrawn at that time to fill Covington (without the brouhaha of today's group and I don't believe the children were traumatized) so it's really just returning things to the way they used to be . Too bad they didn't give Covington to BCS at that time- it could have avoided a war + millions in litigation fees.



.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 8, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Public schools were meant to ensure that even kids from poor families got a fair opportunity to learn and get ahead. The public school system has been subverted - taken over by rich people who want to use public funds for their children and by bureaucrats who want more and more money for themselves. And construction work. Who really gets that money? Quite a racket.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 3:31 pm

@ Dan -

So what are you saying? Los Altos School District exists to serve the poor kids? Are you kidding me? The cronies we have in charge are for Los Altos period . They would really like to kick MV out. They'll take LAH - money involved there, but don't really care other wise.

Don't get me started on the kids that don't fit in. They"d like less of those. Smart kids, sure, but not too smart.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SLAP Happy
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Hey Huttlinger,

Rosita and McKenzie are now officially OFF THE TABLE!! How ya like them apples?

Ya been SLAPped! Bouya!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gardner Mom
a resident of another community
on Aug 8, 2014 at 4:55 pm

Bullis Charter is allowed to enroll 900 students. Will that close our school? We only have 320 students. So that means Bullis will be three times our size. If they grow by 300 more students and Bullis all for Los ALtos Hills, wouldn't that mean we'd be nearly empty?

There's this one mom named Heather Rose. She doesn't even live in LASD or pay any taxes. She's big on the idea that Gardner Bullis should serve all the kids of Los Altos Hills, even if they don't live in LASD.

That's a really strange idea. Those are not poor kids coming from Los Altos Hills in the Palo Alto district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by No BCS in LAH
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 8, 2014 at 7:48 pm

@"Gardner Mom" -- I know Gardner moms. Gardner moms are friends of mine. You sir, are no Gardner mom...


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The high cost of Gardner
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 8, 2014 at 8:54 pm

LASD needs to make full use of that school. There is enough room their to add 200 more students. Time for LASD to add a magnet school or move all of the teachers kids there - If all the out of district kids go there - more room at the other schools - no need for more portables.


We are all paying for Gardner. It costs way more to educate kids there - it is just too small. Plus there is all those kids from LAH PAUSD that don't even live in the district AND their parents don't pay taxes.



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Dan
a resident of Waverly Park
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:03 pm

@ Gardner Mom -
Don't really care who you are or what chromosomes you are carrying..... great comments.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The High Cost of Gardener
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on Aug 8, 2014 at 9:15 pm

I know some Gardner moms and dads. From what I understand there isn't many kids at Gardner from the actual neighborhood around the school. So who is there?

1. No room at the inn kids - Kids who should be going to an LASD school but were told that there wasn't any room at their neighborhood school and needed to go elsewhere. - there is a bunch of those.
2. Kids from the south area of Los Altos Ave.
3. Kids from LAH that live in PAUSD. Why oh why if we are so crowed are we campaigning for these free loaders to go to LASD schools? They have some great schools in PAUSD that they should be going to.
4. Kids using fake addresses - these are at every LASD school.
5. Kids whose parents are using children's corner for Day Care but live in another area of LASD.
6. Kids of LASD employees.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gardener Mama
a resident of Willowgate
on Aug 9, 2014 at 3:08 am

Oh my gosh, I seriously did not realize that Gardner was packed with non-resident kids, by which I mean those who don't live in the huge attendance boundary area for that school. This explains a lot.

Crikey, what a scam. No wonder they stopped listing the kids at each school matrixed with the school where they are actually resident. The last time they did that the typical school had maybe 10% or more kids from other areas. This really bad. I guess they used to get some kids too from when they were for years the only one of the district school with the longer day kindergarten coupled with the onsite after school program from the private Children's Corner (and their very high rates). How come there are no subsidies for low income kids to attend that after school program? Any idea? What about to attend the preschool they run there during the day?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Let's rebalance
a resident of The Crossings
on Aug 9, 2014 at 5:25 am

Yes Gardner is a dilemma but the solution is not giving that campus to BCS b/c BCS has outgrown it at 900 kids. It is true that all LASD families are paying for the past sins from LASD associated w/ Gardner. It's further perpetuated by the fact that Gardner disproportionately gets the "innovation funding" for sweet eye candy like labs and unique work spaces. BTW - that's called magic - watch my right hand while I do something sneaky with my left hand. We need to go to a 6-8 model and we need to take some of the kids at other elementaries and put them into Gardner while pushing the out of district and PAUSD kids out. Plain and simple. We have only enough funds for 1 school NEC. Everywhere else, we need to rebalance.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gardner not Great
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2014 at 7:34 am

Gardner gets the bells and whistles but doesn't get very good results. In the comparison index, where Gardner is compared to the 100 most similar schools in the state, it gets a 7. This means that when you arrange those 100 schools in order by API score Gardner falls somewhere in 60's. There are at least 40 schools better than it. This wasn't a one time fluke, but a clear trend. How's that for high performance? Kind of Amusing when you consider how many Hutt's kids are going there.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Gardner not Great
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2014 at 7:44 am

In the Similar Schools Index, most LASD schools get a score of 8 or 9. This means that they fall into the good, but not really great (10) section. Egan gets a 10 sometimes - but that is because LASD puts all of the special ed students at Blach, regardless of where they live or where they will attend high school, nice trick.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by SLAP Happy
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2014 at 11:14 am

Yes, it would have made so much sense for the district to have given Gardner to BCS three or four years ago. We would all be better off today. Instead, the district kept upping the ante while BCS pursued a high growth strategy. Now we are all going to pay, quite literally. $150M bond equates to about $600 in additional yearly taxes per household.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The 3 Rs LASD Style
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Aug 9, 2014 at 11:36 am

The LASD 3Rs:

Resist
Retire
React


Resist innovation
Retire early - get paid big bucks for doing so
React to protect the first two Rs


 +   Like this comment
Posted by BCS Parent
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2014 at 5:41 pm

The best end-state for LASD has BCS running its large school at the Covington campus, and a new campus built somewhere near the NEC area. That new campus could be the current BCS@Egan site, which would allow more bond money to go towards projects that would reduce operational costs (e.g solar, removing portables), thereby allowing more spending on teachers and programs. Or the land could be elsewhere near NEC, if it can be found, but that will be a more expensive option.

Covington, by virtue of its size and location is a great place for a district-wide alternative program. Right now, that program is BCS. Unfortunately, there's just too much political baggage to allow LASD to seriously consider this fairly obvious solution. Maybe a couple of years of relative peace and some turnover on both boards would make this more possible? Maybe BCS needs additional changes to its operating model (LASD as chartering authority, small geo-preference for area immediately surrounding Covington) to make this solution work?

My real dilemma is with the current bond. How restrictive is the current language? Could the money be used to implement the above plan? Are we repeating the mistakes of the bond that preceded the closing of Bullis-Purisima by not being honest with the voters (as is suggested in some posts above)?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Reni
a resident of another community
on Aug 9, 2014 at 6:49 pm

BCS could serve the most underserved LASD population, The kids that live far away from their assigned school. A new BCS pQreference area could include everyone that lives more than a mile from their assigned school.


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