Big projects to break ground soon at Gunn, Paly

Projects adding up to more than $50 million include two-story classroom buildings

Groundbreaking is likely in June for major new academic buildings at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools.

The Board of Education Tuesday night discussed solicitation of construction bids for two-story classroom buildings at both schools, as well as a new "media arts building" at Paly and a new gymnasium and air-conditioning retrofits to existing classrooms at Gunn.

The $50 million-plus tab for the projects comprises a significant piece of the $368 million facilities bond measure approved by voters in 2008.

The bond program, which will touch all 17 of Palo Alto's public school campuses, is intended to upgrade and expand the schools to accommodate projected enrollment growth.

The projects discussed Tuesday have received extensive prior scrutiny by the school board, as well as by landscape consultants and facilities committees including parents, teachers, principals and others at both schools.

Also Tuesday, school board members reacted favorably to a proposal for a trial, full-day kindergarten at Barron Park School beginning this fall.

Under the plan, all Barron Park kindergarten students would have the option of attending school from 8:10 a.m. to 2:40 p.m. Currently, Barron Park kindergartners stay for an "extended day" -- until 1:45 p.m. -- just twice a week.

Officials said they expect children would show increased academic and social learning from the "full-day kindergarten." Additional costs would be minimal, they said, since kindergarten teachers already are paid for a full day of teaching regardless of the hours of student attendance.

Board members indicated they were supportive of the proposal, which will come up for a final vote at a later meeting.

In other business Tuesday, board members critiqued a proposal by Superintendent Kevin Skelly to convene an "elementary math task force" of parents and teachers to help spread "best practices" in math instruction.

Skelly said he will tweak the proposal and bring it back to the board for final approval.

The role of the group would be to consider what is currently being done in Palo Alto and elsewhere "to promote intellectual curiosity and excitement around mathematics."

After meeting monthly beginning this spring through March 2012, the group would "make recommendations for the superintendent, considering a whole range of potential resources and the way the recommendations would affect each elementary campus."

Under Skelly's proposal, the panel would consist of one parent and teacher representative from each elementary school, one middle school math teacher and one or two principals. It would be co-chaired by one principal and one parent, with support from district staff.

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Posted by Good for PAUSD
a resident of Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Feb 23, 2011 at 6:25 am

A million years ago, when I was in kindergarten, it was a full-day program as the norm.

Not sure when it shrank but full day sounds good to me.

Spending this kind of money now in this time sounds bad to me, on the other hand, it is money we voted to spend on this project, so the alternative is worse, which is to not do what we voted in and abscond with the funds like Social Security money was absconded. So, bully for the District for NOT doing that!!

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Posted by Get with it!
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:03 am

The bond was passed in 2008 and it's 2011 and they are seeking bids now?! And when will it be completed? Where is the efficiency?

Now that Skelly allowed Everyday Math to be adopted, he is suggesting an elementary math task force. The unsuccessful program should not been adopted in the first place.

If Barron Park's scores improve, don't attribute it to the extra hour. Attribute it to teachers being allowed to teach real math instead of Everyday Math since Cathy Howard will be out of the picture.

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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

Rather than sink money into two overcrowded high schools I would prefer to see funds go to reopening Cubberley. Big impersonal high schools lead to extra stress. Our students are already bearing too much stress as evidenced by the suicides.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:50 am

To Get With It,

The Gunn and Paly projects described above are not the first in this facilities bond program. Others already have been completed at both high schools, and building either is under way or in planning stages at JLS, Jordan, Terman, Duveneck, Fairmeadow, Hoover and Ohlone. Check the district's website Web Link for more information.

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Posted by School Watcher
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:33 am

There IS a long delay on getting these projects started. A few have gotten done or are in process (big new building partially complete at Ohlone, Gunn acquatic and ball fields, Paly ball fields, Gunn Industrial Arts addition/renovation, smart boards at some schools). But a lot of the bigger projects take more time - there is a lengthy pre-build process that includes site committee formation and process to identify and spec needs for projects at a given site, preliminary plans and costing, and submission of plans for state review (6-9 month delay), after which they can go to bid. And there are timing issues in building on occupied campuses to try to minimize disruption during the school year. That said, a lot of money should get spent in the next couple years. Luckily, construction costs and bond rates have stayed low and the bonds are generally not sold until the money is needed.

Like this comment
Posted by Dissapointed Parent
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

It is very sad, that our students are dying and the district chooses to spend the money in making the schools even bigger. What is going to happen is that there will be more students, as more people who do not know what they are putting their kids into, and they keep moving into Palo Alto, so the schools would be more crowded, and more bully will be going on, no one will know because it is impossible to know what every kids is going through when they have so many students. Instead they should open another school. I feel bad, that the tax I pay, is being used this way. Things are going to get worst. I guest it is going to take an suit in order to protect our kids, and so the suicides stop or decrease.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 23, 2011 at 11:39 am

Stop the whining!

The residents of Palo Alto approved the bond and the projects. At this point PAUSD is following the mandate set by the people of the city.

Keep scapegoating the PAUSD - when in fact the entire city has been involved in the debate and the approval of the bond, the plans, the building, etc.

Move on.

Like this comment
Posted by PAUSD Mom
a resident of South of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I'm glad to see the projects moving forward. The district has done some thoughtful planning. They are available on PAUSD web site here Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Dissapointed
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm

I watch the meeting on TV, and I am disappointed with this article. At the same meeting last night two kids told their stories of being bully at their schools, but sadly nothing was published about it. One kid said that the kids at Terman tell her that nobody likes her,they hate her and that to go away. The other child said they make fun of her at Briones because she is adopted. I am wonder how come this does not get published? Parents deserve to know what goes on at their kids school. Also the a mother who lost her child at the tracks spoke and address the board (very good speech and questions to the board), but again nothing was published. I am wonder on what side is the reporter is. Obviously she should be neutral, but this article seems to come from the district not a neutral reporter.

Like this comment
Posted by Grandma
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I suggest that Disappointed Parent either put her children into private schools or moves to a School District with declining enrollment.

Like this comment
Posted by Dissappointed
a resident of JLS Middle School
on Feb 23, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I agree with you Grandma, I already moved my child out of school, do not forget that all Palo Alto Kids are our Kids and I cannot just be happy that my child is out of that sick environment and keep hearing aobut the suicides, otherwise I will be as guilty as the rest for their deadth. The next one could be you grandson or grandaughter, not that I wish for that, but it could happened. So do something febore it happens, do not just think on your own kids. We are a village.

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Posted by DZ
a resident of Terman Middle School
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Way overdue! These are the kind of things need to happen more here at PA. Those are where public money should be spent on.
I am so happy the projects are moving forward.

Like this comment
Posted by Have a heart
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 23, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Dear Grandma, please have some compassion. When people are made to suffer, do not blame the victim. Life sounds good for you, and I am glad for you. If you could help make it better for others, would you?

Dear Disappointed, thank you for demonstrating dignity in the face of rudeness.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:42 am

I am very disappointed in the attitudes at PAUSD and also with some of the commenters here.

When the present highschoolers started Kindergarten (if they did in Palo Alto) our high schools were not the size they are now and there was no new housing being developed in Palo Alto. Ten years ago we did not worry about high schools becoming this big. Over the years, many parents have worried about the increasing enrollment and wondered what PAUSD would do. The answers were to reopen Barron Park, reopen Terman and allow Gunn and Paly to grow to 2300 students.

This is not what those of us who moved here before our high schoolers started Kindergarten expected. Why should our kids be the ones to suffer because of bad planning and bad management? We have told the Board this many time since the first recent suicide at Paly back in the class of 2006.

The AAAG met and nothing was done. The high school task force met and nothing was done. Still all PAUSD wants to do is grow the high schools.

Well, I am now asking the question, what will happen when the high schools reach 2300? Because, with the way the elementary schools are growing at the lower grades at present, this will probably happen within 10 years! Is anyone thinking that far ahead?

Elementary parents, you are the ones who have to make your voices heard, and now is the time to do it!

Like this comment
Posted by How can elementary parents be heard?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:57 am

Grade schools are nearing capacity already. As schools elsewhere in California deteriorate due to budget cuts, more and more people with kids are moving to Palo Alto. Look at the real estate sales! Visit Open Houses! The writing is on the wall for those paying attention.

Elementary parents are spread across many schools. How can we raise this issue among them and hear from them?

Will the school board even listen? It doesn't sound like it. We just moved here with our young elementary kids and already I worry about their high school years here.

Like this comment
Posted by Chris Kenrick, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:21 am

To How can elementary parents be heard?

The school board has scheduled a study session for March 8 to discuss the latest demographic projections, which were issued in December: Web Link

They will not vote on anything, but you can expect a thorough discussion.

For a historical overview of the situation, see Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Do something now about size
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:44 am

To Parent, and How can Elementary parents be heard,
The school officials would not heard you if you do not speak up again and again. If we do not start to showing concern abut the school size now years will come and nothing will be done as it takes time to convince them that the problem exist, to plan and put it into action. So it is a little late to start complaining about the size, but it is better now than years latter or never. Our students deserve it. Please joint in asking the district to do something about the school size, if they do not hear us, we can go higher and higher until we are heard and our schools are benefited. Many students try out for sports, but they can only take so many, in the case of soccer (20) out of 100. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] If we let the district focus only on what they want nothing will happen, they work at the speed of a turtle, and sometimes slower.

Like this comment
Posted by Do something now about size
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:48 am

I agree with Chris, you need to attend the meeting. However, attending the meeting will not cause any changes or will not make them hear you. You need to Speak up and let them know that this is a concern. The more parent show concern the better. Remember we the parents have a lot of power on the district, but if we do not tell them that this is a problem, they will not know, or if only one person speaks up, they will not listen.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:51 am

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Here's the bottom line folks - the bond has been approved and the projects are moving forward. You can't stop that from happening. If you do have concerns as mentioned above - then work on figuring out the next steps --- but don't waste our time trying to stop what has been mandated by an overwhelming majority of Palo Alto residents.

Like this comment
Posted by How can elementary parents be heard?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 24, 2011 at 11:15 am

Thanks for the links Chris. I followed that thread, but does anyone at PAUSD take anonymous forums seriously? They happen. We all get worked up at our laptops, and then they die down.

There was one last week and a group of people on PA Online Forum were talking about going to Tuesday's school board mtg. My husband was traveling so I could not attend, and have not had time to view online. (prob the case w/many of us busy working parents). Was anything accomplished?

Is there a forum or movement or organization besides going independently and trying to disrupt a Board meeting which seems pretty ineffective (except for the calender which pales in comparison financially as far as decisions go).

to "Do Something": You seem to be concerned, too. What are you doing? Are you part of a larger movement or just another anonymous keyboard handwringer like I currently am?

Like I said, we are new here and did not vote for this, but see that it seems like a done deal, much to my handwringing dismay. I went to a 2000-kid suburban high school and hated feeling like a number and missed out on sports because I was not college athletic material.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 12:02 pm

To Elementary Parents who are worried about their kids in huge high schools.

You need to start thinking about this now. Start talking to other parents at your school. Starting talking to your PTA. Use your class email lists and groups. Find those within your school who are interested and get word around. Then find those in other elementary schools who feel similarly.

Then email the BoE, get petitions going, but the most effective method is turning up at Board Meetings and speaking. This will be visual enough for the local press and student newspapers to take note.

According to the PAUSD website, 3 Board Members have their terms expiring this year. This means that there will be an election. The last election was a non election because there were no candidates. When the candidates are known, ask them specifically what they plan to do with high schools reaching 2300 (the number that the present plans seem to cater for). Make this an election issue and make this an issue.

MI, elementary kids crossing Oregon Expressway, Everyday Math and the calendar have all become issues because of parents. Parents can make an issue, but they have to be organized and persistent.

My kids will be out of school before anything can be done. But, today's elementary students are the high schoolers of the future that can be in high schools of 2300. If you don't want this, then it is up to elementary parents to do something now, not wait until your kids reach high school.

Like this comment
Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 1:39 pm

As mentioned by someone else above, the building project was approved by voters and the measure did spell out that new buildings would be added at Gunn and Paly. I personally was against it but a majority voted for it.

to "How can elementary parents be heard?" and others regarding sports:

Each quarter there is a "non cut" sport in high school in Palo Alto, for both boys and girls, where everyone can go, no one being cut. This means every one can do an after school sport if they wish. For instance, I believe in Spring at Paly, it is track and field.

Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 24, 2011 at 6:10 pm

Paly parent:

Actually all sports at Paly can be a cut sport, there are no guarantees. Whether cuts are made or not depends upon the coaching staff for each sport - the Athletic Director allows the coaches to determine his/her team's policy. If it is determined that team will have cuts, that team must wait at least one week into the first practice sessions before a cut can be made - this is department policy. Some sports don't cut because they are not overwhelmed with total numbers. However a sport that didn't cut in the past (boys water polo) actually made cuts in both frosh-soph and varsity programs (too many kids and not enough room in the pool).

Like this comment
Posted by I been there
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:11 pm

Paly Parent,
My son had a big love for soccer, he played on the team at Gunn for two years, the third year when he was a senior. He had prepared himself all summer so to be fit and survive the tryouts. However his coach did not even give him a chance to show him how good he was. He had already made up his mind who was going to be in the team and who was not. That year there were a lot more than 100 students trying out. My son did not made it. Till this day my he can't play soccer because was affected a lot by the rejection because it was his last year at Gunn. We complained to the department of athletics and Dr. Skelly, but nothing was done.I heard the same things at Paly a student love to play basketball and tried his hardest but the coach already had the students in mind who he was going to choose. These kids are not the only ones, there are at least 80every year at each school who are rejected. Some of them like other sports, some like my son don't. So having another school will help, we would had another team of soccer, basketball, tennis etc. It is like if you like to eat Chinese food and are craving for it, and go to a Chinese restaurant hoping to eat, and when you get there you discover that there are a lot of people, but you wait anyway hoping that you will be served, but at the end they tell you "sorry we had too many costumers, comeback next year. Than this nice person tells you, go try Mexican food, over there they take any costumers and they have enough food for everyone. If you do not like Mexican or dislike it, I am sure you would not go. However if there were two Chinese restaurants like the one you wanted to go to, in the same city, it will be easy for you to go to the second restaurant, and because there are two restaurants both of them will probably be less crowded.

Like this comment
Posted by well..
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm

did you think that maybe your son wasn't one of the best soccer players and the cut was valid? why do you assume your son was deserving to make the team? Leave the cuts up to the cuts. Trust the process.

And the fact you complained to the AD and contacted Skelly is one of the biggest problems in PA -- what exactly were you teaching your son at this point? If you don't get what you want, complain to someone about it? What does this teach our kids?

Think about it.

Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 24, 2011 at 7:47 pm

This is exactly the problem of large high schools. No matter how big the school, we will still only have a certain number of soccer players, or football players. Telling them that their dream of playing their favorite sport for their school is not going to happen is very hard. It may not be that they are not good enough, it just means that there are too many excellent players and not enough spots. Telling them to try a different sport is making that other sport get a reputation of being the sport for those who can't make it.

That is sport. We have kids who want to play a leading role in the school play, or sing a solo in the choir, or become class president, or you get the picture.

Saying that there are bigger schools in other places doesn't help the issue. Just because bigger schools exist doesn't mean that we want something like that in our town.

If we have kids not getting onto sports teams because of favoritism then start a separate thread. But acknowledging that it is harder to get to be whatever, is relevant to school size. After all, the odds of getting onto the Varsity football team in a school of 1000 are much better than getting onto the Varsity team in a school of 2000.

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Posted by Paly parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2011 at 9:35 pm

That is the risk of going for a cut sport. There are not spots for everyone, maybe including some talented players. I always thought that people accepted this rule when they went for cut sports. It looks like I was wrong.

There are soccer leagues outside of schools in Palo Alto. Maybe your son, if he really likes soccer this much and is that good, could try out for those leagues.

Otherwise, I think that learning failure is an absolutely necessary thing in life to be able to handle life successfully. So maybe it is a blessing in disguise for your son that he was not selected.

Honestly, one thing that Palo Alto youths seem to lack is resilience, and resilience is best learned when not everything is just handed out to you all the time.

Finally I agree that the High Schools are quite large. However, I think sports are the last reason we should ask for smaller schools. The real job of schools is to teach academic skills.

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Posted by hardest working kids I know
a resident of Downtown North
on Feb 24, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Paly parent,

"resilience is best learned when not everything is just handed out to you all the time."

Just a thought, but with the amount of accomplished students abounding in the schools, from Intel winners to just about every honor in sports, do you think any of this was handed to them?

I think they work, and work, and work for everything they get, they are beyond resilient

I agree that sports is the last reason to ask for smaller schools, but if what happens in sports happens in academics, then this is a very cold place for the average public school kid

Like this comment
Posted by lucy
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2011 at 8:18 am

Back to the article topic :)...the renovations at our public schools are well overdo. As a citizen of this community, I want to see OUR children-young adults go to the most updated schools as possible. They are our future...they desire to learn in a positive environment. These upgrades do show that the community cares about their future!!

I also agree that a third high school is needed...The city must redirect their dramatic talk and turn it into true priorities of us you really care and place money into the students.
For example, Why is the city paying thousands of dollars to have 50,000 trees trimed each year...I LOVE trees, but come on...put the money into people.

In life the most positive approach is often the most simple :)

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Posted by How can elementary parents be heard?
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:04 am

It was not my intention to derail into sports team cuts. Sports was just one example of my experience at a Too Big school and it happened in the 1970s and 80s so well before Title 9 and club sports. End of sports discussion.

The same might be said for other pursuits: robotics, language clubs, publishing, theater, etc. Is there room today for anyone with interest to participate or does the large size and disproportionate quantity of super achieving kids from high achieving families spill into lack of opportunity for kids who are "only above average" in other pursuits?

Are the same kids leading and filling up all the clubs? There are going to be a limited number of spots on a newsletter staff, school play, etc. What about when the pool goes to 2500 kids? 3000? (PAUSD expects to add 1000 kids in the coming years so this is not an unreasonable prediction)

We have a family friend who transferred to Gunn from a smaller school and already feels overwhelmed by the competitiveness in everything to the point of saying "Why bother?" so he is slacking. This is sad and something the family has to deal with during their child's vulnerable teen years. After a certain size, the 'sink or swim' attitude of many around here does seem a bit cruel for kids this age.

Opportunities for all kids decrease once a school gets too big. That goes for spots in certain classes, on newsletter staff, school plays, sports teams, etc. Lost there are opportunities to be connected to fellow students and to help kids work with others and form a better sense of themselves. Yes - the adult world is a tough place, which is why high school SHOULD be a safe place to try out new pursuits and interests.

Letting the schools grow unchecked gets to a point of being just plain wrong. If the mega-Gunn and mega-Paly plans are unstoppable, what accountability will today's school board have ten years down the road?

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Posted by susan
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:50 am

When my kids were at Gunn the student population was about 1800 - spiking to 2300 is inimaginable to me. We are really doing our kids a disservice - they will feel like rats in a maze. Reopening Cubberley is the only solution. Why aren't parents pushing for it??

Like this comment
Posted by Lucy
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 25, 2011 at 9:54 am

I so very much agree with the parent above regarding the Mega-high schools. I also prefer a smaller setting for my students. I will share that having students at PALY, the reality is that the clubs do NOT get over crowed by the numbers. They have to beg students to particpate...students do find their way. I do think the teachers would be more connected in a smaller setting and that translates to the confidence and comfort level of the students. PALY has a GREAT new principal this year that is really working hard to inject a more positive learning environment.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 25, 2011 at 2:13 pm

In response to the comment that we should not open a third high school just because it is hard to get on the football team, I want to say that I agree with that sentiment. Sports should not rule the size of the school.

What I am saying is that the atmosphere at a school is very much aligned to things like sports teams, school plays, student leadership, etc.

No matter how big our schools get, I imagine the classroom sizes will remain the same with 25 - 30 students in each class. That may continue to produce a good classroom for learning purposes. But, in relation to feeling connected, belonging, integral, (insert whichever buzz word you choose), it is the non-academic pursuits which matter. For a child who loves sports, it is being able to play the chosen sport with the school uniform being worn rather than an outside league which means nothing to anyone outside the sport. For others it may be getting a good part in the school play/concert/musical. Others may want to be class president, or on the robotics or debate team. I could go on. But the point is that by making our schools so big that the odds are so immense for the students to reach their dream that they give up before they even try, is doing nothing to help morale at the school.

To each adult reading this, I ask you what do you remember with fondness about your high school experience? Was it getting all As,
or was it being on the (??) team, being editor of the school newspaper, being class president or homecoming queen, or being chosen to make a speech at graduation or some other honor? Was it even getting a picture in the yearbook doing something pictureworthy at spiritweek or winning a schoolwide art competition? Whatever it was, I imagine that you want your kids to have the opportunity of doing something equally memorable in their school careers.

For most of our good students, they are not going to be singled out for anything. Unless they are regularly ill the school nurse won't know their name. Unless they are always having problems, the front desk staff won't know their names. They may know the names of the janitors, but even the janitors will walk past them if they see them anywhere off campus. They will feel like nobodies at their school. Unless they win some honor, they will be unidentifiable against 95% of the other students on campus.

Whereas we can't make a school where everybody is school champion at something, we can certainly make a school where everybody feels they are a somebody. Feeling a somebody is what the majority of our students would like to feel.

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

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