News

A new middle school for Palo Alto?

Board of Education to discuss site search, among other issues, at meeting tonight

A potential new school for Palo Alto will be a topic of discussion tonight as the Palo Alto Board of Education meets for the first time in the 2012-13 school year.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly will ask the board to authorize a preliminary search for a location to build a fourth middle school.

With a recent surge in enrollment showing no signs of stopping, officials have said a new middle school as well as a new elementary school will be needed in the next five years without committing to a location for either.

One obvious venue – the district-owned Cubberley High School site currently leased to the City of Palo Alto for use as a community center – is currently the subject of discussion between the district and the city as the lease is up for renewal in 2014.

But Skelly said he'd prefer to scour for an alternative location for a middle school as a way to preserve the $7 million annual Cubberley lease income to the school district as well as to keep "the option to reopen Cubberley sometime in the future as a third comprehensive high school."

Loss of the Cubberley lease income, he said, "would require major structural cuts to the PAUSD educational program." The funds represent about 4 percent of the district's approximately $160 million operating budget.

The school district also owns elementary campuses on North California Avenue, currently leased to the private Stratford School, and on Fremont Road in Los Altos Hills, currently leased to Pinewood School. Last year, the district also acquired 2.6 acres at 525 San Antonio Road, which backs up to the Greendell School Campus, which is contiguous with Cubberley.

In other business tonight, the board will discuss its annual "focused goals" – including a goal of making its own meetings more efficient.

The board also will hear reports on the Cubberley negotiations with the city and on summer construction progress at school sites funded by the $378 million "Strong Schools" facilities bond measure approved by voters in 2008.

The board also will consider endorsing either of two initiatives on California's November ballot that would raise funds for schools: Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase, and Proposition 38, Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger's state income tax increase.

The meeting, which will be webcast live through the Midpeninsula Community Media Center and cablecast on local government channels, convenes at 6:30 p.m. on the boardroom of school district headquarters, 25 Churchill Ave.

Chris Kenrick

Comments

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Member
a resident of South of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2012 at 10:59 am

Doesn't the PAUSD still own the old Ventura School property?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by katie
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2012 at 11:00 am

Isn't Molly Munger related to Mandy Lowell (through marriage)? She is not a current board member, but it seems like a conflict of interest.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 11:15 am

@katie:
Are you seriously contending that Molly Munger supporting a statewide proposition and Mandy Lowell having served on the school board some 5 years ago suggests there is a conflict of interest somewhere? Wow. That seems far-fetched to my rudimentary way of thinking.

Perhaps you could elaborate on your trail of logic here?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Overcrowded HS
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2012 at 11:26 am

Seems to me that PAUSD should open the third high school first. Paly and Gunn have been a nightmare all week. We need a third campus ASAP.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Why not convert 25 Churchill to a middle school (or elementary) and move the District Offices to leased office space somewhere?

The idea has been suggested and even discussed unofficially before, but never seriously looked into.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Member,

PAUSD no longer owns the old Ventura School property, but does retain rights to repurchase it at some special rate from the city.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm

I agree that relocating the district offices from 25 Churchill makes sense. Paly is bursting at the seams. 25 Churchill could easily be converted to classroom space and PAUSD employees could move to another location.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by The city is also struggling with a structural deficit.
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Is it Dr. Skelly's belief that the district will need the Cubberley lease revenue LESS in the future?

Does he believe that the community will support procrastination in lieu of a solid long-term planning process for this site? The city has the option to terminate the lease agreement soon, and they have said that they cannot afford to maintain status quo with regard to the Cubberley lease and covenant. What then?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Option
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 5:51 pm

Why not move the district offices to Cubberley?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 6th grade school?
a resident of another community
on Aug 21, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Has anyone considered making the Stratford site a 6th grade campus for Jordan, thus increasing the capacity at Jordan? They could use the playing fields and other resources at Jordan, but have a more self-contained campus.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by local palo altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 8:17 pm

Overcrowded,
You bring up a really good point. Why didn't the district plan ahead, open a new high school, and alternately bring over the populations of Paly and Gunn while they fixed up Paly and Gunn, then redistribute the HS populations, perhaps using the 3rd campus as a special choice program in order to be able to control all the school sizes at a lower level? The patchwork construction is a nightmare, and hugely more expensive than it needed to be.

I'm really discouraged that Skelly would make such major decisions as a school site location based on wanting to keep some operations income, when the decisions he'll make will likely end up costing us more money -- it's just coming out of the "easy" pot, isn't it? The purpose of the district isn't to be a landlord. There will be a community center at Mitchell Park soon enough. If the district needs the operating dollars, it should go to the community -- didn't we just tax ourselves more to pay more operating expenses?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 21, 2012 at 8:58 pm

This year's budget needed to dip into the reserves, so Skelly is probably thinking that another 4% cut would be tough to do without some sort of layoffs.

A third high school would help relieve overcrowding, but I would like to hear about how it would affect the college admissions for those students who are starting a new high school... Does anyone know how college admissions weigh the historical track record of high school in their admissions process? And if it turns out to be a negative factor, it would not be good for the community or the school district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by local palo altan
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm

The city is vacating Cubberley and has wanted to for a long time. We're going to lose a lot of that money soon anyway. They've been paying money for a falling-down property like a parent keeping an unemployed adult child who should really be out on their own.

Skelly has not been a leader when it comes to renovating our schools. He's the wrong person at the wrong time, we really needed someone with vision.

Why would a third high school affect college admissions, except to give the kids 30% more opportunities for kids to be the class president, head of the yearbook, be on the track team, involved in extracurricular activities, etc? Palo Alto has the same standards across the district and a choice school would have some other attractive feature about it. This is the least of our concerns in this district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Claire
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 22, 2012 at 4:08 am

@local Palo Altan -- the community center at Mitchell Park won't hold a tenth of what's now at Cubberley. The community center at Mitchell Park is just a handful of small rooms and doesn't come close to providing space for the same services.

If the City abandons Cubberley and the school district does not want to operate a community center, then the residents of Palo Alto will lose more community services than are offered throughout the entire city including: several pre-schools, daycare, senior cardio care gym, dance studios, wildlife rescue, art studios, Chinese reading room, playing fields, batting cages,tennis courts, FOPAL rooms, dance hall, gymnasiums, auditorium, classroom space, meeting rooms, parking lot with showers for car dwellers, and the list goes on and on. There is simply no other facility in all of Palo Alto that offers this quantity and diversity of community services. The building may not be maintained properly, but lovely library with a few rooms for the community is no substitute!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Converting the district offices is not a viable solution. Room for classrooms, but no playing fields, gym, cafetorium, etc.

You cannot expect Paly to give up any of their space for those things --- everyone here already acknowledges that Paly (and Gunn) are too crowded. And Paly uses all of their spaces already - bad idea to expect to share fields, gyms, etc.

Further - not a good idea to have middle school students (e.g., 6th grade students) anywhere near 11th or 12th grade students.

Expensive - but Cubberly is the answer.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 26, 2012 at 9:49 am

I like the above mentioned idea of turning Stratford into the 6th grade wing of Jordan. It would be an easy way to expand the school by 1/3 (300-400 kids) without overcrowding. The fields are there to share, the gym and music rooms will be on that side of campus as are most of the elective classrooms used by the 6ht grade "wheel".


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jan H.
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 8, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I know it's a little late for this, but I want to say that the sixth graders at Jordan really should be separated from their upper classmen better. The eight graders bully the sixth graders all the time, and when my son was a sixth grader at Jordan, he was beaten bloody by an eight grader. It would never have happened if there had been a better separation of those two grades.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parenting Tip
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 9, 2012 at 2:25 pm

@Jan: You can't blame an enire grade level. Your mistake was not contacting Jordan administration about the bullying. My children had bullying issues at Jordan when Michael Milliken was principal and he puts and end to bullying FAST. Perhaps your child's principal was not him. My children's bullies were in their grade level. We have also reported witnessing bullying and the admistration takes it seriously.


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