LASD has lots of projects, and lots more uncertainty over funds

Master plan eyes $200M in improvements, but 10th site could eat the whole budget

The Los Altos School District is dusting off plans to make major improvements at schools across the district, modernizing classrooms, creating tech-savvy flexible group spaces, chucking out old portables and installing solar panels at each campus.

There's just one snag: the district may not have the money to complete a single one of the projects. With so little set in stone in the district's long-term quest to buy land and build a 10th school, it's possible that bond money will dry up before the district can pursue projects at its existing schools.

The 65-page report, presented to the school board April 23, lays out over $207 million in potential upgrades to the district's schools including improvements to libraries and classrooms, facilities for extended-day kindergartens and so-called "flex" rooms for STEM-focused activities. The plans also set aside about $9.8 million for solar power upgrades that could bring the district down to net-zero energy consumption.

The report lifts its cost assumptions from a similar report in 2014, with a price tag increase of about 20 percent to keep up with construction cost inflation, architect Lisa Gelfand told school board members at the meeting.

Although the report presumes that money from the $150 million Measure N bond, passed by voters in 2014, will help finance some of the projects, it remains an open question how much money -- if any -- will be left over. Board members and district staff are working on a complex financing scheme to buy land in Mountain View and build a new school campus on it, ambitious plans that could come with a huge price tag.

The district is seeking to acquire about 8.6 acres of land north of the San Antonio Shopping Center for a new school campus, potentially through eminent domain. The district is relying on about $79.3 million in financing through a process called the Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) with local developers to defray the cost of the expensive real estate, but it remains unclear how much the district would have to pay with Measure N money. Construction costs alone are expected to run between $60 million and $75 million, excluding the price of real estate.

Without that kind of information at their fingertips, board members were wary of weighing in on prioritizing master plan projects, instead punting the item to a future meeting.

"There is a huge unknown that could have a massive impact on our spending of the bond," board president Vladimir Ivanovic said.

Board member Sangeeth Peruri said he was uncomfortable having a list of prospective construction projects floating around when there's close to zero chance the district will get to them all, which could set an unrealistic expectation in the community. Things like site work and grading at Gardner Bullis, for example, may not be possible within the next two or three school bonds, let alone Measure N, he said.

"This is not like we're shaving 10 or 20 percent (of the projects), we're going to shave 95 to 100 percent," he said. "This whole process is something that seems off to me."

Along with unknown land and construction costs for the 10th site, the facilities master plan was updated with a huge degree of flexibility because of other unanswered questions. Board members have not decided whether Bullis Charter School will remain divided between the Egan Junior High School and Blach Intermediate School campuses or whether it will have a single campus elsewhere in the district.

Board members also have not decided whether to convert Blach and Egan, the district's two junior high schools serving seventh and eighth graders, into middle schools with sixth-grade students.

The master plan report, put together by Gelfand Partners Architects, states that the district would have difficulty trying to accommodate sixth-grade students at Egan and Blach with the "continued presence of Bullis Charter School." Rough sketches of both schools, redesigned for the addition of sixth grade, omit the current portable classrooms used by the charter school.

Superintendent Jeff Baier encouraged board members to think of the facilities master plan as a long-term plan separate from "this round of funding," referring to Measure N. He said trustees need to approach the list of projects with appropriate expectations.

"I don't know when the next (bond) will be, but we are talking about this current amount that we have to apply towards this lengthy plan that will clearly exceed the moneys available," he said.

Assistant Superintendent Randy Kenyon described the master plan discussion Monday night as a "trial balloon," and that it might make sense to wait until the fall once the district is further along in planning for the Mountain View school site.

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32 people like this
Posted by Voice of Reason
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2018 at 1:56 pm

Three step solution:

1) Close Covington and move BCS to that campus
2) Move 6th grade to Egan/Blach and re-draw attendance areas
3) Spend the $150M of Measure N bond funds to improve existing schools


10 people like this
Posted by LASD Plans
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2018 at 2:58 pm

It's not true that the charter school couldn't stay where it is and still add 6th grade to the 7th and 8th grades too. The same architect drew up plans for this back 4 years ago as well. The 6th grade normally uses mostly existing classroom slots and just adds 6-8 classrooms TOTAL to the site for adding 300 students. That small of a footprint easily fits in.

Take a look at the big changes for Egan proposed by the district. They'd most turn the current charter school site into an expanded Tennis Court complex along W. Portola Avenue. What's that got to do with 6th grade? Also they would flip the football field perpendicular and lay it along the back fence. Again, just a waste of space and a pointless change, causing trees to fall, etc. It's not even clear if the current softball field would be preserved. This is used both by the charter school year around and by Egan during baseball season.

So the LASD idea is that we need more open space and tennis courts in Los Altos, rather than classrooms for the charter school. Egan is 20 acres big. They need that for 900 kids.

But in Mountain VIew at California Avenue, 8.6 acres is supposed to be enough for 900 kids too. WTF!

6 people like this
Posted by Teacher Housing
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2018 at 5:15 pm

It turns out that LASD also wants to consider using 5 or so acres of the land from BCS at Egan to create housing for teachers.

See this picture: Web Link

23 people like this
Posted by Reasonable Citizen
a resident of The Crossings
on May 1, 2018 at 5:32 pm

While it would be great to have a 10th school site and a large park for the community, is there no sense of fiscal responsibility remaining at the LASD? They should take care of repairs and upgrades to existing facilities before spending hundreds of millions of dollars on another new site that won't be available for many years. Who knows if the District enrollment may fall at that point and then they won't need more facilities? If these folks were employed by a business, they would be fired for incompetence and fiscal mismanagement. And, hopefully, fired before their business went bankrupt. Time to stop the reckless waste or OUR money!

5 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on May 1, 2018 at 5:38 pm

psr is a registered user.

It's clear that "Voice of Reason" isn't one. How do I know?

1. No consideration for the Covington community that exists. Let's say "Just close the charter school so that Egan and Blach can expand." and see what you think of that.

2. No consideration for the other schools in the area either. We have already "redrawn attendance areas" and the result was furious parents and miserable children. How about taking half the charter children from each location and arbitrarily transfer them to the other location without parent input?

3. The LASD children who are "forced to attend school in portables" should get permanent classrooms. Great plan, except we have no idea what the population distribution will look like after Mountain View finishes paving over every available inch with residential high rise buildings. We have no real idea about how many MV children will be attending LASD schools (except that the number is FAR higher than the developers claimed when they got the city to approve their building plans.

It is not reasonable to flood LASD with children from Mountain View, then have Mountain View residents try to dictate the culture of LASD schools. LASD doesn't pack the kids in like sardines and it isn't for MV to say that they should. The school grounds are parks after hours. If MV doesn't like that, then they should build housing in the MV Whisman area and do as they please. As a Mountain View resident, I am personally sick and tired of my city trying to subject everyone around them to their poor decision-making skills.

If you aren't an LASD parent, I don't trust your motivations when you claim to be a "Voice of Reason".

16 people like this
Posted by Mountain View Patzies
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 1, 2018 at 8:25 pm

The LASD has already tricked Mountain View council members into paying for a school site on California near San Antonio which the District will use to unload BCS. A sucker is born every minute and many end up on city councils.

24 people like this
Posted by Declining Enrollment
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2018 at 8:40 pm

LASD enrollment has DECLINED by over 500 students in recent years. The LASD Board does not like that narrative, as it would lead any logical person to maximize use of the current campuses, redraw attendance boundaries and move the charter school to a current campus. Instead, they are considering another bond measure!?

25 people like this
Posted by equityforallstudents
a resident of another community
on May 1, 2018 at 10:23 pm

equityforallstudents is a registered user.

It is a mystery to me why the school board is wasting everyone's time, especially members on the 10th site task force committee, when there isn't even a land purchase in hand. Really weird to get the cart without a horse.

Oh and anyone who walks the halls at Blach and Egan knows there is ample current empty space to house the 6th graders. It's more fun to blame BCS for holding back LASD's 6th graders from a middle school education. Once the 6th graders leave the elementary schools, it becomes very obvious that the schools would need to consolidate due to so much empty space being left behind. Where is the logic here? Why aren't tax payers screaming for this board to fulfill their fiduciary duties?

29 people like this
Posted by How Much
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2018 at 2:55 am

The deception lies in saying that Mountain View has "flooded" LASD. B.S. There are about 350 K-5 age kids in the San Antonio area. That's not a flood. The "flood" MIGHT come in about 10-15 years when/if thousands of new apartments are built where Wal Mart and Kohl's are now. But that's not guaranteed. A lot can happen in 15 years. Should we use a bond measure from 5 years ago to provide that which will maybe be needed 20 years later?

Meanwhile, if you look, the enrollment has dropped off quite substantially at Oak Avenue, Loyola and Gardner Bullis. These schools may well have between 300-400 kids for the foreseeable future. If the district proceeds with this idea to move 6th grade away from the elementary school, than there will only 250-350 kids at these 3 schools. While it might be NICE to have schools so small they are only 300 kids, there funding available to LASD is just not such that they can afford to run so many schools so small.

THIS is why they don't really want to take the kids from San Antonio away to their own school near to their homes. They split them 3 ways between (oddly) the 3 BIGGEST schools within LASD because it beefs up the AVERAGE school size and allows the higher income fringe areas of the district to still have close by schools even though they don't have the actual enrollment to support the school.

That's the TRUE situation.

So, you don't need to close Covington to make room for a charter school on 8.6 acres of land. Covington is 16 acres of land by itself and it sits next to a 6 acre Los Altos park. That makes 22 acres of land. Why should Mountain View provide 4 acres of parkland to go with 4.6 acres of school land and make a $250 Million purchase of land for the charter school? You can put the Charter school up at Covington and LEAVE Covington on 7 acres of land, and you'd STILL have 15 acres for the district-wide charter school.

It's not likely to happen because the district administration has it in for the charter school because they can't stand the COMPETITION. But it's not unreasonable for taxpayers to note this foolish waste of money in buying such expensive land and then NOT using it to serve the neighboring kids.

Couple this with the fact that the school layout will actually only yield 1.5 acres of FIELDs for a park and another 1.5 acres of BLACKTOP which MAY have a few basketball hoops, and you'd see that this endeavor is not providing anything more than what is in Klein Park off Ortega. It's a postage stamp sized park, not anything respectable or different from the open space the developer of the Kohl's WalMart property already has planned to provide in the FUTURE as the development there transpires. It's REALLY a waste of Mountain View park funds to subsidize this boondoggle..... while Los Altos gets new Tennis Courts at Egan and a 16 acre site with 9 acres of fields at Covington.

11 people like this
Posted by Fairness
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2018 at 3:04 am

So, if LASD does plan on this boondoggle purchase of land, they should use the 8.6 acre site only as a school for the 350 kids K-5 that now live in the area. They would have more space for fields and park uses in that case. Provides Mountain View what they were promised.

Then the issue will be, can LASD afford to operate Covington and all the other schools alongsize the new school in the San Antonio area. Even if the answer is NO, the district could still preserve the FLEXIBILITY they claim the $250 Million purchase will give them. They can lay out Covington to keep both a 900 student school and a smaller 350 student K-5 school which will be open WHEN and IF the district can afford to serve those kids as well as operate a school for San Antonio. The true issue for the Covington kids is that some of them live close to Almond, some close to Loyola, come close to Springer, some close to Santa Rita. If there is no Covington operating due to budget constraints (not shortage of land at Covington) then these kids all have a close by school that they can attend.
This is NOT so for the Mountain View kids in the San Antoino area. They are split up 3 ways and some travel 1.5 or 2.5 miles to get to their assigned school. NONE of the Covington kids would travel anywhere near that far if Covington can't be afforded.....

17 people like this
Posted by Alan
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 2, 2018 at 8:08 am


There is plenty of land at Covington. MY ADVICE:CHANGE THE LASD LEADERSHIP. The school department caters to it's wealthy clients and treats poorer families ( such as families living in homes that pre existed Silicon Valley, single mother's, people who are not powerful attorneys). They know how to take advantage, and this includes residents of MOUNTAIN VIEW. You are not wanted, not welcome in the Los Altos schools. Please accept my apologies for a dysfunctional LASD.

5 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 2, 2018 at 9:18 am

ah - it's very interesting to see the many aspects of "dysfunctional"

Particularly with spreading around the benefits of wealth - to all neighborhoods and all public school families in the community (BCS is a public school).

While attending the groundbreaking, on a neighborhood public elementary school, in the most underserved area of Mountain View Whisman School District - I felt pretty vindicated for the particular type of "dysfunction" I helped to bring to the old MVWSD organization [S. Olson and F. Walter - here is to yah!] No need for victory speeches, or songs, or "cardboard signs", when fresh dirt tells the truth.

The 'powers that be' in LASD, have outwitted and outmaneuvered the better government groups and 'neighborhood rights' groups. They have outwitted the MV City Council! (not all, but a majority). You need to organize better. You need to reach "the Magic Number" on the LASD Board - 3 - a majority.

By the Way - just passing a School Facilities Bond, will Increase the residential values in LASD, independent of any real good it does for students. Micro-economics research of thousands of such California Bond election histories, show a "signaling effect" to potential home buyers. The District REALLY CARES about its schools.

10 people like this
Posted by Teachers need to speak up, too
a resident of The Crossings
on May 2, 2018 at 9:26 am

The teachers and unions should be aware that with fiscal mismanagement and bloated budgets there is less money to pay teachers. After all with an additional campus the operating budget is greater with the same fixed revenue.

The dollars that could go toward teacher raises and teacher pension obligations is diverted to operating more schools for the same number of kids.

I wonder when the teachers will speak up and urge the district to be fiscally responsible to make sure the teachers get their fair share, too.

20 people like this
Posted by Had It
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2018 at 9:33 am

Can we PLEASE vote this dishonest, self- serving, incompetent LASD Board out of office? Any thinking person should be able to see that that’s what needs to happen. The ridiculousness of the 10th site purchase is beyond comprehension (and affordability). As Voice of Reason said, complete steps 1,2,3 and you’re done. I am SO sick of this ongoing taxpayer swindle.

23 people like this
Posted by Had It
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2018 at 11:08 am

@How Much: you don’t need a 2nd campus at Covington. Covington was designed as a middle school therefore all Covington kids have “another” neighborhood elementary school. All this coddling so that those kids don’t have to move to a different school which is (in most cases) just as close or closer to their homes is ridiculous. And the quality of all LASD schools is comparable so it’s not like anybody would be downgraded. Developing a new school community 1/2 mile away is not that hard and certainly not life changing. The complainers appear to be very entitled.

Give Covington to BCS, move the 6th graders to Middle School and use the bond money to improve the existing schools. Skip the Egan tennis courts (seriously!). No overcrowding, 6-8 is a better academic model and all the schools get improvements and BCS gets a school. We’d be done with legal battles and boondoggle site searches.

7 people like this
Posted by psr
a resident of The Crossings
on May 2, 2018 at 11:55 am

psr is a registered user.

Interesting to see how little the relationships of the children affected by the BCS/Mountain View game of rearranging LASD in their image matter to these people who claim to care about the children. I'm sure it doesn't matter to you that a shy child gets uprooted from the school where they have taken months and years to develop relationships with one or two close friends, as long as you get to remake the district in your image. After all, they won't be coming home to your house crying and distraught because they sit alone at lunch and recess. Just move move them, as long as BCS children get to be together in one place. I guess they are more equal than the LASD kids.

It is in the hands of LASD parents to decide. They have managed to keep the many cloaked BCS candidates from infiltrating the board so far and I have faith that they will continue to do so. So keep venting here. It is just so much spit in the wind.

22 people like this
Posted by Voice of Reason
a resident of another community
on May 2, 2018 at 2:37 pm

So the rest of the district should be forced to live with aging facilities in dire need of upgrade because a shy kid at Covington cannot make new friends at another nearby high performing LASD school? Unbelievable!

27 people like this
Posted by Not a parent, just a taxpayer
a resident of The Crossings
on May 2, 2018 at 10:33 pm

To per,
Actually it's not just up to the LASD parents to decide; is up to all the voters. I pay taxes for the schools in which I have no children; happy to do so but would hope that parents such as you can look beyond your own immediate needs and focus on what if best for everyone. It's not just about maintaining the status quo but being open To change circumstances. The reality is BCS is not going away as it clearly offers something parents want that is not offered by LASD. let's do what is best for all. Put BCS at Covington and use the bond money to improve all the schools.
Such an obvious solution....

31 people like this
Posted by Had It
a resident of another community
on May 3, 2018 at 1:25 am

@psr: Most kids are pretty resilient and learning to be flexible serves to the child’’s advantage in life. If your child is so shy that he cannot make a new friend then I would advise you to seek counseling for your child and to work with him to overcome his social barriers. You will not be able to orchestrate his social life forever - getting along with others is a skill he needs to learn and the needs of the whole need to be considered. As I said before, the complainers are quite an entitled group, feeling that the “wants” of a few should take precedence over the needs of the entire district and the wallets of all its taxpayers.

PS: I don’t, nor have I ever, had a kid at BCS (I’m just a taxpayer) and that line of “cloaked BCS candidates” is growing rather old. You BCS haters have been hating for a LONG time. Isn’t it time to give it up and move forward?

9 people like this
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2018 at 1:41 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

@psr The board has needed 4 years already to get this far. It's likely to be another 4 years before any new school opens in the San Antonio area. Of course, if you open such a new school, you'd let kids already in school finish out their elementary years wherever they are now. K-5 only lasts 6 years. If LASD is serious about this middle school thing, the 6th graders will be moving anyway.

This is why it's worth nothing that the planning of a need for a new school is for the FUTURE, not for today's kids, no way no how THere's NO CROWDING today. There are a lot of kids split up 3 ways and going off 2-3 miles away.2 That's now. The future kids are the added 200 who will come from 2000 new apartments slated to be built over the next 10+ years, plus residents of the existing housing who move in or have their kids become old enough to enter school. This isn't about where the same kids go to school NOW.

We should be mindful that there isn't really a need for a new school due to population growth. Just moving the 5th grade to middle school does make room for 90 new kids each at Santa Rita and Almond. That's all the growth there will be in Mountain View over the next 10 years in the San Antonio area for school age kids. But when that happens,
there will be 300 kids from that area attending Egan (up from 250 today) and 500-600 K-5 attending Covington, Almond and Santa Rita. It just gets ridiculous for them not to have their own neighborhood school.

9 people like this
Posted by ResidentSince1982
a resident of another community
on May 4, 2018 at 1:55 pm

ResidentSince1982 is a registered user.

LASD has implied that they are considering the lower socioeconomic status of some of the kids in the San Antonio area, and that they split them 3 ways so that they are a smaller fraction at each of the 3 schools they attend. It's dubious whether this is a valid consideration. However, regardless, the socio economics o the area are changing. LASD felt like they can handle 10% low socio economic status at a school They only have this many at Almond and Santa Rita. All their other schools are just 0-2% low economic status. Well, the San Antonio area is changing. It's gentrifying. The economic status of residents are on an upswing. Older apartments are being replaced or remodeled and the rents are rising. It would be unlikely for the area overall to have more than 10% low economic status kids. LASD feels like some areas re 25$ or 30% low economic status now. To count on that staying stable is foolish. They have no grounds to resist a local school to serve all 3 areas they now split up.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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