Town Square

Post a New Topic

School board agrees to open 13th elementary

Original post made on Oct 24, 2007

In a meeting to map the future of Palo Alto's elementary schools, school board members unanimously agreed to take back the former Garland Elementary School site for a 13th elementary school from its current lessee.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 24, 2007, 12:21 AM

Comments (101)

Posted by Interested, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 7:24 am

I sure would like to read the survey! 72% agreeing the District needs more money is not the same as saying 72% would pay more bond money to give it to the District. I would like all of us to have more money, but I am not going to give you some more of mine, unless I know exactly why it is necessary and what you will do with it!

Anyone have the survey itself to post here?

Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2007 at 8:33 am

Depending upon capacity, the new school will bring the district more money, because the City Council is increasing the school population. It won't be equal to the cost of opening Garland, unless the assessment is raised on new construction.

I think your reaction to the bond issue will be widely shared. Many people who would otherwise support it don't want the demolition and construction the Council has planned all over the City, and they will vote against it to discourage Council from pursuing the ABAG quota.

I think they'll tell you what they plan to do with your money, but not why it is necessary. The school district believes that each new student means more money, but that's only true when the new students can fit into existing facilities.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:12 am

At long last, a move in the right direction. It is interesting to see that the AAAG were ahead of the BoE on this one.

Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:34 am

Parent: you mean ABAG? Ah, but who will bell the cat? ABAG can't increase the assessment on new construction, the Council is unlikely to do so, and streets, electric power increase, storm drains, police, fire, etc. are ahead of schools on the Council's list of infrastructure needs.

If parents don't get off their duff and talk to the Council and the County about more money for schools, the residents who aren't parents won't fund growth the school district should have been saving for, caused by growth many residents (myself included) see as environmentally destructive, ill-sited, and haphazard.

The argument about jobs-housing imbalance is simply green-washing. That's why there's no data supporting it. Demolition, dumping, and new construction are among our most environmentally unfriendly industries.

Then the expansion in school population will have to be funded by cutting programs and increasing class sizes. You'd better start lobbying for increased school fees from new housing - NOW!

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:47 am


No, I don't mean ABAG. I mean AAAG. The AAAG was the Attendance Area Advisory Group set up by the BoE over a year ago to discuss the boundaries. The AAAG advised the Board that a 13th elementary school was necessary. The BoE in their wisdom voted that down and have now changed their minds, perhaps Dr. Skelly changed it for them.

I am not sure exactly what your posts are getting at. As a Basic Aid district, we do not get more money for more students.

I think you should read up on the facts before you post again as you may have some good arguments if you knew exactly what you were saying. (Smiley face)

Posted by Arden Pennell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:08 am


We just posted the survey results on our home page, under the link "view survey results." Unfortunately, the results are not available on the school district's Web site so we transferred hand-outs provided at the meeting to PDF. I left a message with Chief Business Officer Bob Golton asking if it is possible to post the results on the district site, which would improve the image quality. I will check and post again to let readers know if they become available.

Arden Pennell
Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly

Posted by Mike, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:23 am

"If parents don't get off their duff and talk to the Council and the County about more money for schools, the residents who aren't parents won't fund growth the school district should have been saving for, caused by growth many residents"

Really? Be aware that seniors are cycling *out* of Palo Alto. We will see an increase in senior population, but that increase will (somewhat counterintuitively) be non-Palo Altan, and willing to pay up (because they have more money than those who sat on their duffs while property values increased, and thought that they were special because of it). We're looking at a whole new different kind of person "who doesn't have kids", but doesn't have the parochialism embedded in the fuddy-duddy kind of thinking that your missive seems to construct.

IN other words, we're talking about an *enlightened* group of seniors, who will often be excerpted from tax increases, fully understanding what measured progress is, instead of the retrograde default that is the typical political hobbyhorse whiner.

Posted by Arden Pennell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:32 am


We took down the survey results because they were just too tricky to read. Again, we are waiting to hear from the school district about posting them online and will keep you updated.

Arden Pennell
Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly

Posted by Arden Pennell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:38 am


To clarify the population Bregman surveyed (in other words, that inclined to support the bond) :

Only 31 percent had students currently in Palo Alto schools and 31 percent were 60 or over, he said.
The numbers reflect who votes in Palo Alto, rather than a microcosm of the population as a whole, he said.
"The sample accurately reflects the statistics for the district for likely voters, not for the actual population," he said.

Hope that helps.

Arden Pennell
Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly

Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:51 am

Hello Arden -- can you clarify the point made by 'interested' above: "72% agreeing the District needs more money is not the same as saying 72% would pay more bond money to give it to the District." Were people asked if they would be willing to pay as well as whether they thought the distrcit needed more money? I agree that there's a big distinction between the two!


Posted by Thanks, Carol, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:18 am


I appreciate your having the guts to post your name, unlike my lack of guts. However, could you please stop saying that the more students we have, the more money we make. It isn't true. There are 50-ish districts like us in California called Basic Aid Districts.

About 70% of our funding comes from us, and is dependent only on our pocketbook, not number of students. We could have 1 student in the district, or 100,000, and that 70% would be about the same amount. The rest is like it is for Revenue Districts ( per student financing)..block grants etc, and THESE are based somewhat on student enrollment sometimes, but are no where near what we actually support ( like our libraries get something like 15 cents per student for books etc)

Posted by Arden Pennell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Hi readers,

Thanks for making the important distinction between saying schools need money and supporting a bond measure. The survey asked voters both questions and both received high positive responses. I just added the information about bond measure support to the article, which is:

Respondents would support a bond measure, 74 percent said, a figure that climbed to 81 percent if property tax rates do not increase.

Arden Pennell
Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:08 pm

"Skelly's proposal to turn science labs at Fairmeadow and Escondido schools into classrooms also rankled parents"

Here we go again. Dump on Escondido. When will College Terrace and Evergreen parents wake up? Walter Hays parents have been wide awake for decades.

The elephant in the room is 20/class. It needs to go. It does not improve educational performance. It is a major waste of resoruces. It clutters our school grounds with portables, and produces thinking (e.g. Skeely)that permanent classrooms can be developed that are small, and can never be expanded (locked in by bricks and mortar).

The only to get a change of direction is to vote against a couple of school bonds.

Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:11 pm

Thanks, Arden!

Posted by No-Fan-of-Basic-Aid, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:22 pm

> However, could you please stop saying that the more students
> we have, the more money we make. It isn't true.

For the most part, this statement is true, but not necessarily absolutely true. Basic Aid school districts are very tricky. The PAUSD probably has the most complicated funding model of any school district in the country because of the fact that the most of its funding comes from property taxes. Property taxes are linked to land use, so it becomes important to have a firm grasp on how land is used within the district. Prop. 13 gets involved, because about 25% of the properties in the PAUSD jurisdiction seem to be assessed at land values reflective of the late 1970s and early 1980s. Commercials properties are taxed in an ad-velorem fashion for secured property, and some are taxed additionally for non-secured property.

Homes with these low assessments typically pay $1,500 (or less) in property taxes. The PASUD gets about 45% of this number, or roughly $600/home, no matter how many kids live there. Newer homes, or resales, are currently assessed at possibly as high as $1.5M, bringing in $15,000 in property taxes, of which the PAUSD gets about $7,000/home for educational services.

Properties involved with retail generate money for the city government, but not for the schools. Properties involved in R&D may, or may not, generate money for the schools depending on the history of the property.

New homes will add to the tax base, and may bring in new kids. In this case, the statement about more children tends to be true, as far as it goes. The problem is that the cost of education in the PAUSD has grown so much that virtually no residential property in Palo Alto offsets the cost of educational services for one child living on the property, much less two or more. The current cost-of-education per PAUSD student is about $15,000 (all costs included). So, the $1.5M home only generates about 46% of the cost of educating one child. The other money has to come from other sources. The additional 30% funding (State Categoricals and Mandates, Federal money, private grants and rental revenue) is somewhat linked to the number of students, but most of these programs do not affect all students equally, so some are benefited by these dollars and some are not.

The fact that the cost of education has grown so high (within five years it will likely be at $20,000 per student in the PAUSD [total cost]), that the issues of land use decided by the city council, and the effectively unfunded mandates to provide more housing by the State (via ABAG) become so important to the single family homeowner—who will pick up most of the tab for these increasing expenses in new property-based taxes.

Basic Aid school district finance models are very hard to understand in places where there are a lot of exempted property. Stanford, for instance, has a $2.7B exemption for its properties. There are many other properties which are exempted, such as Lytton Gardens and Channing House (just to mention a couple of high-density housing sites in the downtown area). The complexities of Basic Aid Districts are so great that it is doubtful than very many people associated with the school district can explain the details of how the finances of the PAUSD are linked to future property development within its jurisdiction (primarily Palo Alto and Stanford).

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:23 pm

"Skelly's proposal to turn science labs at Fairmeadow and Escondido schools into classrooms also rankled parents"

John wrote: Here we go again. Dump on Escondido. When will College Terrace and Evergreen parents wake up?

Maybe when the science classroom is used for the final phase of the SI expansion?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:51 pm


Thank you for the info. It's great to see it laid out like that--so basically, we want a bunch of people with no kids to buy $2 million houses. No wonder then that tear-downs tend to get approved right and left--you're getting rid of a house with a low tax base and replacing it with one that has a nice, high tax base--the bigger the better.

Interesting that the schools don't get retail tax stuff.

Of course, the big elephant in the room is what if Palo Alto actually does get hit with the real-estate collapse that's hitting just about everywhere else? We seem to be in a protected Googleconomy cocoon right now, but is that going to last?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:54 pm

John and YAP,

So, how organized are you neighborhood Escondido parents? I mean, it seems like Barron Park didn't get MI because the parents got in early and put up a fight.

And what is the deal with your principal? I know he put his own kids in SI--what's the crossover between the two school and parent groups?

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Well, here's what I thought of when I read this article. Lets see.. the new superintendent has already managed to have the BOE revisit votes it took last year on the following important matters:

a. High School Task Force - Redirected to a new objective, no longer to study high school capacity/facilities issues

b. Opening Garland (prior board voted to hold)

c. Level One/Level Two solution of loading up the district with portables to maximize space.

Not commenting here on whether these were good or bad DO OVERS but just commenting that in fact the new superintendent has brought his own analysis to bear on the issue, and has agendized these issues for a revote - in fact accomplishing a turn around on these matters.

So, then maybe someone can explain why he washes his hands of the MI issue - repeatedly calling it a "done deal"? When he's been told repeatedly that the feasibility work was incomplete, and the plan is half baked. And the charter analysis as well, which informed the final MI vote - where the charter analysis was severely incomplete in terms of financial impact on the district.

So why isn't he stepping in to provide his own version of analyis and recommendation - either defending the MI decision, or recommending a reversal? Its not good enough for him to stick his head in the sand on this important (divisive) issue. Nice try Skelly, but by refusing to analyze it and take a position, You're in fact taking a position. In fact he's just proven that NOTHING the board voted on last year is a done deal.

(And people wonder why folks are so digruntled with the incumbent BOE - apparently a whole year+ of time wasted. We need a fresh new BOE.)

Posted by Carol Mullen, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Just to be clear: I said that more children would cost the district a lot of money, because its facilities are full.

My point was, if more classrooms are added (opening schools) then the arithmetic changes. Empty seats cost money.

I'm not for growth. I'm sick of construction. My point is that accurate counts of students here and to come is basic to budgeting, and the BOE has been living in Neverneverland.

Seniors are only exempt from extra school taxes (not the base) if they apply for it. When the school district published the names of seniors who had applied for it, I was so outraged by this act of blackmail and the obvious misrepresentations in the campaign that I went down to the district and applied for exemption myself.

We'd been paying the bond taxes voluntarily for five years. I decided that I'd give the money to more deserving districts. And what do you know - I'd overlooked the many advantages of doing so. For one thing, it's tax deductible. Even under AMT.

I wouldn't count on a poll that asks people if they'll vote for a tax they won't pay. Those seniors may prefer to donate to the districts where their grandchildren go to school.

Only an impressive change in local government will get voters to the polls.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Good point, Parent. Yes, Skelly is doing what he thinks needs to be done, which I like. There won't be doubt of who to thank or blame, depending on how things turn out. He is doing a good job so far of herding the cats.

Why not revisit MI? (1) Not important enough for all the hassle it will create; (2) He picks battles he is pretty sure to win; or(3) Maybe he thinks the Board made the right decision (either because he likes MI or because he worries about a charter).

I'm guessing it is some of a three.

And I imagine they'll get a bond done on the back of fresh new leadership and a new Board (hopefully without Camille!) and the very obvious need based on enrollment growth.

Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:19 pm

Carol, personally I am fine with not getting your donation to the district. I look forward to seeing your name on the list of non-contributors!

Posted by no data at all to support 20 kids in 3-5., a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:20 pm

Complete agreement. No reason to keep the 3-5th grades at 20 kids. They can go to 23-24, which will absorb increasing enrollment until Garland opens up.

Posted by thanks for the chuckle, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:22 pm

Carol - hee-hee..good point. Asking people who can opt out of paying the money anyway IS silly, isn't it??

Posted by Curious, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:30 pm

> Seniors are only exempt from extra school taxes (not the base)
> if they apply for it. When the school district published the
> names of seniors who had applied for it, I was so outraged
> by this act of blackmail and the obvious misrepresentations
> in the campaign that I went down to the district and
> applied for exemption myself.

Has the school district actually published the list of seniors who have applied for an exemption of the parcel tax? If so, when and where?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:35 pm


MI is a huge political headache. Of course, Skelly's avoiding it. And he's right in that it's done for the moment because Susan Charles agreed to carry the monkey on Ohlone's back.

The other things are quite a bit more straightforward--does anyone think the schools don't need more room? That's simply a question of kicking our feckless board in their collective pants.

I wish, frankly, that we'd had Skelly a year ago. I suspect the MI thing would have been waylaid because I think Skelly, unlike Callan, does set priorities. I think he'd have seen the obvious--you've got to take care of the big pressure before catering to special-interest groups. I don't get the sense that Skelly's ego gets in the way in that particular way. (Though he sounds like he's got one.) He seems much more of a realist than Callan. (I swear, at some point, Callan just kind of left Planet Earth and headed toward Narcissista.)

Posted by Parent - Not buying it, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 1:59 pm

Its only 'done' to the extent that its not being brought back to the agenda by Skelly - his choice. He's shown us that anything is possible, and everything is open.

At this point, there's no reason any longer to blame Callan - its all Skelly.

And there's no reason that Charles and Ohlone should be automatically left bearing the burden, just because the previous management saddled them with it (via wheeling and dealing, or via threats, or whatever.) For example, why shouldn't he be showing us why MI won't start in 2011 when Garland reopens (as one scenario).

He's just shown us that there is no such thing as a default to 'a done deal'. If he supports it and condones it - then show us why. This community would benefit from his "infinite wisdom" - so lets see his analysis

(And while he's at telling us why MI is so great, he can also tell us why we should all sit around quaking in our boots at a charter threat.)

I think he just thinks he's going to dodge a bullet. Skelly - the jig is up.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 24, 2007 at 2:06 pm

"So, how organized are you neighborhood Escondido parents?"
OhlonePar, that's a really good question. The short answer is, not very. The more important question is "why not?"

We're a community. Our Escondido community is made up of both SI and neighborhood kids. SI has been at Escondido for over 10 years, so for the vast majority of current Escondido families, this IS what the Escondido community is all about: neighborhood and SI together.

I suspect that most neighborhood parents aren't excited about making waves against SI or questioning the SI expansion. It would almost feel like they're expressing dissatisfaction toward their friends who are in SI. Most of the SI parents I've spoken with feel apologetic about the situation when they realize that neighborhood kids are being displaced. But it's not their fault. They're simply applying for a program that the district is offering. It it's such a problem, the district shouldn't offer it. You can't blame people for taking advantage of a bonus curriculum the district has approved.

Getting straight to the point, I am very pissed off that the district is gradually putting the Escondido community in a position of battling for scarce resources. With overcrowding and growing enrollment trends in the Escondido neighborhoods, expanding SI was irresponsible. The district should have seen this coming, but apparently they're banking on the Escondido Community to not make waves. I think SI & non-SI should combine forces and push back against the District. Lobby for expanding (not moving) SI to Garland, for example. The SI expansion is already approved and underway and violating the "don't bump neighborhood kids" policy. Put MI on hold, take care of the existing SI waitlist, the Ohlone waitlist, the Escondido neighborhood kids, and expand SI a strand or two into Garland. The District should solve its existing problems before duplicating & creating new ones.

Posted by RWE, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 2:50 pm

John, "The elephant in the room is 20/class. It needs to go. It does not improve educational performance. It is a major waste of resoruces. It clutters our school grounds with portables, and produces thinking (e.g. Skeely)that permanent classrooms can be developed that are small, and can never be expanded (locked in by bricks and mortar)."

Try telling that to the majority of parents, who favor smaller classrooms, or the teachers, or to the rest of the world.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Addison already has 21 in each 4th grade and 22 in each 5th, my guess is many other schools are the same.

Maybe Escondido and Fairmeadow aren't being "picked on" - maybe they are just the only elementary schools with extra non-classroom (Science Lab) portables.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 2:56 pm


It is OK for classes to be up to 22 in 4th and 5th grades. The biggie is the k - 3 where the classes have to stay below 20.

For many schools, the idea of having a classroom just for science is a desirable luxury. No idea of what the cost would be, but the loss of field space makes putting in a classroom for science more than just a dollar cost.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2007 at 3:15 pm


You may be shocked to learn that Escondido, along with all other Palo Alto elementary schools did not limit class size until the mid 90's. My kids attended classes at Escondido with 28-30 kids/class k-5. They did just fine.

There is no rational reason to have the 20/class thing. It was a bill of goods sold to the k-3 up-and-comers, linked to increased state funding. It has been a disaster for PAUSD. Spoilt yuppie parents might like it, but that only proves that there are spoiled adults in Palo Alto. What's new?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 3:20 pm

Parent, I don't disagree with you. I think it's simply that if he puts MI back up on the table we get PACE's charter threats again--and, right now, we have a board that okayed MI. It may be different when the new board comes in.

In other words, how is it to Skelly's advantage to bring back MI right now?


Since the SI bump of Escondido students is counter to choice laws, I do think it's worth taking it to Churchill. Maybe change the SI program so that there is pro-neighborhood instead of an anti-neighborhood preference any year there's an Escondido overflow problem.

I can see that it's very, very awkward. Frankly, it sounds pretty convenient for Churchill that Escondido parents can't present a united front like the other schools.

Honestly, it's the one issue that seems really unfair to me and the one where the solution doesn't seem obvious. I mean other than I think the school ought to work a lot harder at giving the neighborhood kids language instruction.

Posted by yet another parent, a resident of Escondido School
on Oct 24, 2007 at 3:28 pm

"Maybe Escondido and Fairmeadow aren't being "picked on" - maybe they are just the only elementary schools with extra non-classroom (Science Lab) portables."
Yeah, you may have a point. But this is where I draw my own district-centric limit. Escondido neighborhood has done the rest of the district a big favor by expanding to over 500 students and growing, even though it has the smallest neighborhood population. It'd be worth having a discussion about what it's like to have over 500 students.

Suffice it to say, this mega-school burden is carried by Escondido neighborhood families for the greater good of the rest of the district. I have no problem with Escondido keeping an extra like the science classroom instead of taking on an ADDITIONAL 20 students. (Hey, why not make it a 5th grade classroom and we can cram more than 20 kids in?) I'm all for equity, but sheesh. Can't Escondido keep a small inequity in exchange (or appreciation!) for its contribution to alleviating overcrowding?

Posted by a detail, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 4:17 pm

Doesn't Fairmeadow PTA pay for its Science Lab and teacher? So, that is not "District" space for the taking.

Posted by Palo alto mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 24, 2007 at 4:39 pm

Detail - PTA's can not pay for staff only the district can fund staff at any of the schools. The Principal can choose to use discretionary funds (some of which comes to the school thanks to PiE) to fund a Science teacher (or extra Library time, aides, more ELL specialists, etc.) but the funds are coming from the district. I don't believe the PTA can pay for portables, therefore the structure is owned by PAUSD also.

Posted by pa mom, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2007 at 4:45 pm

Regarding the bond measure draft. 5,000,000 to replace an elementary MP room? 400,000 to replace a lawn and upgrade some plantings around an elementary school. Huh? (and have you have got to be kidding me)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 8:39 pm

Fairmeadow's PIE funds pay for the science teacher. Fairmeadow's PTA pays for the portable room.

Besides, another example of Superintendent and BOE not having a clue - the science lab room at Fairmeadow is a little tiny room, about HALF as big as an average room. If you stuffed 20 desks in there, there would be no room for the teacher to stand. When its science time, the kids come in and sit in a circle on the floor and the teacher stands about 3 feet in front of them at the board.

Nice try Skelly. So far I'm really NOT impressed with his tactics. At all.

The bond survey sounds like a huge waste of money and time (again). A bunch of seniors (all the people who pay the LEAST amount of attention to the school district issues), with NO details about what the bond would be for, asked if they'd vote for it. Well, put some information out to the public, then ask... This is just pure marketing spin (another point against Skelly as far as I'm concerned.)

Posted by Disgusted Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:43 pm

What we were sorely in need of before we found Skelly was a sound plan, and a sound planning process.

What we're getting is more reactive knee jerk decision making.

Where's the plan? Where's the data?

I still don't get how you decide you need to break a million dollar lease without any real idea of what you will do with the site, how much it will cost to convert it (to whatever use you plan), how many students it will hold, when it can go in to use, who will be impacted, etc.

There was all this growth this year - did anybody bother to notice that the KINDER growth was actually surprisingly below projections?

Did anybody bother to find out why? And what that means for incoming Kinders next year? And the next?


What other respected Board and Chief Executive Officer, of an organization this size, with this much far reaching impact on the community, makes multi million dollar decisions without any plan, any data?


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 9:54 pm

Disgusted P

You have raised some interesting questions.

We do have time to plan what to do with Garland. This year's enrollments were up surprisingly (not too surprising to some) more than expected. Calling Garland makes sense as it will take three years to become viable. In that time, if things change, alternative renters could be found if necessary. What could not be done, is getting it back if we did not give three years' notice. You say that there should be a plan, however, the plan has time to evolve as need arises. What you say can make sense, but in this particular instance, we need to have the premises and then see which level needs it most. The fact that it is needed is a given.

There are many theories as to why the kinder growth was smaller this year. We still have time to find out if this is a trend. Unfortunately, according to demographers, the only way to find out projections for kinder enrollment is the number of births in Palo Alto five years previously. This is obviously not a very good system but it is the only one available. One of the theories about the kinder numbers is that many parents registered hoping MI would be available and when it wasn't they found their MI program by going private. Another theory is the 9/11 effect as baby making may have been affected by this event.

As for trying to find out how to project numbers for kinders next year, the demographers only have birth rates to go by. Apparently there is no other way. If you have a suggestion as to how to find out what next year's kinder numbers are going to be, I am sure Churchill would love to know.

In the meantime, if you have any sound ideas for the planning process you can join the club and put your ideas about here. We are having lots of good input and I do believe the powers that be do read these threads.

Posted by Figures, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:56 pm

Looks like we now have a home for MI when it needs one. Convenient that they gave the school three years notice, not two or four.

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2007 at 10:58 pm

Food for thought...

Construction--How about building a multi-level school facility on part of the Garland/Jordan district property? The new facility would be the new Jordan once built which would free up the existing Jordan and Garland campuses for the "new" North PA elementary school? The footprint of a multi-level structure would preserve field space and is less expensive to construct than a similarly sized single story structure.

Re: Disgusted Parent's question about where the projected kinders are this year...I bet the numbers would show up in the impacted PAUSD and private Young Fives programs in the area. Since the state standards have pushed the expectations held previously for first graders down to kindergarten, more and more parents are choosing Young Fives programs and waiting to send their children until they are developmentally ready to handle the academic instruction of the "new" kindergarten curricula. Rather than argue whether this is right or fair, let's accept it as a new reality and plan accordingly.

How about expanding the PAUSD Young Fives program (maybe even to Garland but possibly even to the kids club space at neighborhood schools) so that every child who's parents or preschool/nursery school teachers don't think they are ready for kindergarten have a year to develop the skills they will need the following year?

Parents would be supportive and would be sharing in the associated costs involved. That could offset some of the rental losses from reclaiming Garland without being able to fully occupy the space in the beginning. (Young Fives is a tuition-based, subsidized program with heavy parent participation requirements.) Incoming kinders would be better prepared for the academic instruction and developmentally more ready for the social, fine and gross motor skills necessary. There would also be more spots at neighborhood schools, at least in the kindergarten and first grade years.

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:37 pm

Re: Parent's request for suggestions related to incoming kinder numbers. It isn't rocket science. Most families in PA send their three and four year olds to preschool/nursery school and an increasing number participate in Young Fives programs.

The Palo Alto Menlo Park Parents Club (PAMP) and Palo Alto Community Child Care are both huge communities of families with young children in addition to the families who have preschoolers and older children already enrolled. PAMP provides binders about preschools in the area in the reference area at the local libraries. The demographer or district employee could contact each of the preschools with a survey, ask where parents plan to send their child to kindergarten and when, continue with already enrolled families and make some reasoned predictions as a result. The survey could go to PAMP, PACCC, the district website for already enrolled families with younger siblings, the local papers, and collect actual address data. Oh, and there should be a formula to estimate the number of new students moving into the newly constructed housing units as well based on current trends.

I'm sure the numbers would be much closer than whatever the demographers are coming up with based on birth data from five years ago! Heck, I bet if the project was given to a willing group of Paly or Gunn students for their community service requirement we'd have much more accurate data and it could be accomplished within a couple of months.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 24, 2007 at 11:54 pm

The term is three years because that's the amount specified in the lease with Stratford. As far as MI is concerned, two would be better.

Young Fives is fine, but Garland's needed for the kids for whom the district must provide an education. The district doesn't have to have a Young Fives program. It does have to have room for any kid in it who wants to be in the public-school system.

Young Fives might possibly expand into more of Greendell when the JCC leaves in 2010. I'd like to see MI or another specialty program go there myself--it's big enough for about a strand-and-a-half and I think that's where MI's going to be for a while. Unlike other people, I don't think it will be as popular as SI--immersion programs have an attrition issue. It's not for every kid--and there are particular challenges with Mandarin.

I like putting Young Fives at the different elementaries--not necessarily the heavy co-op style at Greendell--but as an adjunct program run by the different elementaries. I mean, they're education experts and they're going to know exactly what a child needs to succeed in their kindegarten.


Kinder growth, per se, doesn't matter. We have several schools already working over their supposed maximum limit. Our campuses are littered with portables--and sites like Duveneck and Walter Hays have a minimum amount of grass for their 450 students.

We have three different housing projects under construction or just opening.

Because the district has to give three years notice to Stratford, the lease has to be called in ASAP, but the district actually has quite a bit of time to figure out how to use Garland--i.e. neighborhood school, so the the north schools could return to their limits and kids weren't going across town; Jordan addition; half 'n half neighborhood/MI. *Any* of these would solve a problem.

We're getting a new board and most of the candidates have pushed for a 13th elementary, so I think that's the direction we'll see.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2007 at 8:21 am

No, I'm talking about the 50 or so kinders that signed up to start PAUSD, and didn't show up on the first day of school.

Where are they? Why didn't they show up? These were people who registered and didn't show. Why no DATA? This was a huge anamoly, you'd think our decision makers would be showing even the slightest interest in getting to the bottom of that.

Also, Kinder enrollments DO matter - more than TODAYS overenrollment in (say) 7th grade, or 4th grade or whatever. Because you are planning for the FUTURE. So you need to understand the FUTURE. A bubble moving through the secondary system isn't the future. Its today.

And here's another theory - one that I think is much more realistic:

The recent boom in enrollment (past 5+ years or so) was correlated to a boom in Palo Alto housing turn over. And that was correlated to historically low interest rates, and loose lending policies, creative mortgages, etc. That's all gone now - rates are higher, and lending policies are tightening (I wonder if anyone at the demographers office or in the BOE is actually reading the news...)

A small change in interest rates makes a BIG impact on monthly payments when mortgage values are high. So I happen to think that we're not going to see a continuation of the mass exodus INTO palo alto from young families, quite like what we saw over the past 5-10 years.

And that would mean our need for facilities could be slowing. Growth in the older grades - could just be the bubble of home buyers moving through the system. The tail end????

Any mortgage interest rate/home buying data correlated with elementary growth demograhers??? This was asked of the demographers when they presented their projection numbers last year. They scoffed.

(HOWEVER, IF we build magnet programs that create their own special enrollment growth - well of course we get a whole different growth problem. But guess what - enrollment growth for those programs - should be cost neutral right!? So they'll be compensating us for the growth they create by virtue of their very existence?!. Right - what a joke. When they finally tell us where all these missing kinders went, we'll find out that they were MIers who were only coming for the program. And oh, they were renters (or else obviously they'd still be enrolled). So we'll get to take a nice dandy peek at just how financial impactful the MI program is going to be. Lets see if our intrepid new superintendent has the guts to show us the full picture and actually put a number to the impact of this program. Or is it all just too 'old news' for him?

Posted by Back to Garland, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:45 am

Back to Garland

On the Candidate's thread we got off-topic and into Garland, so I am adapting and moving a comment here.
Summary of some great thoughts from a few posters..

Use the Kid Club spaces at each site for an expanded young 5 is empty space in the mornings anyway.

This frees up the Greendell space. Use Greendell for another elementary school. Maybe a combined dual immersion, maybe not, point being it is an elementary space.We lose whatever money the lease is on the JCC side when they much is that? But we gain a site which is already pretty up to code since we are using it as a young fives.

Combine Jordan/Garland for 6th grade Garland and 7th/8th Jordan, with shared fields. We are having a tremendous Middle school room left at all. This would relieve a lot of stress. We are taking back Garland ANYWAY, losing that lease money and putting whatever we need into it to bring it up to standard.

This would give space for about 300 more kids in a Middle School, with staggered field times, and the extra space for language labs/science labs that comes with an increased middle school enrollment.

These look really good on the surface. I am sure Young Fives would raise all kinds of Cain at being de-centralized, but what a great way to expand it and use dead space, and expand addressing at-risk kids and catch them early...

Keeping the 6th graders a little separate from the older kids solves a lot of "bad" role modeling issues also, that can arise from a huge campus. Of course, it would mean a little boundary shifting..always a fun process. But, resource-sharing would be good.

It still is increasing costs to the District, ie no lease from JCC and taking back Garland, but at what kind of pressure relief? I would say a HUGE pressure valve is opened.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:53 am

A benefit of expanding Jordan to use the Garland site is that middle school/high school could be peer streamed again. Those families south of Oregon but within the Paly school district could attend Jordan (since it would be bigger than JLS).

Posted by great idea!, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:23 am


Of course, the objections are going to revolve around having such a bigger middle school, but it is an awesome and creative thought!

This is all your ideas, Threads, ( assuming it is only one person using that name), so don't let it drop come the new Board, ok?

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:55 am

Re: reclaiming Greendell for elementary expansion, language immersion, etc.

Let's put all the options on the table. Parents who enroll children in choice programs voluntarily commute to schools other than their neighborhood school. Jordan is at capacity and really needs additional classroom space potentially made available by Garland. If new construction is off the table for now that would still leave North PA elementary schools beyond capacity and dealing with overflow issues.

There is already additional space in South PA elementary schools--Briones and Barron Park but those spots come with across town commutes for small children from North PA. Not good! The only space crunch Greendell would relieve as a neighborhood school would be for Palo Verde and the new construction housing units around Bayshore and the former Hyatt and Elk's Lodge properties.

Ohlone is a choice school located in a geographically impacted location. Ohlone as a community has moved before and could be moved again to the Greendell/JCC site once the additional space is available. Sure it wouldn't be popular with the Ohlone parents. Yes, it would involve another transition. Put aside construction funds to build a new farm. Have additional classroom space for the MI strand(s).

The parents of both programs have already agreed to commute and will continue to do so. The North PA elementary schools are landlocked and can't physically expand. Garland and Ohlone sites are located within walking and biking distance to the areas affected by overflow issues now--both in the North PA area and Palo Verde's current boundary area.

Re: Parent's issues with the housing market--
The market might cool a bit but that will only increase the number of families coming into the district. Look at the real estate data. People will sacrifice and pay huge mortgages in order to send their children to PA schools, whether they currently have children or are planning to have them in the future. Check the current real estate listings. Check the trends on Zillow. Folks are still overbidding for million-plus fixers. Couples don't buy in PA for the great night life. They buy here for the schools, to be around bright peers with similar values and with hopes that the shorter commute will translate into a better home-work balance. Yes, there could be bubble years of higher enrollment for certain grade levels. However, the district needs to plan for increased growth in enrollment not stagnation or decline.

Posted by A point of fact, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:04 pm

No,Juana Briones is a full 3 strand school right now, already with one modular and with another slated to go in.

We are full.

Don't know about Barron.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:07 pm

Moving Spanish Immersion to Greendell would free up space at Escondido for Southgate residents currently at Walter Hayes (and yes they would object but why is crossing Alma and Middlefield Road better than crossing El Camino?). It would smooth out the North PA crunch.

And even better, if the young 5 program was spread out, then MI could move into the other half of Greendell, freeing up Ohlone space.

Posted by Tyler Hanley, online editor of Palo Alto Online
on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:20 pm

Tyler Hanley is a registered user.

Here is a link to the survey: Web Link

Posted by PA Dad, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Point of info re. Escondido's enrollment -- Stanford is about to start building a fair amount of new family housing for grad students between Escondido Village and Stanford Ave. The children living in those houses will be within the Escondido boundary. That new pressure on the non-SI track at Escondido isn't going to go away.

If SI got moved, I would support moving Southgate into the Escondido area -- despite the fact that a bunch of Southgate parents walked over to 25 Churchill to express their horror at the very idea last year. I agree that a trip across ECR is no worse that Alma/Middlefield and a rail track. It's what Evergreen students seem able to do without injury every day. Besides, Escondido is a fabulous school with enormous diversity and will remain so with or without SI. Who'd not want to go there?!

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2007 at 1:15 pm

Re: A point--Sorry, my mistake. I haven't been to the Briones school site but will sometime soon. I'm guessing you haven't been to the North cluster schools recently either. I believe the North PA elementary schools have four classes per grade level with only a couple of exceptions. If you walk or drive by during lunch recess, you'll see how crowded things are on the school grounds--and take a look at the number of portables already in place.

Re: Threads--Good ideas. I think all choice programs should be considered as candidates for moving to alternate locations based on space needs and availability. Yes,dealing with boundary issues will be painful. Opening up spaces at Ohlone is a good move but would only relieve pressure on the North cluster if there is some type of geographical preference during the lottery--still a choice program.

Posted by JSD, a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 25, 2007 at 1:24 pm

Love all the brainstorming.

One thing to note about the Greendell site: in addition to 2 classes of Young 5's and the JCC preschool, it also houses Preschool Family (which is part of PAUSD's Adult School) and at least 1 special day class and some other special ed. programs for preschoolers (I believe also a part of PAUSD).

Just additional variables to the myriad equations. . .

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 1:41 pm

Is there any space in North PA that could be configured as a school, apart from the existing campuses? I don't know of any, but perhaps I am missing something?

With space so constrained, it may make sense to send the choice students further afield, if not to Greendell, then to Pinewood or Ventura (assuming it could be bought back from the city and renovated), since the choice students have already opted to commute.

It has been commented on another thread that the BOE won't want to commit Cubberley space to anything but a high school, because it is the only viable option for a 3rd HS, and there is some wisdom to that.

So the properties available for lower grade expansion are quite limited.

Posted by Point, Idea and Back to Garland, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 1:51 pm

Actually, reasoned, yes I am aware of the sizes of some of the North PA schools. A couple are 4 strand..but larger sites than the smaller south ones. So, there is one difference. The North PA parents pushed to make their school larger in population rather than bring the kids further from home for various reasons. Another difference is that..hmm, don't want to say something wrong.

Put another way, how many of the north schools house Special Day Classes also? ( Nixon has at least one, Barron 2, Juana 2 and a CCS unit, ran out of knowledge). I know there are more Special Ed classes, just don't know where. But, are there any SDC classes in the 4 strand schools?

We often forget that space is about more than just regular education, as a Mom of a special ed student just reminded me.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 1:59 pm

I would like to know more about the special ed classes. Is there anyone that can fill us in? How the district handles special ed in general? Are there special ed classes at the middle and high schools as well?

It is certainly an important consideration for how space is utilized.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:09 pm

I didn't say the Palo Alto housing market has cooled. I said that interest rates are up, mortgages lenders are being more picky and less creative.

So with Palo Alto real estate staying as pricy as ever (muliple offers, etc as you mention), families with single working adults (ie: w/stay at home moms) are going to find it harder to qualify. There will still be buyers for Palo Alto real estated... But will they be large families? To same extent of growth rate that we just experienced?


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Moving Young Fives doesn't free up Greendell--half of the site is Preschool Family. Young Fives is two classes.

So, a full site is unlikely without a battle, which is why I think a small program like MI can go there. Or, maybe, SI can be pulled back to one strand and go there as well. My guess is, though, is that it's not leaving Escondido unless Escondido has a focused push to move it out. One of the differences between SI and MI is that I think SI parents are fine with being at Escondido. I don't think MI parents *want* to be at Ohlone with the Ohlone method. MI and Ohlone are both going to want a divorce unless some astonishing transformative miracle occurs.

Ohlone is already bigger than the Greendell site can take. And *again* Ohlone kids are kids in the extended neighborhood--largely Palo Verde, El Carmelo, Duveneck and Walter Hays. It's more efficient in terms of flow to keep Ohlone where it is and expand it from 3.5 to 4 strands since there's the demand. In fact, because it's a lottery program, it's easier to keep Ohlone's enrollment from fluctuating than it is a neighborhood school.

The main growth isn't in the Ohlone/Palo Verde neighborhoods and Palo Verde is not the most overcrowded of the schools, so not sure why you'd want to split that draw area and, presumably take a chunk of El Carmelo, which isn't overenrolled.

Point, Ed,

Ohlone also houses a special ed class. The kids come in and spend time in the other classes--it's really nice, actually. But we're South PA, so doesn't add classes to the north. I know that if we're turned into a mega-school, Charles wants a second special-ed class as well.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:26 pm


Just to clarify, you're right that we should know why the district didn't get those 50 kinders. My point is that we're already overcrowded enough to call in the Garland lease.

Regarding real estate. Palo Alto isn't like other real-estate markets. It's been months since the bottom dropped out of the real-estate mortgage and prices here haven't softened. People are buying homes at Hyatt Rickey.

It's not the hottest it's ever been, but the median sure hasn't dropped.

Other things are big factors in our market--Google's stock price means a lot of people buy here don't even need a mortgage. Yesterday, Microsoft put a valuation of $15 billion on FaceBook--that would be the company that gives its employees a kickback if they buy or rent close to work--that would be downtown Palo Alto.

Meanwhile, ABAG's breathing down our necks. I doubt we'll get close to ABAG's 3,000 units, but there will be growth.

And it is families or families-to-be that are moving in. Seniors don't want to buy in a place where their taxes are going to be sky-high. There's hardly an amazing singles scene here.

The schools are one of the few things that make PA's pricetag worth it--so people buy accordingly.

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2007 at 2:41 pm

Point--Well taken (pun intended).

Addison doesn't have a special day class that I'm aware of, Hays has at least one and probably two and I'm not sure about the others. While some specialty programs require such specialized facilities it makes centralization important, each neighborhood school should support the children with special needs in their home schools and the choice programs should offer support as well. Space should be made available for the special day classes and for the associated support services the children with special needs require. The board and Skelly will need to include special ed space needs in their remodeling/expansion plans as well.

Re: Thread's question related to potential North PA space...all political hot potatoes but here are a few ideas--
Downtown Police Station--if they rebuild elsewhere
Downtown Library--if it eventually closes
Downtown Historic Roth building--if the history museum gives up on the battle over repair costs

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 25, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Those downtown sites seem to be short on field space, unfortunately.

I would add the airport space to the list (obviously only as a choice/commuter school). Another hot potato to be sure, but the Nature Center and built up athletic fields out there.

As long as I am dreaming here, I would put a international language school with MI and SI at the airport, and leave the neighborhood schools for those who want to be in their own neighborhood.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2007 at 5:04 pm

Thank you Weekly for changing the headline. I think it was misleading to assume that Garland will automatically become a 13th elementary school.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 25, 2007 at 5:22 pm

The East of Bayshore idea has some merit. However, I would leave the airport as an airport (very good amenity for Palo Alto, and potentially great economic resource). The golf course has about 180 acres. It is a real dog run, as golf courses go. Pat Burt and Judy Kleinberg have talked about making a better (links) golf course on 160 acres. The freed up 20 acres could hold a 5-6 acre school site, and the remaining acres could support additional playing fields.

Also, why are we NOT talking about the soon-to-be closed landfill site? How about a little compromise here, from the preservationists?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 25, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Ummm, wouldn't it just be cheaper to call in the lease on Pinewood? That seems to be a big campus by the way--an ad for the school there said it had 625 students.

Posted by Too many kindergartners, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2007 at 9:24 pm

With the incoming kindergarten class likely to lead to overflow and movement outside of neighborhood schools, expect some drama in the spring when the extent of the problem becomes apparent. As someone who bought their house in the neighborhood 5 years ago because of the short walk to the local school, how about some sort of priority based system based on time in Palo Alto. From an equity perspective, it would seem those paying property taxes over a longer time frame should receive some sort of preference in the lottery. Has this ever been proposed?

Posted by natasha, a resident of Meadow Park
on Oct 25, 2007 at 10:02 pm

I can't see ho wthat longevity thing would play out. For example, what if you have been in Palo Alto for a long time but just moved to a very popular neighborhood with insufficient space at the school. Do you count based on your total years in PA (and what if they were as renters) or just the short time in the new neighborhood? And d renters get consideration, and how would THEY prove how long they've been here, and why would they get riority over a recent full tax payer? Besides which, if you have been in Palo Alto for 10 years and someone buys the identical house, that person will probably make up for your lower rate in fairly short order. It's an interesting idea but pretty messy to implement and I think could result in a lot of inequities.

Posted by 625 at Pinewood!??, a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Got my attention with that number! Great commuter school site for 2 large immersion programs or 3 smaller ones! Great idea!

Are you sure you are talking about the site on the frontage road of Foothill?

Posted by Reasoned Parent, a resident of Community Center
on Oct 25, 2007 at 11:33 pm

Re: Pinewood...Students are split between three different campuses according to their website. I'm not sure which of the three is leased from PAUSD but they own part of the school facilities so the increase in potential capacity wouldn't be anywhere close to 600.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2007 at 7:01 am

Pinewood: Formerly Freemont Hills Elementary (PAUSD). The site is the Pinewood campus closest to Arastradero (on Freemont, in LAH). It is leased to Pinewood for just under $ 1M per year. The lease extends to 2016, although it can be broken, by either side, in 2008. Pinewood has made extensive improvements...don't know if that complicates things. If Pinewood lease is broken, and Pinewood cannot find another campus, it would be prudent to assume that some of those students would decide to attend PAUSD schools, thus there would be additional attendance pressure in PAUSD.

The concept of putting SI amd MI out there is interesting, though. That would reduce the absurd pressure on Escondido, which could then expand its attendance base to include Southgate, in turn reducing pressure on Walter Hays. That would leave Garland as a neighborhood site (or to expand Jordan).

Posted by interesting ideas, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2007 at 7:54 am

Ok, now we have SI/MI ( assuming MI/Ohlone want to divorce, which would be a real pity..I think it is cool to try it this way and I hope it works) at Pinewood, Ohlone left with increased English language spaces, Escondido taking more of the closer kids which unloads North PA, Garland-Jordan marriage of 6th graders in Garland and 7,8 in Jordan. JCC leaving Greendell, allowing pre-kindergarten and Special Ed to all be together and maybe a small Choice program, Young Fives spread throughout the district's Kid Club spaces, allowing more young fives to enter ( BTW, for those who think these kids are "extras" on the system, I understand that these are kids who, if there were no Young Fives programs, would still be legally bound to be educated by PAUSD. They are of legal age, just immature or on the younger side of 5, so this program helps bring kids up to speed for our new and improved kindergarten standards).

Facilities Costs- What is cost of JCC lease?
Pinewood- $1,000,000/year
Garland- $750,000/year
Use of empty Kid Club spaces

Benefit- Enough space for all the kids coming in
Relief for Escondido's neighborhood kids.
Either a benefit or a negative - depending on view- More English Ohlone spaces ( but fewer Ohlone-MI spaces)
Consolidation of Pre-K Special Ed program*
Expansion of Young Fives*

*- Addresses the highest risk and earliest identified kids and puts them on the right grief and money later down the line, and making them more likely to succeed in full inclusion without as much support as many need now.

I hope this goes into the pot for thinking.

Posted by Escondido Question, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 26, 2007 at 10:19 am

I'm confused about Escondido. John says "absurd pressure on Escondido" but I think it was Yet Another Parent who said on a thread (but I can't remember which one)that this is the first time kids have overflowed from Escondido. Is Escondido really so impacted when other schools have needed to overflow kids during the last few years and this is a first for Escondido?

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 26, 2007 at 12:47 pm

Escondido Question,

Esconcdido has the highest attendance in the district, with more coming (due to planned increases in Graduate School housing - remember, Stanford provides that land to provide education for its graduate students' kids). Traffic is a zoo every morning, and during pickup (SCRAW even has a sign up in its parking lot warning Escondido to back off on parking and dropoff/pickups). Within ten years there will be additional housing in College Terrace, part of the Mayfield agreement. What will happen then?

Escondido has a whole bunch of portables. When SI invaded, neighborhood kids were kicked into portables (but not SI...they got the permanent buildings, but the neighborhood parents were told it would be temporary (once the Building for Excellence program was completed). Never happened. I wonder how many SI kids are in the portables, today, compared to neighborhood kids?

Simply put, Escondido is not a neighborhood school, anymore. It could become one again, if SI is turfed out to a pure choice campus (like Foothills Elementary - currently Pinewood). Better yet, cancel the SI program and tell them to go private (why is this not a real option? ).

Here is what I think will actually happen: Escondido parents will continue to go along to get along; SI will continue their dominance at Esconido; Escondido will continue to get even more portables; etc, UNTIL significant numbers of parents get their neighborhood kids turfed out to other schools. At that point, they will organize and demand that Duveneck (for example) take on the SI program, and get their kids displaced (since they, like you apparently, support SI). It won't happen, of course, becasue the north cluster is politically strong. However, SI WILL be gone, one way or the other (who cares where!).

Posted by Mom of kinder in 09, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 26, 2007 at 1:07 pm

I think by the time 2011 nears the district will see the need for another neighborhood elementary school in the North.

On Garland Drive alone (a total of about 83 houses directly backing on Garland school and Jordan) there are at least 8 kids who will be entering Kindergarten in 2009. Many of them have younger siblings still to come.

The houses on this street were built in 1948/49 and many of them are starting to turn over if they haven't already. I haven't seen a single house in the last 4 years turn over to a family without kids under 5. It will be interesting to see how that trend continues.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 26, 2007 at 2:05 pm

I'm a huge fan of neighborhood schools. My children were fortunate in attending El Carmelo, and it is easy to see how the bonds formed between students and among parents can bring together a community long after fifth grade graduation.

But middle school students can't be dumped on the street; and there really is a severe shortage of school-sized properties in North PA. So it's hard to know where to put the incoming Garland (and many other) kinders.

I am reluctantly thinking there is a place for choice programs, which can be located in areas that have more space (i.e. Pinewood, east of Bayshore, Cubberley) and making those programs attractive enough to draw some students out of otherwise overcrowded areas.

There are other ways that the district can siphon off students. One of them is sending more students to private schools. Not a particularly nice policy or one that I would advocate! But realistically, that's what is being done, at least in part, to Los Altos Hills. And that's likely what would happen if the immersion programs were shut down.

Another is to reshuffle grades (although that only works if there is room at a different level, when everyone is crowded it won't do).

Perhaps in the high schools there is room for creative time management with evening or summer classes; or with community college classes. Not a complete solution, but something to take off a little pressure.

I suppose that kinders could split sessions, too, with one group in the morning and another in the afternoon (our pre-school did this). Classrooms could be juggled to have five K strands making four grade 1-3 strands and three grade 4-5 strands, and get a little more expansion within a school.

Posted by Pat Markevitch, a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 26, 2007 at 7:56 pm

I was born and raised in Palo Alto. I went to Green Gables (now Duvenek) and back then it was a 2 strand school, kindergarten through 6th grade with a morning and afternoon kindergarten. The Junior High schools were 7th grade through 9th grade and the High Schools were 10th through 12th. In 1975, the last 9th grade class to graduate from Jordan entered Paly as 10th graders along with an entire class of incoming 9th graders thereby making the High Schools 4-year schools. Declining enrollment in the District caused the closure of Cubberley in 1979 and the closure of Jordan a few years later. Now that we're back to 3 very full Middle schools and 2 very full High Schools, we need to make some decisions. I am very encouraged by the ideas that I have read here. Maybe they can be compiled and presented to the new Board in January.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2007 at 12:31 am


One of the reasons I think MI is such a bad idea for the district right now is that it will attract students--and that's precisely what the district doesn't need, for the reasons you stated.

Nancy, who sometimes posts here, has a theory that Pinewood stays closed because it makes the well-heeled hills crowd more likely to go to private schools. (They have to drive anyway.)

The Ventura site is also a natural for SI--it's in what passes for the Hispanic area of Palo Alto, so there'd be a chance of pulling in the 30 percent native speakers there.


The whole immersion question is interesting just because the immersion programs have an additional subject, whereas Hoover and Ohlone teach district curriculum. It makes me wonder, if we had a decent FLES program would we actually want immersion programs?

I mean, Europe has a long history of teaching kids multiple languages, but there are not, from the sounds of it, tons of immersion schools. Immersion's an efficient way to teach a language, but kids don't need that efficiency--it's not like they need fluency in six months.

If we had no full-time immersion programs, we'd have the same number of kids in the district, but it would be more fluid.

Interesting ideas,

I won't go into my Ohlone/MI song and dance, but the practical issue is that you can't fit a full strand of MI at Ohlone--we're approved for three portables and you need at least six. We're also over the maximum population at that point for any grade schools. Susan Charles is willing to overcrowd the school, but the rest of us aren't. Ohlone's on a narrow residential street--despite the acreage, it's a bad sight for a commuter mega-campus. We don't have multiple street access like Duveneck and Addison. The tiny parking lot at Amarillo is it.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2007 at 5:38 am


You have, at various times, mentioned the push-pull nature of schools. For instance, choice schools have a tendency to attract students to the district, while the absence of a convenient school (or program) pushes students towards private schools.

What is wrong with just saying "no" to choice...forcing those who desire choice to go private? That would bring back neighborhood schools AND free up some space. Private schools are already heavily subsidizing PAUSD (imagine if they all suddenly wanted back in!). Despite the cost, most people who are in privates like what is offered by them. Wouldn't it be the same for immersion programs or alternative approach programs?

The privates are much more flexible about where they set up shop, for instance in previous industrial buildings. PAUSD is desperate for such flexibility. Imagine a PAUSD without lotteries!

Posted by Way to go, John, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 27, 2007 at 8:34 am


Imagine a PAUSD where each elementary kid had the same fantastic curriculum, with attention paid to his learning style, able to go to his closest school, everyone was integrated and included, and all new programs were designed to be implemented throughout the district.


Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 27, 2007 at 1:10 pm


The issue is, to me, is more practical than anything. I'm not of the one size fits all school of education. I had a traditional public-school education--it was a bad fit for me. Basically, it got in the way of the real learning I did. I think flexibility is a positive value in education--so, in a very serious way I am pro-choice. Direct instruction for me would have been a disaster--the highly structured style and the hierarchical quality would have brought out the worst in me as a student. Piles of homework--again, a negative--pointless repetition.

At the same *time* I know kids (and adults) who thrive in that kind of environment. They learn beautifully in an environment that is clear and highly structured.

So, since all kids are not alike, what should be done? Should we insist on uniformity for the sake of uniformity? Because from my POV that's a little bit what the all-neighborhood-schools-all-the-time crew seems to advocate. Oh, yes, a little variation can be let in--a scoop of DI, a touch of constructivism, up to the teacher's discretion, but nothing too out there.

I don't see why, under current conditions, that kind of restriction is necessary. Here's how I see it: the neighborhood schools and their curriculum should be and must be the foundation for the district. Every single school should be solid at a high base level.

If you have that, then you can see if there's room/time/etc. left over for variation. I think there is room for Ohlone and Hoover because they *do* fill (Both have waiting lists) and they are open to any student--there are no requirments of a particular expertise in order to transfer to them. As an extra bonus, they can be used to adjust the burden on the neighborhood schools. Instead of bouncing kids from a neighborhood schools, choice programs make it possible for parents to choose to take their child out of a neighborhood school. That's a plus for the district, overall--and, by the way, an argument to keep Ohlone as Ohlone near the crowded north cluster--people are more likely to choose the closer lottery program.

My basic view of things like SI and MI, where there are limits created by the nature of the curriculum--kids can't transfer in without a level of expertise--and because of the score drops around 2/3 they also spend a period behind their monolingual peers in English it's hard to transfer out--is that they are less fluid and harder for a district to integrate. I mean, resentment of Ohlone seems to be much more about that-big-campus than my kid's getting something your kid's not getting. With the languages, I think there's resentment of those kids getting a curriculum advantage.

So, in a sense, I don't think the choice programs are all alike. I think they place different burdens on the district. Hoover and Ohlone function in many ways like neighborhood schools. I don't think the language programs do. I think they're a little too much of not one thing or the other--they're big enough to cause serious space juggling and overcrowding at the same time, they're not big enough to be "real" choice programs. On a tight year, Ohlone will have 20 non-sibling spaces out of 70. SI has had as few as 2. Ohlone gets more applicants than SI, but the ratio doesn't begin to compensate for the difference in admissions.

Languages differ from educational approaches--it's not about the best learning style for a particular child (or, let's be honest, the parents' comfort level)--it's about learning a subject.

Which is what got me thinking about some of your comments and FLES. I know some SI parents--and I think if Spanish were a regular subject in the schools that they wouldn't have bothered with the SI lottery. A few, yes, just the way there are families like Claude Ezran's that go to the expense of a private school to make sure their kids are deeply fluent in a particular language.

But it's all or nothing with the languages--with the exception of some afterschool programs. (Interestingly, Ohlone's up to six afterschool language programs this year--they just added Hindi--to Spanish, French, Hebrew for native speakers, Mandarin and Japanese). At one hour a week, though, it's very limited exposure. I keep thinking though what if you added summer immersion programs and created a base for really communicating in those languages and then maintained with that once-a-week class?

I think for a lot of parents, that would work and there wouldn't be the pressure on the district to open endless boutique choice programs that limit class space and flexibility.

In other words, instead of saying this program or that program should be shut down because we're competing for space, let's look at ways of making them unnecessary. And while you want to dump out Hoover and Ohlone, I suspect you could live with us if there weren't lottery programs gunning for space at particular neighborhood schools but not actually letting in neighborhood kids.

Oh, one last thing--you're basically arguing that choice is for the rich. If you've got the dough, you can have anything, if you can't toss of $20,000 a year, it doesn't matter what fits your kid, you shouldn't have anything different.

I think some variation isn't a bad thing.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2007 at 4:11 pm


Choice schools are really just another variation of magnet schools, which are gnerally used to try for racial balance in a city. That is not the case in Palo Alto. I do understand exactly what you are saying, OP. And yes, I do put Ohlone and Hoover in a different category, compared to SI/MI. In terms of saying "no", I would certainly start with MI and SI...they can decide to go to privates (or try to form a charter).

Here is a slightly different take on what I have been saying. I went to a very poor rural school. , including all the 'slow' students. We had physical education each day. We had band and choir. We had a library, and we used it. We had woodshop (boys) and home ed (girls). We had schools plays. Individual students, if they had the talent, had advanced level classes in math (algebra in elementary, calculus in HS). Our building were well maintained, and we did not dare litter. We even had a specilized classroom dedicated to basic science and experimentation. All of this will no federal aid. Basically, there was a mix of educational opportunities, none of which were world class (still decent, though). BTW, it was a very mixed race school district, and all of the schools reflected this. The graduates of this school, on the whole, did quite well in life.

What are we missing, here, in Palo Alto? Could it be that this rich district has too many 'rich' demands? Why can't we just give up our egos to a certain extent, and allow our kids to enter the 'average' stream, then let them find their own opporutnities within that stream? Why do we need to cater to almost every specific demand and pressure group?

I will end this by restating something I said above: "Yet, we all learned to read ". Think about that. It is not true in Palo Alto.

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 27, 2007 at 4:13 pm

correction: The first statement should be: Yet, we all learned to read, including the 'slow' students.


Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:23 am

Apart from the question of choice schools, it is going to be necessary for the BOE to critically evaluate infrastructure investment to increase the capacity of the district schools, either by reopening sites, building new sites, or increasing density at existing sites.

I would hope that the new BOE will set out the different options, and grade them according to short and long term cost per student; as well as desirability of the option, and make some hard decisions about how to proceed.

It is a little surprising that there are virtually no second story school buildings in Palo Alto. If nothing else, administration and faculty areas could be put in an upper story, providing some extra class rooms below. Has any cost analysis been done? It was earlier suggested that the foundations of current structures are insufficient to support upper levels, but that may not necessarily be true, depending on the specifications they were built to.

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 29, 2007 at 11:12 pm


I wonder if the lack of two-story schools has something to do with the regulations on earthquakes. It might make them quite a bit more expensive than they would otherwise be.


I want to give you a thoughtful answer and just haven't had the energy to focus on it. We may have to pick this up later if you're so inclined.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 9:19 am

I have a dim memory of some B4E plans that included a second story at (I think) Fairmeadow or JLS, and the neighbors were strongly opposed to it. But perhaps with good architecture and neighborhood involvement those objections could be overcome. I would prefer well-developed 2 story buildings over littering the school open space with portables!

OP, I think you mentioned that young fives pay tuition, which I didn't know. Do you know how much? Is there a reason why the immersion programs couldn't charge, say, $1000-2000/year to offset the cost of finding them a building? With suitable exemptions for low income students? I know that TEAM at Paly costs about $1000/year when all is said and done, so it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the immersion students to help pay for their program.

Posted by Good idea, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2007 at 9:57 am

"so it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask the immersion students to help pay for their program."

Seems fair.

Also, we should get the Ohlone and Hoover families to pay. And kids taking any AP class. Science is expensive, too, so any kid studying science should cough up. And teaching English is quite a drain on the district, so kids in English class get a surcharge. Etc.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 30, 2007 at 10:24 am

While we don't charge for AP classes, there is a cost for the exams.

Most parents in PA do contribute - often substantially - towards schools. Supplies, field trips, PiE, PTA, Giftwrap, T-shirts, class parties, teacher gifts, etc.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 10:50 am

What I was looking for is a way to develop a cooperative school for certain choice programs that provide teaching that is not available to other students of the district.

Due to overcrowding issues the immersion programs are crammed into other schools, and potentially excluding students from their neighborhood school.

One suggestion to increase space was to reopen Pinewood, to take over Greendell space, or even to think about a new campus. But those are expensive options. If choice programs could be partially self-funded then they would become a more reasonable option for the district as a whole.

I don't know why it is acceptable to ask Young Fives to pay tuition, but it is unreasonable to ask immersion students to do the same.

Posted by Good Idea, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:10 am


All choice programs are fully "self-funded," so perhaps this addresses your issue.

I didn't know Young Fives pay, but if they do I'd guess it's because they want to hold off starting K for a year and would otherwise pay for a nursery school.

"I don't know why it is acceptable to ask Young Fives to pay tuition, but it is unreasonable to ask immersion students to do the same." But one could ask the same of all the above: AP, science, Ohlone, English, special ed., etc.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:20 am

Science and English are required to be openly offered to all students. And special Ed is required by law to be offered to qualifying students.

But elementary students that want language instruction must pay for an after school program that costs $500/semester.

Posted by Good Idea, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:22 am


Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:38 am

Perhaps you have some ideas on how the district can best accomodate additional students?

Posted by Good Idea, a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 30, 2007 at 11:48 am

We're going to have to open another elementary school. The board finally figured this out. We have enough portables.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:37 pm

The PAUSD website has an interesting presentation from Scott Laurence on the enrollment growth from 2006 to 2007 school years. Elementary students increased by 111, while middle school increased by 90. The growth was at the high end of projections and puts existing schools close to, or at capacity (subject to how one defines "capacity").

Given the increase in enrollment, opening Garland in 3 years will possibly bring elementary OR middle schools back to being "at capacity".

But it will leave either the middle or the elementary schools over capacity, depending in whether the site is used as a 13th elementary, or whether it is used by Jordan.

In addition, it will not provide excess capacity to allow for future enrollment increases.

It is therefore important that the BOE start thinking now about how future increases will be accomodated. If plans are not made now, then only short term options, such as portables or increased class size, will be available in the future.

I would prefer that long term options be assessed. These might include infrastructure changes, class size changes, changing school boundaries and the placement of choice programs, scheduling changes, and even building new schools. But whatever is decided, it should be planned, and rationally weighed against other options.

Posted by Never-picked, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:47 pm

I just want to clarify the Young 5s "tuition" issue.

Families who win the PAUSD lottery and are able to participate one day a week in the Young 5s program do not pay any additional tuition to the school district.

Families who do not win the lottery, or can not participate in the classroom one day a week as is currently required in the only Young 5s program offered by the district, have a couple of choices. They can opt to enter a private program. There are several in the area. One charges around $5,000 for the school year. Many other parents just cross their fingers and hope for the best when they enter their child into kindergarten. If the kid is not ready, he or she may repeat kindergarten. However, the other kids in that class have forever lost out on educational opportunities because a teacher has to spend extra time with a child -- who through no fault of their own -- just bad luck to have an autumn birthday and not win the lottery -- probably shouldn't have been in kindergarten in the first place.

And of course, some kids with fall birthdays do just fine in a regular kindergarten classroom.

I'm enjoying this thread, and I like all of the creative ideas that are being floated about how to use the Garland site, as well as the ways to make the district a better place for all of our kids.

Posted by Threads, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 30, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Personally I would love to see a choice program for single sex middle school classes, since the alternative is paying $20-30K/year for private school! But the odds of that are about the same as me winning the lottery.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2007 at 1:08 pm

To anyone who thinks public education is free

I pay for special one use text books for language, materials fees for 6th grade wheel and gourmet cooking, dress and tuxedo for choir, musical instruments for band, outrageous costs for year books (must have), special graph books for maths, etc. and these are just from the top of my head. It seems to me that almost all non core subjects (and some core subjects) have charges of some type associated with them. I presume that choice programs must have charges too or else they are not the same as the rest of the non choice programs.

On top of that, I pay for field trips, class parties, class gifts, etc. etc. which are charges sent out at the beginning of the year by teachers.

Asking to pay towards a child's education is happening. It may not be called that, but that is what it is.

Posted by Simon Firth, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 30, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Never-picked -- Thanks for the clarification on Young Fives. I completely agree with you about it being absurd that places are allotted by chance, rather than prioritized according to need. I think we really need to change this and I'm planning to actively advocate for the program to become assessment-based (and, ideally, for it to be expanded at the same time) once we have the new BoE in place. I hope you'll join me. Watch out for a new thread about this here in a few weeks!

Posted by What?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2007 at 2:11 pm


My kids are too young, so I didn't know about those charges. I can see having to pay for a musical instrument--that seems fair. Same with paper, graph paper, etc. But are the rest of those charges for subjects during the regular school day? The school asks for these payments, but are you required to pay? Could your kids still take part in cooking without paying? Sing without a tux? Seems outrageous.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 30, 2007 at 4:02 pm

6th grade wheel is a collective of introduction to elective classes that take about 6 weeks for each in 6th grade. The materials are needed mainly for cooking and sewing projects. The students do make a nice bag which can be used for pe, and perhaps get a few goodies from the cooking. Choir is an elective in high school, but the class is a regular in school class. Beginning choir for freshman year is just smart dress clothes, but if you don't take beginning choir and choose to start choir from 10th grade on, a long green dress for girls and a 5 piece tux is required for boys. There may be some scholarships for these and there may be some second hands ones you can buy, but not enough for everyone. There are also honor choirs, spectrum and madrigals which require special clothes. The madrigals sing in reproduction medieval costumes. I am not sure how these are financed, but the spectrum choir requires a different dress to the regular one so you need to buy both.

If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Palo Alto quietly gets new evening food truck market
By Elena Kadvany | 4 comments | 3,549 views

See Me. Hear Me. Donít Fix Me.
By Chandrama Anderson | 2 comments | 1,763 views

Foothills Park: a world away
By Sally Torbey | 11 comments | 1,584 views

Universal Language
By Cheryl Bac | 2 comments | 1,364 views

Candidate Kickoff Events: Public, not just for supporters
By Douglas Moran | 7 comments | 936 views