Still no verdict on school boundary changes

Big questions linger over Shoreline West, Whisman neighborhoods

After another six-hour meeting over the weekend, Mountain View Whisman School District's boundary committee will be heading into overtime on how to best rezone school attendance areas throughout the city of Mountain View.

On Saturday, March 11, members of the district's Student Attendance Area Task Force spent hours drawing and redrawing boundaries that will determine which neighborhoods will be zoned for which schools, with a goal of narrowing the field to just two options for the board to choose from in June. But task force members are still torn on critical pieces of the puzzle, including where to send children in the Shoreline West and North Whisman neighborhoods, and which school is best suited for the district's military families.

The boundaries, as they exist today, appear gerrymandered and are fraught with problems. Families in the Whisman area are zoned for Huff Elementary and students in the Shoreline West area are zoned for Bubb. Both school are in the southern end of the city -- far from Shoreline West and North Whisman -- and are so packed with students that nearby residents risk getting pushed out of their own neighborhood school.

Although all three scenarios still up for consideration attempt to resolve these problems, it's still an open question as to which one will leave the smallest number of people disappointed. Among the sticking points is whether Shoreline West residents should remain together and all attend Landels Elementary, or whether the neighborhood should be split vertically between Landels and Castro Elementary. While consolidating the neighborhood sounds like a good idea, extending Landels' boundary so far west risks overcrowding the school.

The scenarios also diverge on how many neighborhoods will be zoned for the new Slater Elementary, which the district plans to open in time for the 2019-20 school year. The North Whisman neighborhood, which has been zoned for Theuerkauf since 2006, following the closure of the original Slater campus, will either remain within the Theuerkauf boundary or be moved to Slater Elementary -- it's still not apparent which direction the task force plans to go.

The worry is that by including North Whisman, the district runs the risk of opening Slater with too many families clamoring to get in. Including the neighborhood bumps the estimated number of students in the attendance boundary from 465 to 570, and the aim is to enroll roughly 450 students at each school. Although the district's choice programs, Stevenson PACT and Dual Immersion at Mistral, could peel off more than 100 students from the area based on historic enrollment trends, it's possible that families attending choice programs would prefer to go to a new neighborhood school.

Leaving North Whisman within the Theuerkauf boundary would also have the added benefit of boosting enrollment, something badly needed at the school, which risks dropping to only 271 students after the boundaries are shifted, according to estimates by the district's demographic consultant, DecisionInsite.

On the other hand, North Whisman residents used to be part of the Slater school before it shut down in 2006, and fought for years to get either Slater or Whisman Elementary re-opened. Families in the area argue that they have few safe ways to get to Theuerkauf, and bike routes to the school include traveling on Middlefield Road and crossing Highway 85, Moffett Boulevard and Shoreline Boulevard. Enrollment data from previous years show about half the students in the North Whisman area opt for other schools -- particularly Landels and Stevenson.

Though these lingering questions remain unresolved, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the Voice that the task force is on track to make a decision, and that there's room in the schedule to wrap up by the end of April. New meeting dates have yet to be announced, but in the meantime Rudolph said task force members will be seeking feedback from the school board on how to resolve some of the major sticking points.

"I think the committee has done a great job of finding a lot of commonalities in what they're trying to do," Rudolph said. "We went from five (scenarios) to eight to four to three ... and we're really close to having two."

Maps of the three scenarios were not available prior to the Voice's Wednesday press deadline, which will include the estimated number of students within each school boundary and the number of students who are likely to be siphoned off by choice programs. The tentative schedule calls for community feedback on the final two scenarios throughout May, with a final decision by the board in June.


11 people like this
Posted by Frustrated Parent
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 17, 2017 at 5:03 pm

Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that N. Whisman could be excluded from Slater due to too many kids, when the argument from the district for so long against reopening a school in the Whisman area was not enough kids? Unbelievable.
Rather than splitting neighborhoods to fill Theuerkauf, perhaps more effort should be placed on trying to attract the kids in that neighborhood to attend their own school. That might solve some of these boundary enrollment dilemmas.

41 people like this
Posted by Abigail
a resident of Willowgate
on Mar 17, 2017 at 6:06 pm

I find this headline misleading. The task force is still working, they were not expecting to have answers at this time. Let them work without inflammatory headlines designed to rile up readers, please. It is better that they have their scheduled meetings and consider the options than that they rush through.

5 people like this
Posted by Mt. View Neighbor
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 20, 2017 at 10:31 am

Yes Frustrated Parent. Unbelievable that there is a concern that too many students want to go to Slater, an obvious argument for the school. As a resident, I'm furious to have been paying extra parcel taxes for the last decade, with no neighborhood school. No more paprcel taxes, figure it out, the school has been leased out for years, use that money to fix Slater, rather than funneling it to other schools. Completely ridiculous. This is NOT complicated. We have a school, we need a school, open Slater so residents can use it. Duh.

1 person likes this
Posted by Sukwinder Dixit
a resident of Rex Manor
on Mar 20, 2017 at 3:18 pm

Last night some gentleman left a sheet of paper on my doorstep that called out the odd moneys movement that leads to such bad choicing for schools in the mountain view. i am disturbed

10 people like this
Posted by District Observer
a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 21, 2017 at 2:35 pm

Slater will be opening in the 2019-2020 school year. The District is using the rental income from both the current (not new) GISSV lease and the Google pre-school lease to pay back the $40 million dollar certificate of participation (aka - loan) to pay for the Slater construction. The new school boundaries are being decided in June after a long process which involved numerous parents and parent volunteer hours - all of which to get Slater reopened. Measure B (new parcel tax) is continued funding of programs for every K-8 school, which includes teacher salaries, enrichment (science/art/PE), CHAC, keeping libraries open, maintenance, etc. Not supporting it, given likely declines in federal education revenue, would only harm the kids.

2 people like this
Posted by old observer
a resident of Gemello
on May 22, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Part of the boundary process is also related to keeping some schools from becoming bloated with excess enrollment. Bubb, Huff and Landels for years have been operating by portable classrooms, used now for decades. Bursting at the seams. Leaking at the ceilings. December 2015 article.

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