Town Square

On Deadline: What would be YOUR top 10 local news stories -- over 50 years?

Original post made by Jay Thorwaldson, editor emeritus, on Mar 9, 2011

First of three columns/blogs on my Top 10 choices.

This story contains 1097 words.

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Posted by Janice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 9, 2011 at 11:26 pm

In my opinion, the most fundamental story in Palo Alto, in the last 50 years, was the decision to sell off public school land for development. Those properties should have been rented out to other entities, but not sold. It was a huge mistake. The proper model was Cubberley, not Hoover.

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Posted by Jay Thorwaldson
editor emeritus
on Mar 10, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Jay Thorwaldson is a registered user.

Janice: Good nomination. The crisis of the 1970s in terms of plummeting school population was a major story, but it was covered by my colleague at the Palo Alto Times, the late Marc Salgado. Now if someone can predict accurately what will be happening in terms of student population 20 or 30 years from now. ...

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 10, 2011 at 5:42 pm

Jay, good question to Janice's excellent comment.

To answer your question, we have to look at the residences in Palo Alto. I am not sure how many residences were in Palo Alto in the 70s, but I am sure that we have increased the number of residences by a huge amount. Residences (as opposed to homes, apartments, complexes, etc.) are what produce school kids. The question may more accurately question the number of children enrolled in public schools as opposed to homeschooled or privately schooled.

The residences are not going away. If we look at the number of homes with more than 2 bedrooms it is indicative that these residences will hold children. Whether we are talking about 1 parent families, families who move in with grandparents, or even divorced parents with joint custody and both need to live in Palo Alto, we are talking about residences with children.

From what "everyone" says, people are moving to Palo Alto for the schools. In other areas of the Bay Area, schools are closing, merging, or struggling to stay open whereas in Palo Alto we are growing at an alarming rate. From this we must conclude that the schools are attracting more and more families and unless something catastrophic happens then the trend will continue. Even if the quality of the schools diminishes (an unlikely scenario) and we have a glut a housing that won't sell, we can see that the younger people who spur the high tech world in which we live will still be here having children that need to be educated and in the likelihood of having to close a public school it appears likely that a private school would be willing to step in and rent a premises.

Of course, the Palo Alto population could become empty nesters and decide to stay put, but with the cost of living in Palo Alto so much higher than elsewhere - even in the Bay Area, empty nesters will be able to downsize to a cheaper area (possibly into the same sized home) when they no longer need the good schools and empty their homes for more school aged families to move in.

I think the likelihood is that we will not be closing any public schools 20 or 30 years from now - that is unless Silicon Valley goes bust!

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Posted by Janice
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 10, 2011 at 6:43 pm

Jay: Wrong question, in my view. Even if the student population plummets, for a while, it is wrong to sell off the public school sites. They can be leased out to other entities, both private and public, but they should not be sold. For example, Pinewood school was leased out, but not sold. Same with Garland and Cubberley. However, several public school sites were sold for development.

Professional demographers should be ignored, because they rely on past trends, and they are no better than the rest of us to determine future trends. American women in the 1970s decided to have very few children, but then it changed, and then there was immigration. Impossible to predict. The only thing we can do is to keep our precious public school lands.

Very big story.