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Gunn plan for 2300 students

Original post made by PA Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Feb 5, 2009

Every parent I tell this to seems shocked, so here's the way things stand:

Right now, there are no plans to reopen Cubberly. The Board is planning for Gunn to have 2300 to 2500 students. I have heard both of those numbers quoted, but I don't think we can split hairs. If the aim is 2300 students and the district has to accommodate a few hundred more because of unanticipated enrollment (when has that happened, right?), it's not like it will suddenly trigger reopening of Cubberly, they'll put 2500 or 2600 students at Gunn.

Is this what we want? The increased traffic through the nearby neighborhoods and even on Arastradero alone is cause for concern.

Now is the time to let the Board know how you feel about this, because construction planning is proceeding right now to make Gunn a mega-school.

Comments (90)

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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2009 at 9:26 pm

So for 300-500 kids (presumably a high water mark based on demographic forecast) should we open a new high school? Doesn't seem to make economic or other sense. Expanding Gunn makes sense to me.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2009 at 10:16 pm

When you talk about "economic sense", exactly what numbers are you using? Construction choices are being made at Gunn that are grossly more expensive than campus upgrades would be for a similar student body as now.

Renovating existing buildings at Cubberly and Gunn (with fewer new buildings)instead would save tens of millions of proposed spending.

Instead of two enormous 2500 student schools at Gunn and Paly, the option of maybe 1800 at Gunn and Paly each and 1400 at Cubberly seems more reasonable to me.

Staff has to be hired regardless of where the additional students go to school. Yes, opening Cubberly will require some redundant staff, but if it was opened as a choice school, it could take enrollment from both Paly and Gunn areas and allow for a more focused curriculum (i.e., less staff than a "full service" high school). There are possibly also some advantages/savings with the Foothill presence there.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2009 at 11:22 pm

Whose demographic projections are you using? I hope not the same people who brought us the tragic underestimates of late? What a joke to spend millions extra to save a few feet of grass around a few new buildings on the Gunn campus, just so the district can fill in the blanks with portables when they go 200 or 300 students over projections. The lack of strategic thinking in this district is just breathtaking.

I find that most parents (and people in the neighborhoods surrounding the high schools) don't understand that the plan right now is to grow Gunn and Paly as large as they need to be to accommodate the growth, and that there are no plans to open Cubberly. I'd like to see this information discussed more openly in the community.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2009 at 11:29 pm

I think you will find that the real problem is that if Cubberly were to be reopened as a comprehensive high school, no one in Palo Alto would want their kids to go there. Gunn and Paly are both so well thought of that the idea of an untried high school, even if it were called a sister school to the other two, would still cause those in any catchment area to protest.

Conversely, if it were opened as a magnet school, those at the school would be considered at a disadvantage to their cousins at the prestigious schools before they even set foot in a classroom.

The High School Task Force supposedly discussed this and were told that reopening Cubberly was to be discounted.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Resident,

I know that that was said. But I've got to wonder how much money plays a part in this. Cubberly brings in a lot of rent for the district.

I'd think some sorts of magnet programs would work--a baccalaureate program was one suggestion. I think a lot of parents would consider a smaller program for their kids if it looked workable. For that matter, you could even run it as some sort of Gunn or Paly subsidiary--the Gunn program at Cubberly in, say, Spanish immersion . . . you get the drift.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2009 at 11:57 pm

OP

That is what seems to be lacking in our BoE and Super, out of the box thinking.

Cubberly could easily be used in some way by both Gunn and Paly. Many elective classes could be combined and held at Cubberly, particularly at each end of the day, but something more imaginative would have to be worked into the details to get it into the schedule. The arguments that it may cause scheduling problems, or extending the day by 15 minutes to enable students to be bused from Cubberly to their own schools cause such consternation by the naysayers that they refuse to look into innovative ideas.

Traffic problems at both schools are a real dissentive for growth, car traffic to and from school, as well as the practical problem of students having to diagonally cross a large campus in a 5 minute passing period.

One possible solution would be to have Cubberly as a 9th grade only school and leave the other two as 10 - 12 grades. But, of course once again, no one wants to discuss innovative out of the box ideas.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:15 am

"Conversely, if it were opened as a magnet school, those at the school would be considered at a disadvantage to their cousins at the prestigious schools before they even set foot in a classroom."

On what is this sweeping assumption based? I think this is the argument against opening Cubberly as a REGULAR school and redrawing boundaries, which would not work. But it's not a cogent argument against opening Cubberly as a choice school. A choice school would by definition be designed to provide something that Gunn and Paly don't already.

We do have the same core curriculum and academic standards here, and much will depend on the teachers we hire I hardly think we'll have trouble hiring quality teachers for the district, whether they teach at Gunn or a new PA choice school. Plus, there would be the Foothill advantage right there adjacent.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:31 am

"The High School Task Force supposedly discussed this and were told that reopening Cubberly was to be discounted."

Who told them to discount this possibility rather than discuss it?

I talk about this issue with other parents daily, and to date, I have heard nothing but universal surprise at this plan to grow Gunn and Paly without bounds, and strong opinions that we should reopen Cubberly (as a choice school).


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 1:33 am

Previous thread

Web Link


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2009 at 1:47 am

Thanks for the link Resident, I'd forgotten much of that. There was that amazing conflict-of-interest--basically, the people who were supposed to be looking at reopening Cubberly as a high school had an interest in getting it for Foothill.

Now that that's fallen through, maybe we could get a real task force that would actually address the capacity issue instead of fretting about the achievement gap. Not that the achievement gap can't be fretted about, but surely that can have its own committee?


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2009 at 9:27 am

At this point, I don't have horse in the race but I think Cubberley is a wonderful location and a wonderful facility and it should be used by PAUSD. I agree with the forward-thinking ideas like a magnet HS or IB HS program.


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Posted by realtor
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2009 at 10:29 am

we realtors know that if the district could properly investigate the residential requirements, they would find that there are many hundreds of students "living" in apartments/condos that are actually second residences to their primary homes in Foster City, Redwood Shores, San Jose etc etc "We have sold/leased these condos just so that the families could go to Gunn. When I tried to let the school know this in past years, their answer was that there was nothing they could do.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 11:06 am

realtor

You probably spoke to the wrong person. You need to speak to the District office. They employ someone to investigate whether a specific student is living in their registered address. If it transpires that they are not sleeping there 24/7 they will act. This works for dual custody, sleepovers with grandparents, and many other rules.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Both Gunn and Paly have plenty of land on which to build and expand. Many High Schools in the country have over 3,000 students. By today's standards, Gunn is a small High School.

The problem with Cubberley is it was built in the 1950s when asbestos and lead paint were used extensively. If Cubberley is reopened as a school, it will have to be totally demolished and rebuilt. There is a lot of hazardous building material on the site. That is one reasons Foothill backed out of Cubberley deal.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:35 pm

SoM Res

Yes, they are small high schools, which is one of the reasons I moved here before my kids were born. I liked the idea of small schools which is what we had in the early 90s. I didn't move here to have them go to a mega school.


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Posted by ib
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2009 at 12:50 pm

If PAUSD offered IB at cubberly as a choice program, you'd get a ton of people applying.

The problem isn't how to move students from Gunn or Paly, it's whether the board wants to.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm

I'm afraid if we offered an IB program, even more people would move here just for HS (and rent those condos that they don't live in...)


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm

Heck, I live a few blocks from Gunn, and *I'd* consider sending my kid to Cubberly for the right choice program. I agree with Resident, I didn't make the kind of sacrifices I made to live here for mega schools. Yes, there are larger schools in the world, but not here when I chose to buy my house here. I think most people in this town realize that their real estate values are tied to the schools. And frankly, the people around Cubberly would see an increase in the value of their homes if it were reopened even as a choice school.

Gee, my house was built in the 1950s when asbestos and lead paint were used extensively. We did not have to tear down the house to get it dealt with effectively, and yes, we did have both.


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Posted by InComing HS Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm

My child is entering high school next year and I would happily send him to Cubberly if it were re-opened, as long as they recruited teachers and administrators to move from the other schools so that there was a mix of "old" and new teachers and administrators. It's crazy to have just two schools. The students who live on the east side of town have to travel a long way to go to school. My child will spend at LEAST an hour a day riding a bike or a bus. He should be able to use at least half of that time for studying.

Terman hasn't been around all that long, and I don't know of huge problems with opening Terman as a new middle school.

Besides, for getting into the UC system your child needs to try to be in the top 10% of his or her class, so having 3 schools would allow more Palo Alto children to be in the top 10%. :-)


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 6, 2009 at 2:34 pm

I have an honest question for those concerned about the size of the high schools.

Do you think the size of the school is really impacting the quality of your child's education?

Look at test scores from the early 90s when the schools were at their lowest in enrollment with about 1000 kids at each high school compared to the test scores now. I'm actually going to take a guess that they've gone up since then.

Maybe that's comparing apples to oranges and the kids in the district are different now than they were then but it would be interesting to investigate that further.

The graduation rate in 2005-2006 was 95%. The graduation rate in 1995-1996 was 96%. Not a difference there.

I definitely think class size matters but do small schools matter?


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Posted by Ex Palo Alto Resident from London, UK
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 6, 2009 at 2:37 pm

I used to live just a few blocks from Gunn many years back and have seen high schools across the world...big and small. Palo Alto's biggest asset is its schooling system, and it feeds into the real estate value too. Three high schools is any day better than two, just like two is any day better than one. Ever heard of the portfolio approach to investing? Well wishers of the city should support three high schools. It will work out better for the students and the residents. Don't concentrate the assets; have some diversity.


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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 3:22 pm

When it comes to education in Palo Alto, I am happy to do less with innovative ideas and out of the box thinking, and stick to a tried and true, block and tackle approach.

Opening a new high school, particularly with any kind of differentiated program, seems like a huge undertaking that would take enormous attention from the district staff. Not to mention the associated expense of the facility and staffing (3 will always cost more than 2).

Skelly appears to believe that school and class size are not major issues for us - look at the size of our largest elementary schools and the proposed expansion of the high schools. We're also likely to see elementary class sizes expand. You may disagree, but that seems to be his view and he was hired to lead us. I don't thinks he suffers from lack of imagination as much as an abundance of common sense.

I feel comfortable with that approach. Not flashy or "out of the box," but it gets the job done, more or less within budget. I wish more of our city leaders took that approach.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm

Opening another High School at Cubberley won't happen, it is far far too expensive. It will be much more economical to build additional classrooms at Gunn and Paly and increase the student body than building a completely new school.

A new school's overhead would be enormous with Principals, Assistant Principals School Counselors, School Psychologists, Librarians, Sports coaches, Maintenance crew, Gardeners not the mention the regular teaching staff.

Also, the reason Cubberley closed years ago was because a lot of their student body had already chosen to attend Gunn. Don't open a new school parents won't want their children attending. Cubberley won't have any kind of history of excellence.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm

Interesting about the need for building upgrades, but funny too given that Cubberly is filled with elementary-school-age kids attending dance classes, child care and Chinese school.

I think the right choice program would attract plenty of students. We see that on the elementary-school level, why not on the high-school level?

Realtor's right. I have a friend who is thinking about renting her house and then renting a house in Palo Alto just for that reason. I pointed out that the rules are quite strict about residency and she'll move full-time--it's that or face a school with gangs. Her neighbors across the street did this. These are legal situations, the family moved lock, stock and barrel, but it does put undue pressure on the school system. We're paying for the sheer awfulness high schools in other districts.

My friend may also just sell her five-bedroom and buy a townhouse in Palo Alto--again, for the high schools. There are a lot of districts with decent grade schools, but the high school situation is harder.

Well, I suppose that's why our housing prices aren't dropping sharply.

Anyway, even a PA high school without a long history is going to appeal to some families who'd like a smaller school than Gunn or Paly. I'd certainly consider it and I think the district knows how to deliver a good school.

Heck, it could start out as a choice school, succeed and then having people complain about it not being a neighborhood high school. (Sorry, just a choice-parent joke).


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 6, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Me Too
"Opening a new high school, particularly with any kind of differentiated program, seems like a huge undertaking that would take enormous attention from the district staff. Not to mention the associated expense of the facility and staffing (3 will always cost more than 2)."

You keep making these sweeping and unsupported statements. Have you taken a good look at the proposed spending at Gunn and Paly right now? Many TENS of millions of dollars in totally unnecessary spending from Measure A that wouldn't be necessary if Cubberly were renovated, for a LOT less. (Certainly the proposed renovations at Gunn are orders of magnitude less!)

If Gunn adds another 600-800 students, do you think that will happen with no additional staff? Of course they'll have to hire at Gunn with additional kids, too, just like they would have to if they reopened Cubberly.

And fitting in all that additional staff in what is acknowledged now to be a tight squeeze at Gunn is actually looking NOT to be very cost effective.

Just the first building they are proposing to put in to take the place of some older building and portables (which will have to go in the parking lot while the construction takes place, plus temporary parking somewhere else -- and I don't think those costs are included) is projected to cost on the order of $24 million. The architects said the two-story construction would cost between 6 and 15% more to get the same square footage as single-story. (And that's if you believe their rosy estimate, they have been trying to underplay the extra costs of two-story all along.) As of the time of that $24 million estimate, the contractor didn't even know about the active, shallow fault line that runs right under Gunn on that side of the campus, so seismic planning and construction will probably add more than now projected.

So just the overage to get two-story, which is perceived to be necessary in order to add all those extra students and staff, will cost a premium of millions. We could totally renovate Cubberly AND Gunn and even add some one-story structures for a lot less, i.e., within the budgets we will have from Measure A.

It's time people actually sat down, looked at the options and priorities, and ran the numbers. That is NOT what is happening with the planning right now. All of you concerned about the use of Measure A funds should be ON ALERT.



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Posted by Me Too
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2009 at 6:23 pm

Not sure what sweeping generalization I made, aside that 3 schools always cost more to run than 2 (which I believe).

But educate me - you talk about how expensive the buildings are at Gunn (and I agree, they are quite costly), but not on the cost of the alternative. Is there an analysis that backs up the claims that Cubberly and Gunn could be fully renovated for less than what it costs to add to Gunn? And some figuring around the cost of foregone rent at Cubberly and the cost of duplicate administration and specialists? I guess it could work out cheaper, but I haven't seen anything to that effect and it seems pretty counterintuitive. So, if you have the analysis or can point to it, that would be great.


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Posted by retired teacher
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm

As a high school teacher, I taught in a variety of schools. Without a doubt, the smaller high schools provided a more supportive learning environment for students. The larger the school, the more anonymous the students felt and the less socially responsible they became. I once would have been happy for my grandchildren to attend Gunn, but the bigger that school gets, the less personal attention the students will get. Certainly, Cubberly will be expensive to bring up to date, but doing so would be an investment in the future of the school district. Our board, like too many school boards, tends to look for immediate, band-aid solutions. We must take a long-term view.


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Posted by ib
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2009 at 11:32 pm

"Heck, it could start out as a choice school, succeed and then having people complain about it not being a neighborhood high school. (Sorry, just a choice-parent joke)."


You mean like Garland?!


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Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 7, 2009 at 4:07 am

All this talk about Cubberley gets me nostalgic for my high school years there. Its only real problem is that people find it so difficult to spell correctly.


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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2009 at 4:41 am

My kids graduated from Gunn five and seven years ago and then the enrollment was about 1750. Even that was too large. Any educator will tell you the ideal size for a middle school or high school for optimal learning and involvement is 700 to 900 students. Groups of kids become alienated and fall through the cracks in too large schools.


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 7, 2009 at 9:39 am

How do you suggest we open this school with the budget crisis we're in and the bond money set for the renovations at the current schools and the reopening of Garland?

We know that it costs a great deal more to open a new school than it does to expand a current one - for buildings and for admin costs. You'd have to do another bond for the buildings and find the money for the operating expenses. I just don't see that happening with the current fiscal climate.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2009 at 10:20 am

How about forcing the developers of all the new housing to pay? At present they are charged a school impact fee which is presumably used to pay for portables and new teachers' supplies, etc. A bigger impact fee would really give realistic funds for school development.


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2009 at 10:30 am

Not only would a 3rd high school be more expensive, but most students prefer the current 2 school arrangement. When polled for the High School Task Force, fewer than 30% of Gunn and Paly students thought opening a 3rd high school was a good idea, while 40% said they definitely would not have attended a smaller specialty school - only 15% of students said they would have given it serious thought. That's not even a solid yes. Parents like the idea more than kids do.

Plus, there was no consensus from the parent or student communities as to the type of specialty high school program offered at a smaller school - people want everything from International Studies, to Biotech, to Visual & Performing Arts to Science and Technology. Once a theme was selected, many expressing interest would surely drop.

Students like the rich course offerings available at our 2 high schools. 78% of students rank electives as the most important thing at Gunn or Paly, followed closely by core academic. Many smaller schools do not have the elective choices, AP offerings or numerous academic sections that are available at Gunn and Paly. Would your science student be able to be in the band at the small high school? Would a Science & Technology themed school even have a band or orchestra? Would your art student be able to take AP Calculus? How about being on a high school soccer or football team? In PAUSD, we want our kids to have access to all these high school experiences.

Gunn is looking at introducing an IB program and Paly is looking into other programs. (Check out their WASC reports on the school websites.) They don't have to open a 3rd high school to offer innovative curriculum offerings at our high schools. A larger student body allows more creative curriculum. And it's cheaper. As a parent and taxpayer, it's win-win.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2009 at 1:57 pm

I suggest all of you look at the existing proposals (i.e., come to the planning meetings) and look at the numbers. Proposals for NEW buildings, especially multistory buildings, are ORDERS of magnitude HIGHER than proposed costs for renovating existing buildings. That would apply at both Gunn and Cubberly.

Putting up NEW buildings anywhere is a lot more expensive than renovating existing buildings. Putting up multistory new buildings in order to shoehorn as many people as possible at Gunn will be even more expensive.

We HAVE land and buildings. If you run the numbers, it is MUCH cheaper to reopen Cubberly than to try to make Gunn absorb a limitless new population. And I haven't talked to anyone in the surrounding neighborhood or parents who want mega schools in this district.

Stop making sweeping assumptions. If you don't believe me, DEMAND THAT THE DISTRICT RUN THE NUMBERS!!!! (Without tilting them to get their pet result...)


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2009 at 2:45 pm

To all these many parents who do not want to turn Gunn and Paly into mega high schools, I urge you to email the BoE, and Skelly, email addresses on the website and turn up at Board Meetings and speak for 3 minutes on the subject. If enough people start doing this it may make a difference. Talking to each other and getting people to think about this is crucial now, and then everyone has a duty to act.

Remember, the present BoE will have to stand for re-election at some time and if they want to be voted back on, or anywhere else, like all politicians they will have to pay attention to the voters. If you don't let them know your feelings then we are going to get stuck with what they want, for whatever ulterior motives they may have, rather than what we, the community, wants.


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Posted by Don't quite understand
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2009 at 2:57 pm

"Proposals for NEW buildings, especially multistory buildings, are ORDERS of magnitude HIGHER than proposed costs for renovating existing buildings."

Is it really "orders of magnitude"? That is, is the cost of new buildings over 100x the cost for renovation?


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 7, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I understand the building costs but you're still not adressing where the funds for the administration will come from.


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Posted by Another parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 7, 2009 at 6:54 pm

To PA Parent - We can't renovate the dumpy portables at Gunn - they need to be replaced. And where is the data that it is much cheaper to reopen Cubberley? PAUSD does not even own all of Cubberley anymore.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 1:48 am

To everyone making comments:
These are EXACTLY the kinds of questions that should be put to the school board at this moment when they are planning to spend $77million in the first phase of Measure A funding for Gunn construction! (The proposed spending, without taking any cost overruns into account, is on the order of $122 million.)

We should be demanding that they provide definite numbers for what it would take to renovate both Gunn and Cubberly, and what it would take to build up Gunn and Paly to mega schools instead! At least based on the numbers provided so far for building new buildings AND modernizing and upgrading old ones, there is order(s) of magnitude difference.

What I have seen so far is a lot of wild assumptions, illogical thinking, non sequiturs, and some construction people nicely picking this district off for what is in their best interests, not ours, like prioritizing two-story buildings to replace existing facilities, where better design could satisfy the priorities for much less. And given the extraordinary costs coming to light, it should trigger a comparison with costs to open Cubberly now, not five years from now. It should trigger a comparison with other proposals to solve the problems at Gunn.

When I see numbers like $31 million just to put in two new two-story buildings at Gunn (which replace existing facilities, not create new ones -- the idea is that a slightly smaller footprint will allow for more expansion in the future, though there is no concrete plan for this), where modernizations and upgrades of equivalent buildings run in the hundreds of thousands to low seven figures, yes, that is orders of magnitude.

Another parent wrote: "We can't renovate the dumpy portables at Gunn - they need to be replaced. And where is the data that it is much cheaper to reopen Cubberly?"

Exactly, we can't renovate the dumpy portables at Gunn. But is the best answer to put a two-story structure (costing tens of millions) there on the south side, which will block sun, require an expensive move of all the portables to the parking lots during the years of construction? (and where will the cars go? esp. the additional hundreds of cars from the extra hundreds to a thousand students?)

We didn't vote for Measure A so that the district could treat those funds like some kind of candy jar, where they no longer have to try to get the big picture and be fiscally conservative overall.

Erin and other parents, you are asking great questions, to which we all deserve an answer, real concrete cost comparisons NOW. Please get involved!


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 2:06 am

Erin,
Your question about administrative costs for opening Cubberley is a good one that I think we deserve an answer to. The district shouldn't be making assumptions. And I didn't vote for Measure A so that the district could decide it could blow huge sums of money on construction to avoid a smaller outlay in administrative costs, I don't think anyone did. We deserve concrete numbers from impartial people so we can make good decisions.

What would those extra costs be? The trouble is, expanding Gunn isn't free administratively, either. What additional teachers, staff, etc, would we need if we opened Cubberley versus making Gunn a mega school? What additional teachers, staff, etc would we need if we built up Gunn and added hundreds of students? We'll need new teachers for that, too, and planning and logistics will be more complicated, as students may be unable to get the electives and classes they want. Two-story buildings are more expensive to build for the same square footage, will require additional procedures for emergencies, stairs result in more accidents and injuries over time (our liability insurance will increase, an added cost we will have no way to minimize in the future) and may result in additional custodial resources (whether for supplies or even personnel -- just washing and maintaining second-story windows will require more than maintaining single-story).

Frankly, if we're going to treat Measure A like it's time to spend, spend, spend, I'd rather see the new Gunn fully solarized so that it saves us huge bucks in operating expenses for decades, and sets a good example for the kids. I think that's a better use of a few million dollars than spending a premium on two-story structures (with some vague idea of what that will give us -- optimizing and SPECIFIC comparisons have been totally lacking) over trying to think through a better design overall with single-story.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2009 at 9:01 am

As a reminder - this forum is a great place for venting, but if you want your questions answered approach the BOE and Dr. Skelly. They can't answer your questions and concerns if they are unaware of them.


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 8, 2009 at 9:24 am

Absolutely people should be going to the board meetings. Don't think the district isn't reading this though.

I'm not going to the board on Gunn because I'm working on the Garland issues right now but I was interested in this topic because I went to Gunn when it was at probably it's smallest around 1000 students in the early 90s. I also have very young girls just starting in the school system, my first in Young 5s now, so while I want the absolute best for them, the picture of what their high school years will be like is very far off my radar right now.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 9:38 am

Erin,
I appreciate your working on Garland. Please consider putting in a little time on the Gunn issue right now -- unfortunately, everything is happening all at the same time, and recommendations go to the Board in March. So now is probably the best time to ask the hard questions and push for the best solutions.

We should be involved precisely because there is little or no representation by people whose kids will actually be affected by the changes. I don't think the neighborhoods really understand that the extra traffic and urbanization issues, either. The trouble is, with processes like these, people tend not to get involved until it is too late to change things without a lot of pain and expense. Now is the time.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

PA Parent - you stated "there is little or no representation by people whose kids will actually be affected by the changes." perhaps this is because the parents of the affected students are fine with adding to Gunn and are actually happy that the school will be improved. Could is also be that they don't think traffic issues are a reason to make decisions about education? Yes, I have kids at Paly not Gunn, but there are traffic issues at every PAUSD school since they were built for a smaller population of students who biked and walked to school.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2009 at 11:01 am

At a meeting on the future of Cubberley held last year with neighbors, our then City Manager made it perfectly clear that if Cubberley were to be reopened as a High School, it would have to be torn down and completely rebuilt. The buildings are not up to modern earthquake codes necessary for a school.

A remodel was out of the question as Foothill College found out. It was built in the 1950s with 1950s building materials some of which are now considered hazardous. Tearing it down and rebuilding the school was the only way they could go.

Would it be cheaper to tear down and rebuild Cubberley and bring it up to modern earthquake standards, or is it cheaper to build additional classrooms at Gunn and Paly?


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Posted by Phil
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Feb 8, 2009 at 11:45 am

I'd be happy to send my son to Cubberley.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Even if all the forecast students could be housed at Gunn and Paly, as proposals are the same there and both schools will be kept approximately the same size, the real problem for those in the south east of Palo Alto is getting them there.

Paly and Gunn are not in close proximity to south east Palo Alto and students have a difficult commute. The VTA recently were pursuaded to keep a partial service of route 88 which goes through south Palo Alto and then to Gunn. The PA shuttle runs to Gunn, but not through south east Palo Alto. The shuttles are also so full at school times that one student fell off through the emergency exit because he was standing as there are not enough seats for all the students. Gunn has a couple of "back door" entrances for pedestrians and bikes, but only one car entrance. Arastadero also has Terman situated on it with only one car entrance and will soon be made from 4 lanes to 2 lanes, only adding more congestion for the number of cars that have to travel that road to get to school. Students are no longer able to arrange selfdrive carpools because that is against the law.

Paly has a PA shuttle which takes students along Embarcadero but not to southeast Palo Alto. Students can take shuttle and VTA or 2 VTA buses, changing at Cal Ave and paying twice for each journey. Paly also has 3 car entrances, but has to fight with cross town traffic on Churchill and no light to help traffic leave campus after school.

Both schools have seen increases in bike riding recently. But problems will remain on how to get the students from south east Palo Alto to these mega campuses. It is difficult now for 1900 students to arrive at school at approximately the same time for first period (except for those at school for zero period of 1st prep) and it will be even worse for 2400 students to arrive at school.

We have no sensible method of transporting students to school. We more housing being built in the south east corner of the City, more cars will be taking kids to school. Unless something is urgently done to transport kids to school, the size of the school is going to make getting to school the biggest problem.

On top of that, it is going to be harder to get onto the football team, be class president, or get the lead in the school play. It is going to be harder to form ongoing friendships with classmates seen only in one class and then not even in the following year in the same subject. It is going to be harder for parents to know who their kids' friends are, who they hang out with, whose home they go to after school, etc. It is going to be harder for parents to feel comfortable going to back to school night, etc. as they won't recognise anyone else in their kids' classes, let alone be able to park anywhere near the schools.

These are all valid reasons why we don't want the schools to grow any bigger. Regardless of what anyone says about schools of over 2500 working, it is not what Palo Altans want. For those who say just build more classrooms and it doesn't matter because the kids won't be affected, I say to you that you are not thinking the whole thing through. There are secondary issues which must be taken into account.


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Posted by Bad example
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2009 at 1:47 pm

"it is going to be harder to get onto the football team"

Note, the Gunn football team is a non-cut sport. In fact, part of the reason for its lack of success compared with Paly is that there aren't enough kids at Gunn going out for football.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Schools over 2500 kids work fine. Yes it is harder to be class president, but you can offer more electives, etc. to students. I went a to a HS in the east with 2600 kids, I had no problem making friends or meeting them for lunch to catch up. Whether or not Palo Altans "want" schools of a certain size is not the important thing, providing a quality education to all our students with the resources we have is important.

Traffic issues are and should be separate from educational issues, but it does seem like Gunn should come up with an alternative safe drop off spot in addition to the parking lot entrance.


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Posted by Asian Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 3:11 pm

There aren't enough kids going out for football at Gunn because many of the kids are forced by their parents to study rather than exercise. Football just isn't a valued sport by Asians.


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Posted by Bad example
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2009 at 3:54 pm

"There aren't enough kids going out for football at Gunn because many of the kids are forced by their parents to study rather than exercise. Football just isn't a valued sport by Asians."

From the California Department of Education Website:

Non-Asian population at Gunn: 1273
Non-Asian population at Paly: 1375

Not that much difference there, so that's not it.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2009 at 4:17 pm

"Paly and Gunn are not in close proximity to south east Palo Alto and students have a difficult commute."

Not at all, my two children rode their bikes from Charleston Gardens in South-East Palo Alto to Gunn very easily everyday for four years. They would go through Mitchell Park to JLS, then up East and West Meadow cross El Camino and proceed to Gunn up Maybell. I see many Gunn students from south PA taking this route everyday.

Just because we live in south-east Palo Alto I would not have denied them the wonderful experiences they had in high school at Gunn, it thoroughly prepared them for college.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 8, 2009 at 4:40 pm

The new bus route for the 88 bus goes down East Meadow to pick up the new students at both Echelon and Vantage developments, then goes west along Fabian Way to pick up students from Actaire behind the JCC, then proceeds all the way up Charleston to Gunn.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 4:44 pm

I gave the football team as an example. Maybe I should have said badminton team.

Many kids do ride bikes, but can we assume that the additional kids from all the new housing are going to do that. Can we assume that a child needing to take a cello to school will ride their bike. Or a child needing to take bulky sports equipment, or whatever.

My point is that it is a difficult commute and many parents do not insist that their kids ride bikes or take the shuttle or rte. 88. With the additional kids, we also have additional teachers which mean more teachers probably with cars that need to park.

Gunn is a good school with a good reputation. When I moved here before my kids were in school I valued the smaller size of the schools. I live in a house that has been here for 50 years and I have been here since before my kids were born and a lot has changed in that time. Gunn is growing at an alarming rate and it is not the small high school that it was. Its reputation is becoming its stumbling block. By increasing its size we are taking away that which has been of value. It is alright that many of you, who may live in new townhomes and don't mind staring into your neighbor's backyard if they have one think that making it as big as it can go is alright and don't care about the rest of us. The values we had when we moved to Palo Alto are being stripped away.

Those of us who moved here because of the small town feel in our schools do not want mega schools.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2009 at 4:53 pm

Neighbor

Thanks for the info on the bus route. Do you know how many Gunn students use the bus? Presumably one bus gets the kids to school at the best time. Is the bus full? Do they all get seated? Does the bus fill and those that live nearer Gunn get left at the stops? And what about the return journey, can they all get on or is it full and only some get on? Is there enough space for a busload of kids to wait at the bus stop without them spilling out onto the street or adjoining properties?

I had to use city buses back in my days at schools and quite often my bus would go by full which made me late and there was not enough space for 30 kids to wait for the bus after school without spilling into the street (there was a brick wall behind the narrow sidewalk) and since the bus would not be able to take all 30 of us clamouring to get on, there was a great deal of pushing and shoving. So I know how dangerous waiting for a bus can be and what it feels like for a bus to go by full to make me late for school.

I am really interested in these questions. I am really pleased that there is a bus, but wonder if normal safety procedures are in fact working.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 8, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The ethnic/racial makeup of PALY is 21.7% Asian, 5.9% African-American, 59.8% Caucasian, 7.4% Latino, and 5% Other. Total student enrollment is 1755.

The ethnic/racial makeup of Gunn is 2.5% African-American, 6.8% Hispanic, 29.6% Asian, 4.9% Asian Indian, 2.4% Pacific Islanders, 50.6% Caucasian, 0.6% other and 2.6% declined to
state for about 1900 students.


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Posted by Gunn parent
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 8, 2009 at 9:21 pm

PA parent - The 2 proposed 2-story buildings add classrooms to Gunn, they are not simply replacement facilities. Yet they preserve the open space on campus. And if you ask the students or look in the Quad at lunch, many tend to congregate in the shade now so introducing some more would be fine. Come spend some time on campus.

By the way, there are 600-700 students who regularly ride their bikes to Gunn. The new plans add 2 more bike cages.


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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 9, 2009 at 7:50 am

"Can we assume that a child needing to take a cello to school will ride their bike." Taking instruments to school has always been something that kids have had to deal with, it is not a new problem.

My son took his tombone and his lacrosse stick on the 88 bus or he got a ride with a neighbor. Leave your kids to solve these problems, it's a good learning tool.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 9:45 am

previous statement:
PA Parent - you stated "there is little or no representation by people whose kids will actually be affected by the changes." perhaps this is because the parents of the affected students are fine with adding to Gunn"

No, that's not what I meant and not correct. The priorities and planning have involved only parents with kids at Gunn now. No attempt has been made to establish priorities with parents whose kids will be actually affected by these changes. This has a huge impact on priorities. For example, kids at Gunn now go to school with a certain sized population. They have single-story buildings. When asked questions about what needs to be fixed, they aren't exactly going to bring up a desire to avoid two-story buildings because they don't have to deal with them, for example. They aren't going to talk about the tension between the neighborhoods and Gunn because of all the spillover parking in the neighborhoods from 600-800 new students, because that's not the existing size of their student population.

But when I talk to parents about the meetings, I hear strong and universal opposition to the idea of expanding Gunn to 2300 to 2500 and more. (And that's usually not the initial topic of conversation, for me it has been bringing up the specific plans.)

Furthermore, the few meetings that have been open to the public haven't been particularly well publicized. One was announced only two days before the meeting (and went through my channels only the day before). At the meetings, the public is allowed only a few moments to comment and the end, and offered no opportunity to follow up or rebut statements made following their comments. There is no opportunity for discussion or back and forth. It seems geared to allow future dismissals of public input with the claim that previous stages were open to the public.

Information about the plans and priorities is not being disseminated through middle and elementary schools at the stage where feedback can have an impact. Parents of middle school and high school students have NOT been invited to be on the panels that are making these decisions, so no, it is not because they are all "fine" with making Gunn a mega school and urbanizing it with multistory structures. From what I have observed it is pretty much because they don't realize what is happening and because there is no representation by that community.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 9:49 am

Oops, I should have reviewed my last post. The last part should read (corrections capitalized):

At the meetings, the public is allowed only a few moments to comment AT the end, and offered no opportunity to follow up or rebut statements made following their comments. There is no opportunity for discussion or back and forth. It seems geared to allow future dismissals of public input with the claim that previous stages were open to the public.

Information about the plans and priorities is not being disseminated through middle and elementary schools at the stage where feedback can have an impact. Parents of middle school and ELEMENTARY SCHOOL students have NOT been invited to be on the panels that are making these decisions...



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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 9:54 am

previously stated
"A remodel was out of the question as Foothill College found out. It was built in the 1950s with 1950s building materials some of which are now considered hazardous. Tearing it down and rebuilding the school was the only way they could go.

Would it be cheaper to tear down and rebuild Cubberley and bring it up to modern earthquake standards, or is it cheaper to build additional classrooms at Gunn and Paly?"

Where are you getting your information? They are tearing down structures and building new ones at Gunn, and planning on the most expensive kind of new ones (multistory) in order to shoehorn in extra students.

The Foothill situation is a more cautionary tale than you are representing. Despite all the planning and geologic reviews, etc., when Foothill went to start building new buildings recently, they found evidence of fault lines they did not know about. As a result, they had to relocate the new construction and tear down a bunch of existing buildings. This was not for the reasons you have assumed.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 9:58 am


"Just because we live in south-east Palo Alto I would not have denied them the wonderful experiences they had in high school at Gunn, it thoroughly prepared them for college."

A lot of us would like our kids to have the same wonderful experience yours have enjoyed, with the same sized student population, not another 600-800 students (or more, if the district prognosticators are wrong AGAIN).


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 9, 2009 at 10:00 am

PA Parent - Even well publicized events regarding HS will not be attended by very many elementary parents -HS seems too far away when your kids are little. A few middle school parents would attend. That said, while it is nice to collect community input, we elected the BOE and hired our Superintendent to run our district. It is really up to them to decided what is the right direction to take. We won't all agree with their decisions, but so far the Board and Dr. Skelly have show a lot of common sense.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 10:06 am

previously stated
"PA parent - The 2 proposed 2-story buildings add classrooms to Gunn, they are not simply replacement facilities. Yet they preserve the open space on campus."

You should come to the planning meetings. Try getting some actual square footage numbers. You are making a sweeping statement based on myths and biases and not on actual facts and numbers for the project. Right now the only conflict between open space and single-story construction is poor design.

"Open space" is also completely different in relationship to a tall multistory structure than it is to a one-story structure. So saving a few square feet around an edifice will not preserve open space on campus the way it is being ASSUMED.

My problem is with all the assumptions that are being made here. A good designer could make preserving open space a priority in single-story design as well.

The architect stands to make more money (and probably preserve their business during this economic downturn) by pushing two-story because two-story costs more and they work on percentage.


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 9, 2009 at 12:21 pm

PA Parent -

I think you're making sweeping assumptions about what the "community" wants based on a few conversations you've had. How do you know that's what the entire community wants?

I am actually in favor of the two-story construction happening at Garland. It will free up quite a bit of playground space for the kids. Same with Gunn. You'll be able to fit twice as many classrooms in the same area as a single-story building and the kids will be able to enjoy the natural setting of the campus.

As far as I've been told the new classrooms are replacing portables. Isn't that correct? Don't you think our kids and our teachers deserve real classrooms? Enough with the crappy portables. Would you rather they keep the crappy portables there and instead spend all of their $170 million dollars in the bond for the two high schools renovating Cubberly? Of course, PAUSD doesn't even own all of Cubberly anymore so that's another issue entirely.

As for the Gunn meetings, they have been posted on the Board website. They've had as much notice as any of the other community meetings about building plans. People don't show up to these meetings unless they have a heavily vested interest in the project. Usually the neighbors and those with kids in the school or entering the school in the next few years. The same is true with anything in the district.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 1:11 pm

A couple of points

As for the BoE making common sense decisions, a couple of years ago the AAAG which was an advisory board of parents, educators and others, spent many hours trying to come to a consensus about boundaries. The only consenses that was recommended to the Board was the calling of the Garland lease. They chose to ignore that advice, and a couple of years later decided to do so. If they had paid attention to the advisory group, Garland could possibly be opening this year.

Secondly, many of the portables at our schools are not "crappy portables" as many of you think, but permanent modular classrooms with far superior heating, airconditioning, bathrooms, etc. The portables have only been used temporarily while B 4 E and other uses. We tend to lump the term portables and modulars together, but far too often, these classrooms are actually much nicer and preferred by the teachers and students.


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 9, 2009 at 1:18 pm

The Gunn portables are not the same. I do know what you're talking about though. I'm assuming my daughter will be in one of the portables (yes, I'll still call it a portable not a permanent modular/relocatable/whatever) at Walter Hays next year and it is VERY different than what they are replacing at Gunn.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

Resident,

This is a bit off-topic, but do you remember the AAAG's recommendation on the Garland boundaries? I just remember that there was a discussion of whether Garland and Ohlone should swap and that the standard was not to have kids cross Oregon to get to a neighborhood school.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 9, 2009 at 4:27 pm

OP

From what I remember, there was no recommendation about boundaries for Garland. There was no decision about boundaries at all because at that stage, there had been no final decision about where to put MI (possibly if MI). The recommendation was that the lease should be called so that the site would be available in three years. This would mean that it could be used for various options and there was no recommendation even that it should be used for a 13th elementary.

The AAAG did make a list of other recommendations including the importance of peer streaming, keeping the high schools at approximately the same numbers and the same for JLS and Jordan, because due to site size Terman would not be able to increase, and also elementary kids not crossing train tracks/Alma and Oregon.

Boundary decisions could not be made until such time as 13th elementary school was opened (wherever it may be) as changing boundaries more than once in 5 years was a bad precedent and that boundaries had to start with elementary schools before being able to alter middle and high schools.

I am sure that if you look through these threads or google town square you may be able to find articles and threads on this very subject as I seem to remember a lot of discussion about it here.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2009 at 1:27 am

Thanks Resident,

I didn't think I remembered any recommended boundaries, simply that it was discussed. At that time, MI hadn't been approved and looked a bit unlikely until the charter threat a bit later.

Of coure, MI is still up in the air. I think it's deliberately not discussed by Skelley and the board since it basically held up district business for a year.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Erin,
You negate my reports of parents expressing surprise and outrage that Gunn will be 2300 to 2500 students and Cubberley won't be opened by saying that it's a sweeping assumption of what the community wants? Read my post again. I said that no attempt has been made to establish priorities with parents whose kids will actually be affected by these changes. I said everyone I speak to about the planning brings up strong opposition to expanding Gunn as planned. I have heard nothing but surprise that Gunn is being built up and Cubberley isn't being opened. What has surprised me is how little everyone knows about it.

That's irresponsible of you to make conclusions about the Gunn construction based on the Garland construction. They are totally different circumstances, with totally different proposals.

And no, you do not get "twice as many classrooms" for the same footprint, because building up means you also have to put in staircases, elevators, utility spaces, plenums, a more substantial structure, etc. Yes, you do save footprint, but replacing those portables at Gunn right there by saving a few feet will not create a natural environment nor a lot of open space. It will block sunlight and make previous open space even darker, though.

The portables are there because it was easy to put them there when there was a need. But is replacing them with permanent structures right there the best way to improve the campus? Garland won't be occupied during its renovation. Gunn will. The plan right now is to take the portables and put them on the parking lot during the years the portables are being replaced with tall buildings. I live in the neighborhoods that will get the spillover traffic, and we are already negatively affected by speeding highschoolers and parking.

And look, maybe putting in some better (far less expensive) permanent buildings somewhere else on campus and keeping the portables for now is more rational, because the decision to open Cubberley is probably going to be revisited in the next five years. (One has only to remember the Garland experience, as told above...)

I personally think we should reopen Cubberley, but if we are NEVER, EVER going to do that under any circumstances, and the district is committed to making Gunn a megacampus (as it seems to be with its plans and arguments), it should be up front with the public about it, sell Cubberly and try to buy some commercial property nearby to enlarge Gunn. If the district is hanging onto Cubberley because it might be useful to reopen it -- HELLO! -- what exactly are they waiting for?

If I tore my own house down right now and put up a two-story structure with the same interior square footage to save open space, I still wouldn't have a substantially different back yard. I still wouldn't have space to build a second house in the back. I would simply have a two-story house, where a one-story house was just fine.


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2009 at 2:18 pm

Oops, didn't finish my thought.

If I tore my own house down right now and put up a two-story structure with the same interior square footage to save open space, I still wouldn't have a substantially different back yard. I still wouldn't have space to build a second house in the back. I would simply have a two-story house, where a one-story house was just fine.

If my in-laws and their kids were moving in with us, so I needed more space, THEN should I tear down my house so that I can put up a two-story house with more rooms? Maybe, but for me personally, if I happened to own a house that needed some renovations up the street, I would choose to renovate and put them there. So let me play devil's advocate and say I do tear down my house and put that two-story structure up -- you know something, I still don't have a backyard...


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2009 at 2:37 pm

PA Parent,

I think the district holds on to Cubberly because it pulls in quite a bit of money in terms of rent.

With all the housing proposals flying around, though, you'd think there'd be some review of figuring out possible future uses for Cubberly.

Unfortunately for Gunn, it became a brand-name more than Paly because of the US News rankings. A lot of families want the Gunn brand on their kids' diplomas. For that crowd, a bigger Gunn is probably fine as long as *their* kid gets in.

I think, though, a portion of families would rather see their kids at a smaller high school.

I've picked up kids at Gunn--the idea of portables in that parking lot . . . shudder . . .your neighborhood has my sympathy.


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Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Feb 10, 2009 at 4:26 pm

Aha. We've come to the real issue. The traffic and parking in your neighborhood. I wish you'd just say that's the issue and not sugar-coat it with all this jargon about what you think the "community" of a few people you've talked to is in outrage about over the size of Gunn.

We've got the same thing going on with Garland. Parking and traffic is an issue at all of our schools. It always will be no matter how big the schools are. It's even a problem now with Garland closed and just weekend traffic using the Jordan fields so I'm not quite sure you can entirely blame the school.

And it's still not clear that my kids WON'T be attending Garland during construction. The building timeline just got pushed out even further because of an issue with Stratford so now we're looking at occupancy in March of 2012. Who knows what the plan will be when this all comes into fruition.

The district holds onto Cubberly because they realized they can't sell off schools like they did in the 70s. But I don't think 2300 students is enough to open a third high school. We may be looking at that option in 10 years but they don't have the enrollment projections yet to even think about it.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2009 at 4:51 pm

The parking problem for neighbors is just as much a concern as the parents of the kids who attend the schools.

Parking is a problem at all our schools. We don't have school buses due to reasons which are now historic, and we are affected by that decision way back when. The decision was made in the past and now we are stuck without school buses which is making the problem of the size even more problematic. All of the comments about schools of over 3000 students doing fine, probably have school buses taking and picking up 90% of the student body every day. We have no buses and the likelihood of 2,300 students arriving and leaving within a small window every school morning and afternoon at both our high schools. This is bound to cause traffic concerns for those attending the schools, faculty, staff and students, as well as those living in the neighborhood trying to leave that neighborhood at approximately the same time as the morning rush to school.

Scoffing at those who look at this particular aspect of the problem is putting on a holier than thou attitude. Those worrying about parking near Gunn have as much say as those who live near Jordan and don't want Sunday sports on the field.

We are a community and this is a community problem, not just a problem that affects those families that happen to be in the four year time window of having a student at Gunn.

If we have mega schools, we are really going to have to find a better way of getting the kids to the school without causing traffic gridlock.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2009 at 5:48 pm

While I don't think we should ignore neighborhood traffic concerns, they are very valid, we also shouldn't open a 3rd high school because of traffic.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2009 at 5:52 pm

PP

I agree that traffic is not the criteria to be used in making a decision about Cubberley, it is nonetheless a problem that will be made much worse if we keep increasing the size of our schools and must not be discounted.




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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2009 at 7:55 pm

Ummm, I'll bite: How come we don't have school buses? Most of Paly is within a bike ride, but Gunn's draw area is huge, there's no way it's a bike ride for some students.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2009 at 8:28 pm

Simple, school buses cost money, better spent elsewhere.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 10, 2009 at 8:44 pm

Hmmm, but if we're spending $400 million, surely we can start looking at some sort of bus system for the high schools and maybe the middle schools. Some sort of contract with the VTA to have buses run down Arastradero/Charleston, down Middlefield and maybe down Embarcadero.

Just seems like a relatively cheap fix for a big traffic problem.


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Posted by paly parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Feb 10, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Although the buses seem logical - traffic is a city problem not a school district responsibility, just like educating kids and overcrowded schools are not the responsibility of the city council and developers who are building housing with minimal contribution to the school district...


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Posted by PA Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 10, 2009 at 10:53 pm

Erin wrote:
"Aha. We've come to the real issue. The traffic and parking in your neighborhood. I wish you'd just say that's the issue and not sugar-coat it with all this jargon about what you think the "community" of a few people you've talked to is in outrage about over the size of Gunn."

Now you're just being a jerk. And arguing for the sake of arguing. I think you should read my previous posts and apologize.

How do you know how many people I have spoken with? Other elementary parents, probably far more than the district has talked to.

I have attended all the meetings and spoken to different people almost daily about this. I have made a point of spending time speaking with people daily about this. For a few months now. I have been SURPRISED that every time I bring up construction issues, parents get upset when they realize the size the district wants to make Gunn, and angry to realize that the district has no plans to open Cubberly. Why does that make you want to attack me? Why does that make you so uncomfortable? I am simply reporting what I have experienced.

The issue I have been bringing up with people is a construction issue that concerns OUR ELEMENTARY STUDENTS (you know, kids of other parents?) who will be the ones who will be affected by these changes. AND guess what? We also live in the neighborhood, it's the kind of neighborhood where kids go outside and play with each other and neighbors talk to each other. It's a danger when teenagers speed through the neighborhood. It's unpleasant when the district overcrowds the school so that our neighborhood takes the spillover parking.

What is your problem?!


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Posted by School buses are out
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:12 am

The School District had school buses for years. They are very uneconomical to run because the drivers must be paid to sit around all day going nowhere until school lets out. In other words they must be available at the start of school and at the end of the school day.

It was once suggested that they could be gardeners in the middle of the day but by the time they got to a school to work had lunch it was time to return to the bus barn to pick up the 1st and 2nd graders.

Also, there is always a big outcry from parents that the School District should spend that money on teachers not paying for buses and bus drivers.


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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 11, 2009 at 12:35 pm

School Buses,

But if it's just for the high schools then there's no 1st, 2nd grade pick-up. Also, if there was a contract with the transit system then those buses could drive other routes during other hours.

Why not have transit where it's needed?


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2009 at 1:47 pm

OP

You are making sense here about buses. This is the way school buses tend to be operated in Europe. Designated school buses are a waste for all the time they sit idle and drivers spend a lot of time idle too. Using contracts with VTA makes a great deal of sense and using buses just for high schools also makes sense. Not only would this save on bus/driver costs, but maintenance, parking space, weekend and no school days hidden costs and problems would also be eliminated.

As you say, have transit where and when it is needed.


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Posted by School buses are out
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:50 pm

But the VTA does supply a bus, it's the 88 bus. They won't supply anymore as they have just announced they are cutting back the 88 bus from every half hour to every hour. They are cutting back because nobody is rides the bus. Good luck if you can persuade them to increase bus service.


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Posted by Lori
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 11, 2009 at 9:54 pm

How about you people who want special bus service doing what the Los Altos Hills residents do. Get a group of residents together and hire your own bus. It will cost you several hundred dollars a year, but you're obviously prepared to pay that.


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

What would be better than the 88 bus is a designated school bus chartered from VTA (or elsewhere) that waited in the parking lot and left 15 minutes after dismissal bell and took students to various south east Palo Alto drop off points. The opposite route in the mornings.

VTA does a deplorable job of advertising its routes. Instead of reducing service they should be promoting its service locally. Where is advertising for bus services in Palo Alto or at schools. Where are the times of the buses posted on the bus stops. Do they advertise in school newspapers? Anyway, this is really off topic, but there are definitely ways they could increase service and they are not doing it.


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Posted by Michele
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 12, 2009 at 10:35 am

About expanding the Gunn student body - Charleston Rd. is already total gridlock from 7:30 - 8 AM and again from 3:15 till 3:30 or so. What's going to happen with all the new students? I think it is very dangerous for them to ride bikes on this road. Too many crazy drivers. One idea I would have is to either stagger start times at Gunn (freshman and sophs one time, juniors and seniors another), or at the very least get Terman to start 15 minutes later than it does. A fair amount of traffic is Terman traffic in the morning.


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Posted by A Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2009 at 12:37 am

It's just ridiculous that we are not taking a serious look at the Cubberley question alongside the new construction at Gunn.


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