Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 28, 2010

News Digest

Two young men detained after Gunn lockdown

Two 18-year-old Gunn High School students were arrested Thursday for bringing a weapon to school.

The males were taken into custody shortly before 3 p.m., following a campus lockdown that was called just as the school day was ending around 2 p.m. and that lasted about 45 minutes.

Names of the arrested students were not available before the Weekly's press deadline. No one was hurt in the incident.

Police said the weapon was an Airsoft rifle, which shoots BB-sized plastic pellets.

As of 3:30 p.m., the two students' parents were at the school talking to police and school officials, police said.

Gunn students were confined to classrooms during the lockdown while police searched for two reported juveniles who arrived at campus with a realistic-looking air rifle, according to initial police reports.

After the lockdown ended, several students said they had not been informed about what was happening.

But police and school officials were themselves scrambling to determine what was occurring, according to reports.

Police Lt. Sandra Brown said officers arriving at the scene found an unoccupied vehicle and decided to "take no chances" and ordered classrooms locked. A police SWAT team also arrived on campus.

Students reported that they were only told it was a "Code Red" alert.

Parents arriving to pick up their teens were diverted to Alta Mesa Cemetery across Arastradero Road from Gunn while police and school officials concentrated on room V9 in the portables section of the school.

Other parents waited in cars along Miranda Avenue and on Arastradero Road until cones barricading the campus entrance were removed. Many were on cell phones attempting to contact their children inside the school.

One student reported desks had been pushed up against the inside of the door of the classroom.

The campus still swarmed with police following the lockdown as students poured out of Gunn. Students said even then that they didn't know the cause of the disturbance or whether those detained were Gunn students or outsiders.

Palo Alto eyes bond to fix aged infrastructure

Two engineers, three finance specialists, four local commissioners and six volunteers-at-large will soon tackle one of Palo Alto's most talked about and least understood problems — an infrastructure backlog that city officials say has risen to more than half a billion dollars.

The mission of the new Infrastructure Blue Ribbon Task Force will be both broad and technical: to identify the most critical items on the city's long laundry list of crumbling roads and obsolete buildings and to possibly pave the way for a bond measure that would go to the voters as early as November 2011. The City Council will appoint the 15-member group in the next two months and will expect a report back in about a year.

What to do about the swelling infrastructure backlog has baffled city officials for years and has become a hotter topic now that Palo Alto is facing a string of budget deficits and program cuts. The city's proposed capital budget for 2011, which City Manager James Keene unveiled in April, estimates that the gap between how much the city needs to spend on infrastructure over the next 20 years and how much it plans to spend is currently about $510 million.

One question the committee will wrestle with is whether the long list of maintenance projects should be considered for a possible bond. The hodgepodge of projects described as "maintenance" account for $302 million in the backlog and include refurbishment of local streets, sidewalks, bridges, parks and some buildings.

The other $208 million includes a few big-ticket items such as a new Municipal Service Center ($93 million), the much discussed police headquarters (about $60 million); and an assortment of smaller projects (two fire stations, a new animal shelter and major improvements to Charleston and Arastradero road corridors).

Elementary Mandarin popular in Palo Alto

Palo Alto's elementary Mandarin Immersion Program is wildly popular among local families, with 69 students applying for 22 kindergarten spots this fall.

However, school officials say it's unclear whether there's enough interest in high school Mandarin to sustain the current offerings of Chinese I through Advanced Placement.

These are among the conclusions in an annual update on the school district's Mandarin program to be presented to the Board of Education Tuesday.

At the elementary level, a Mandarin Immersion Program at Ohlone School is finishing the second year of a three-year pilot.

This fall, the program will serve 88 students in grades K-3, with two K-1 classes and two 2-3 classes.

Parent interest in the program remains strong, with 43 English-speaking students applying for 14 available seats this year, and 26 Mandarin-speaking students applying for eight seats.

— Chris Kenrick

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