News

School board gets creative with enrollment options

Seeking options, members hazard 'pie-in-the-sky' scenarios for growth

A Stanford University-affiliated "lab school" at Garland Elementary? Converting Escondido or Nixon Elementary to a two-story middle school?

Confronting a looming shortage of classrooms in Palo Alto, Board of Education members, in a study session Thursday, began to pry the lid off a Pandora's Box of options to capture more space through creating new programs or shifting the venues of existing ones.

Wary of "stirring the pot" of community emotions with bold suggestions, board members nonetheless said they were hungry for a broad discussion that would lay all options on the table.

They said they're willing to wait a year to have that discussion and make decisions, with community comment and suggestions gathered in the meantime.

"There are some real emotions about moving anything in this district," member Melissa Baten Caswell said, adding she believes significant housing growth in Palo Alto is ahead.

"Somehow we need to be able to have a conversation -- to remove the emotion and just talk about what the facts are."

Board member Barbara Klausner laid out a series of what she called "pie in the sky scenarios" for the Garland campus at 870 N. California Ave., currently leased to the independent Stratford School.

Scenarios included partnering with the Stanford School of Education to create a school heavily focused on closing the achievement gap, with capacity to accommodate a "critical mass" of Tinsley Voluntary Transfer students and potentially better target their social-emotional as well as academic needs. Currently, the 560 students in the court-ordered Tinsley program are scattered among the district's 17 campuses.

Garland also could become a stable home for special-education children, who now frequently must move from school to school depending on program availability in a given year, Klausner said.

Under both Garland scenarios, part of the campus still could be reserved as a neighborhood school, she suggested.

Klausner also suggested the possibility of using Garland to accommodate middle-school enrollment growth.

"I don't think we're going to adopt any of these scenarios, but I'd rather stir the pot now than make limited choices so we don't stir the pot," she said.

On the need for additional middle-school space, board member Dana Tom asked whether it's possible to add second stories to buildings at Terman Middle School, which has a current enrollment of 663 compared to the more than 1,000 student-enrollments at JLS and Jordan middle schools.

Board member Barb Mitchell said she'd prefer to see a fourth middle school in the area where growth is most likely, which she thinks will be related to Stanford housing now on the drawing boards.

"Currently we only have two facilities -- Nixon and Escondido -- in that area," Mitchell said. "I'd like to see us consider converting one of those campuses to a two-story middle school and addressing the domino effect on elementary."

Rather than making bets now on where to place a 13th elementary school and fourth middle school, board members agreed to wait a year, despite expressing worries that the school district's growth projections are too conservative.

"Rather than having controlled conversations and making incremental decisions, I'd rather have every possible option laid out and give ourselves some room to brainstorm and think outside the box of marginal changes," Klausner said.

Board members agreed to continue their study session on enrollment and facilities in May. Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he would return to the board in June with recommendations on how to facilitate a community discussion.

Comments

Posted by Cool-Heads-Needed, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:02 am

> "Somehow we need to be able to have a conversation -- to remove
> the emotion and just talk about what the facts are."

Absolutely. Makes 'ya wonder how "education" seems to be little more than "religion" in this town.


Posted by Tracy, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:32 am

I absolutely applaud this train of thought. For an area so plentiful in talent, creativity, and ambition - the school district has actually been a bit behind the curve. So I would not call this "thinking out of the box" as much as climbing out of the box.


Posted by ootb, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:39 am

"Converting Escondido to a two-story middle school?"
Sounds like a great idea!


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 10:57 am

I wonder if the School Board can remember back to the time when Terman was re-opened as a Middle School. Stanford offered the PAUSD 18 acres of land along Deer Creek Road as a location for Middle School. May be Stanford would offer that land to the School District again on the same terms the School District rents the land for Gunn and Paly - $1.00 a year.

Actually, Deer Creek Road is geographically in the center of the School District and closer to proposed building at Stanford than Cubberley which is in the furthest south-east corner!!!


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:02 am

Deer Creek maybe in the middle --- but not necessarily convenient to most residents.

But it is good to put up all ideas!


Posted by parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:12 am

It is great to see this kind of thinking. Please do something to help the overcrowding at Terman. What about a K-8 at Garland?


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:27 am

At last, some innovative, out of the box thinking from our board!


Posted by resident, a resident of Nixon School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:39 am

I would love to see a middle school at Escondido campus!

I can't imagine having my kids bike to Terman when the time comes - or Gunn - and I've never understood why the campus kids aren't all granted the option of Paly - it's the closest High School and also the safest bike ride. I'm sure there's a history to all of this that I don't understand (I've only lived here for 3 years) but, why, when PAUSD always talks about neighborhood schools, etc, the kids who can bike through the campus, are instead assigned to bike on such dangerous roads? I hear there's a "back way" - but it still seems like it's not a good option.

Maybe campus kids can go to Escondido for middle school and then Paly? That would be wonderful!!!!


Posted by anonymouse, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:48 am

I agree with the previous comment about this kind of fwd thought to be commendable and behind the curve ("climbing out of the box"). However, we the community need to shoulder some blame for the Board's reticence for innovation; take a look at how many school building projects were delayed, expensively so, due to a small number of vocal parents partial to tree locations or bike racks. We elected these people, let them do their work.

As for the Garland idea. I'm shocked to hear there's 560 VTP kids in PAUSD. That's a lot of resources going to families who don't pay taxes here. How did we ever agree to that court settlement?


Posted by ootb, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 27, 2012 at 11:49 am

"What about a K-8 at Garland?"

What about K-8 in a number of the larger campuses. Escondido & Ohlone could handle it but would require some re-org of the immersion programs.
This would reduce the stress/need on the existing middle schools.


Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 27, 2012 at 12:35 pm

What about making Garland a 6th grade only school? They could share the fields with Jordan, even music could be easy since the current cafetorium will become the band room (close to the Garland campus). They could then locate all the choice programs there (DI, SI and Connections) freeing up space at the other middle schools.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 1:17 pm

> Stanford offered the PAUSD 18 acres of land along Deer Creek Road
> as a location for Middle School. May be Stanford would offer that land to
> the School District again on the same terms the School District rents the land
> for Gunn and Paly - $1.00 a year.

While all ideas should be on the table, Stanford's offer to the PAUSD included a number of options, one of which was the Deer Creek Land, the other was $10M to facilitate the refurbishment of the Terman site. Stanford also required that the PAUSD agree NEVER to ask for any more compensation, or aid, to help defray costs of perhaps as many as 1,400 Stanford students that might be enrolled when Stanford expansion continues.

The PAUSD could make a case to Stanford, that this was an unreasonable constraint to impose of the School District—which is mostly funded by the taxpayers. Stanford would be a good neighbor if it recognized that it's impact on the School District in the future will be much greater than the $10M it paid via the Stanford/Terman Agreement several years ago.

Anything is possible, but it's up to the PAUSD to make the first move.


Posted by Gap school, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

The idea of a school focused on the achievement gap is intriguing, but Ms. Klausner may want to consider a different provider.

"Scenarios included partnering with the Stanford School of Education to create a school heavily focused on closing the achievement gap, with capacity to accommodate a "critical mass" of Tinsley Voluntary Transfer students and potentially better target their social-emotional as well as academic needs."

Stanford School of Education had a lab school like this in East Palo Alto recently but it didn't turn out so well and its contract was cancelled.

"Stanford's charter called a 'failure'": Web Link

Its competitor - Aspire Charter in EPA - had far better results.


Posted by PA Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Bob says: "Stanford also required that the PAUSD agree NEVER to ask for any more compensation, or aid, to help defray costs." WRONG

The PAUSD agreed not to ask Stanford for anymore compensation, or aid, to help defray costs for the following 10 years after Terman was reopened only.

That 10 years is almost up, therefore, Stanford and the PAUSD could now renegotiate terms for land along Deer Creek Road for a possible new Middle or High School if that is what the PAUSD wants to do.


Posted by Bob, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm

> The PAUSD agreed not to ask Stanford for anymore compensation, or
> aid, to help defray costs for the following 10 years after Terman
> was reopened only.

You might want to check the language of the agreement, before you become so aggressively assertive. I think you will find no such language about a 10-year hiatus in financial aid/compensation to the PAUSD.


Posted by katie, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 28, 2012 at 9:43 am

To those who will complain about the 560 students in the VTP program: I have NO children and will never have children in the Palo Alto schools. We pay big bucks in property tax about which I have no complaints because we choose to live in this lovely community. VTP is a great program and I consider my tax dollars going toward the education of the children in the VTP program. So, please, cool it with the grousing and think of the many people/childless couples/retirees who live here and don't have kids in schools. It takes a village to educate a community and Palo Alto is part of a world community that includes EPA.


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Katie, apologies but your post makes no sense to me. The difference of course is that you live in the PAUSD and like all of us pay to educate the children who live there. That's pretty much the deal with a basic aid district. The "grousing" as you put it is about paying for the education of kids who do live somewhere else. That's the deal we have only because of a law suit, settled 35+ years ago, with no sunset provision, that now benefits mostly people who were unrelated in every way to the original suit (including being a different race). You may be happy to pay for it, which is fine, but I don't see why that means everyone else should.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2012 at 5:12 pm

I support Katie's view that it's a very wise use of our tax dollars to assist the EPA children with their education. The more we can help needy children receive a decent education, the greater assurance these children grow into tax paying, responsible citizens as opposed to school drop outs, infilterating wealthier communities to rob people at gun point. One-half of CA prison inmates are high school drop-outs. Some call it an "economic" obligation, others call it a "moral" obligation, to assist less fortunate children realize their full potential through decent schools.


Posted by Huh?, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

@Nancy - if the idea is to spend money to improve the schools for EPA students, then we should just give them the money and help them improve their own schools for ALL the children of EPA. The current system is a pretty roundabout way to "help" about 700 children, and of course drains education-oriented families from Ravenswood/EPA, harming the remaining kids. If there were a vote to create the current system today, it would go down in flames - it only exists because of a poorly structured law suit settlement.

If you want to give your money and even your time to the children of EPA, I applaud you, and heck, would probably join you - but it makes no sense for PAUSD tax payers to do so under a 35+ year old obligation.


Posted by Nancy, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 29, 2012 at 7:53 pm

Hi Huh? Thanks for your thoughts. A few follow-up questions:

How does E.P.A. view the Tinsley program? Does E.P.A. oppose the Tinsley program as harmful their community (by draining education oriented families from their community)? Or is it just some of P.A. speaking out against the program?





Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 29, 2012 at 8:42 pm

Nancy - from most of what I have read over the past few years, Ravenswood views the VTP program and charter schools as a drain on $$ but more importantly, a drain on parents that care about education and are able to support their children. The parents who are able to help their kids with homework, volunteer at school, etc. are much more likely to be Tinsley or Charter parents.


Posted by Time-To-End-VTP, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2012 at 10:58 am

The VTP (aka Tinsley) program has been pretty expensive in the past, and will likely be even more so in the future. The PAUSD reported per student spending numbers of over $13K/student to the State Department of Education not too long ago. With those sorts of expenditures (and the other money that is not reported), it's not hard to see that the PAUSD/taxpayers/contributors are paying about $100M every ten years to educate East Palo Alto children.

That is a lot of money in anyone's book.

With the on-going gentrification of East Palo Alto, the changes that FaceBook will impose on that community, and the clear lack of real impact on EPA students being in the PAUSD--it's definitely time to return to Court and end VTP.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 30, 2012 at 12:08 pm

There are definitely pros and cons in the VTP system, but regardless of whether or not it can be stopped, it won't alter the increasing enrollment situation, neither will the kindergarten age adjustment.

Short term, these would/will just be a blip. The problem is that we are increasing the overall number of living units in Palo Alto and these living units are producing school age children.

If we continue to produce more living units then we must increase the number of schools. QED.


Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on May 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Before everyone goes overboard on bashing PAUSD-VTP funding. Please read the backgrounder at the PAUSD website. You will note that the most of the state funding per student (which would otherwise go to the Ravenswood District or Seqouia HS District) does end up at PAUSD.

There is a shortfall between what is spent by PAUSD per student vs. what is provided by the state transfer. However, for those of you who are getting amped up about VTP expenditures, at least recognize it is hardly the amount you are assuming to be.


Posted by Kate, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 3, 2012 at 9:53 am

And ABAG and the State of California want to stuff 10,000 more homes/apartments. etc in Palo Alto?? WHERE will all these children go to school? Rebuking this ABAG mandate should be the #1 vocal priority for Palo Altans, the School Board, the City Council, and anyone else who can pound on the table. Corte Madera just told ABAG "where to go" -and withdrew from it. So what if the State had no money to give Palo Alto in transportation funding, etc? The State's "broke" anyway. Even though State Law says that a city can't consider the school district in master planning, time to ignore this and get that law changed too. PA Council, Joe Simitian, and Rich Gordan ARE YOU LISTENING??


Posted by RT, a resident of Barron Park
on May 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Agree 100% with Kate re: ABAG...and I'll go a step further - this is MY #1 priority. Any local politician that does not ACTIVELY oppose ABAG in speech and deed will NOT get my vote in future elections - that simple.


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