New housing will likely spark enrollment bump

School, city leaders share data on potential impact of future housing

A bumper crop of kindergartners this fall has the Palo Alto school district scrambling to ensure there will be enough classrooms for even more growth in the future.

Officials speculate much of the enrollment jump is coming from new housing developments in the southern part of town, which have promoted "Palo Alto schools" as a key selling point.

Palo Verde and El Carmelo elementary schools are both completely full, and Fairmeadow Elementary soon will break ground on a new, two-story classroom building to accommodate the growth.

With the City Council about to complete its decennial long-range housing plan for the city that is required under state law, school and city officials are exchanging information on the best course of action.

Curtis Williams, the city's director of planning and community environment, said Wednesday at a meeting of the City-School Liaison Committee that officials are hoping to satisfy state mandates for new housing with smaller, senior-oriented units that would minimize impacts on school growth. Non-compliance with state housing requirements can result in loss of certain grants.

"We're going to see if we can balance or minimize the amount of family units created, which also tend to be the market-rate units, since we're trying to get affordable units as well," Williams told the city-school group, which includes council member Greg Schmid Schmid, City Council member Nancy Shepherd and school-board member Dana Tom.

"The short-term focus for the new housing element is to find some ways that focus more on smaller units and senior units and housing types less likely to produce school-age children."

Shepherd expressed concern about an additional 3,000 housing units she said Stanford University has yet to build.

"What do you expect of that in terms of school-district yield?" she asked city and school staff members.

Unofficial numbers have elementary enrollment growing by 218 students this fall, just above the high end of demographic projections. Unofficial numbers for middle school and high school came in at the low end, 36 and 17 respectively.

The official headcount is due to be released by the school district Oct. 12.

Tom noted that 73 of the 218 new elementary students are kindergartners, and "that bump will probably proceed through."

The school district has embarked on a $378 million facilities upgrade program, to modernize school buildings and accommodate expected enrollment growth.

Construction will include two-story classroom buildings not only at Fairmeadow but also at Ohlone Elementary School and at both Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

Made possible by a facilities bond approved by 78 percent of district voters in 2008, the construction program will touch all of Palo Alto's 17 campuses.

The school board last year flirted with re-opening the Garland campus, at 870 N. California Ave., as the district's 13th elementary school but retreated from that plan amid budget concerns.

Currently, vacant elementary classrooms in the district are few and far between, with the most space available at Barron Park Elementary School, the district's co-chief business official, Bob Golton, said.

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Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Sep 24, 2010 at 10:39 am

At long last the school board is looking with its eyes and its brains rather than using demographers who use statistics, birth rates, and projections rather than common sense.

Bit late, I fear.

Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Sep 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

"Shepherd expressed concern about an additional 3,000 housing units she said Stanford University has yet to build."

That one can be easily solved by re-opening Fremont Hills and moving all the hills children, both LAH and Palo Alto Hills children, back to their neighborhood school. Then the increased number of Stanford children can be educated at Lucille Nixon Elementary School - problem solved.

Many seniors in my South PA neighborhood have died recently, their homes have been sold to new young families. This is great it's revitalizing our neighborhood. Reopen Greendell Elementary - problem solved!!!

The School District has four former elementary school sites available to them even if they have to buy Ventura back from the City - problem solved.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 24, 2010 at 9:56 pm


Where will all the money to open Fremont Hills and buy Ventura come from?

Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 25, 2010 at 12:20 am

Shouldn't Stanford help pay for schools if they are creating so much housing?

Curtis Williams has a good plan.

Palo Verde is overflowing to Duveneck and it has increased traffic significantly. All the growth is in the south so open a south elementary school (duh).

Send LAH students to LA schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Duveneck School
on Sep 27, 2010 at 4:44 pm

When Stanford creates these housing units do they pay school impact fees?

Do people who complain about new development realize that there is a fee paid to the school district. I think there are also some other impact fees(parks?). Where does all of *that* money go?

When we rebuilt our home we paid ~$3 for each additional sq ft over the original building size. We do not have any more kids now than we did before the building. I wonder where that money went.

Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Nixon School
on Sep 27, 2010 at 7:52 pm

Bill says: "When Stanford creates these housing units do they pay school impact fees?"

They do much more than that, Stanford has provided the land for Escondido, Lucille M. Nixon, Gunn High School and Paly High. The School District pays them $1.00 a year for each school site.

Mom says: "Send LAH students to LA Schools."

Great, if they go they'll take all their tax dollars with them. Los Altos Hills and PA Hills residents provide nearly one half of the tax revenues for the Palo Alto School District.

Like this comment
Posted by Erin
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Sep 27, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Grandma- where do you get your information?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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