Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he would return in April with specific recommendations on the boundary change for consideration by the Board of Education.
In recent years, the boundaries have led to frequent "overflows" of Addison children into Walter Hays and other schools, creating uncertainty for parents and home-buyers in the Addison neighborhood, Skelly said. A boundary change would offer more predictability for families, he said.
The Addison proposal was a detail in a far larger discussion held in a Board of Education study session Tuesday, Feb. 28, to consider long-term enrollment projections and facilities planning.
Though little consensus emerged on specifics, board members generally agreed there's a need in the near future for a 13th elementary school and — perhaps more urgently — a fourth middle school in Palo Alto.
They specifically mentioned two possible sites for expansion: the Garland campus at 870 N. California Ave. and the Greendell campus combined with the district's new acquisition of an adjacent parcel at 525 San Antonio Road.
However, several members noted that many more desks soon will be needed on the west side of El Camino Real due to Stanford University's plans to build faculty housing on El Camino between California Avenue and Page Mill Road, and on California Avenue south of Hanover Street.
Board members did not specifically address a proposal by Skelly to postpone until at least 2019 any consideration of school facilities at Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield Road.
With the school district's long-term lease of Cubberley to the city coming up for renewal, Skelly said the district is "heavily dependent" on the $7 million a year in lease revenue, which represents 4 percent of the schools' operating budget.
Skelly said the surprising bump in elementary enrollment of recent years will be dampened in the near future by the phase-in of a new state law mandating that children turn 5 by Sept. 1 of the year they start kindergarten, Skelly said.
With funds from a 2008 facilities bond, the district has completed or is in the process of building up to 40 new elementary classrooms on existing campuses, including those of Ohlone, Fairmeadow and Duveneck elementary schools.
Current middle school construction will provide district-wide capacity for 2,900 students. Conservative enrollment projections show this number will be reached in 2015, he said.
Skelly urged the board to wait at least a year before firmly committing to entire new campuses, with hope that more data will offer guidance in light of currently iffy growth projections and financial resources.
Board member Barb Mitchell argued the district should "move forward with scenarios for both a 13th elementary school and a fourth middle school" guided by aligning investments in new classrooms with the geographic "clusters" — north, south and west — in which enrollment growth is occurring.
"North cluster" elementary schools are considered to be Addison, Duveneck and Walter Hays; "south cluster" schools are El Carmelo, Fairmeadow and Palo Verde; and "west cluster" schools are Barron Park, Juana Briones, Escondido and Lucille Nixon. Additionally, district-wide "choice programs" are currently located in the south cluster at Hoover and Ohlone and in the west cluster at Escondido.
The south cluster currently has the biggest gap between supply and demand for school classroom space.
But Skelly assured board members that delaying hard decisions for a year would still afford lead time sufficient to prepare new facilities ahead of any student influx.
"We do see lack of clarity around what's going to happen with elementary enrollment, both by cluster and whether it's going to grow at all in the next four years," he said.
"These are large capital outlays and they all have their downsides.
"We live in a community that's action-oriented and wants to make decisions, be decisive and courageous but, frankly, I think the prudent step is to wait."
Board members appeared to reject Skelly's suggestion of accommodating middle-school enrollment growth by moving some sixth-grade programs to elementary campuses.
Another possibility, he said, could be adding classrooms at Terman Middle School, which currently has capacity for only 700 students — 400 less than the capacities at Jordan and JLS.
Board members did agree to Skelly's recommendation to change high school boundaries so that students living in the housing development at Stanford West, along Sand Hill Road, will be assigned to Gunn High School instead of Palo Alto High School in the future.
Stanford West students attend Nixon and Terman but were assigned to the Paly attendance area due to over-enrollment at Gunn at the time the housing complex was constructed several years ago.
Now that Gunn has fewer students than Paly, Stanford West students should automatically be assigned to Gunn along with their classmates from Terman, Skelly said.
The superintendent said he will schedule another board study session in April to continue the discussion on enrollment projections and facilities.
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