In two rare split votes Tuesday night, the Board of Education approved "conceptual designs" for major renovations to Duveneck School and agreed to align itself with the Palo Alto City Council by moving its elections to even-numbered years.
The 3-2 split over Duveneck reflected board members' concerns over the best way to respond to anticipated enrollment growth across the district, particularly in the younger grades.
While all five board members lauded theDuveneck plan for new classroom buildings and other amenities, two members asked to postpone the decision until the board meets in a March study session to get a better grasp of district-wide needs for new space.
"I don't understand the urgency in taking action on this before we have a bigger picture," board member Barb Mitchell said.
"I can't make a responsible decision on what we do at Duveneck out of the context of what we do at Garland."
Board member Barbara Klausner agreed: "I'd like to see us have that study session first, and then turn our attention back to all the good work that's been done at Duveneck."
But their three colleagues said that proceeding to "schematic designs" for Duveneck renovations was worthwhile because the campus needs basic renovations even if the full plan is ultimately not pursued.
Under the conceptual plans approved Tuesday, Duveneck will have new two-story classroom building, plus a new kindergarten play area and five new single-story classrooms ready for occupancy by January 2014. Portable classrooms along Channing Avenue will be removed.
Money for the proposed $10.56 million project will come from the $378 million "Strong Schools" bond measure passed in 2008, which has or will fund upgrades on all 17 of Palo Alto's public-school campuses.
In a second split vote Tuesday, the board voted 4-1 to move its elections to even-numbered years, aligning itself with the council.
The council's century-old tradition of holding elections on odd years ended in November, when nearly 77 percent of voters supported Measure S, a city measure to consolidate elections first proposed by Santa Clara County Supervisor Liz Kniss.
Voters resoundingly supported the argument that aligning city balloting with state and national elections would save election costs and boost participation.
Though school board members said they personally had not supported Measure S, four said the November majority was so decisive they felt compelled to follow suit.
The lone dissenter was board President Melissa Baten Caswell, who said moving the election time would be bad for the school board.
"If we put our elections in competition with other elections going on at the same time it's going to be harder to get the attention of the voters, and I worry we'll have a school board that's less representative of the entire population of Palo Alto," Caswell said.
"That concerns me enough that I don't' want to put us in the position to be competing at that level."