With booming enrollment in Palo Alto elementary schools, the Board of Education Monday voted to take back the old Garland Elementary School site to make way for more classrooms.
The campus, at 870 N. California Ave., has been leased for the past six years to Stratford Schools, Inc., which runs a preschool-through-fifth-grade program there.
The school board voted 5-0 to serve the three years' notice required under the lease, meaning Stratford will have to vacate by June 30, 2014.
High elementary growth projections for Palo Alto schools gave them little choice but to take back Garland, board members said.
"What's really driving this is that we've seen enrollment growth through thick and think -- seemingly independent of economic conditions and seemingly independent of housing turnover," board member Dana Tom said.
"This has surprised us and surprised our demographers.
"I feel we don't have much choice at this point (but to take back Garland). We need to be able to deal with the growth we expect will continue."
Board members thanked a Stratford representative for being a model tenant and said they would like to rent to the company again if other space becomes available.
Palo Alto is preparing for a high-growth scenario after unexpectedly large bumps in elementary enrollment in the last two years.
After growing at about 2.1 percent from 2005 to 2009, elementary enrollment jumped 4.5 percent last fall and is expected to do the same this fall.
Superintendent Kevin Skelly has said the district must be ready to handle as many as 568 additional K-5 students in the next five years -- the size of a large elementary school.
Current or pending construction at Ohlone and Fairmeadow elementary schools will provide a net gain of seven new classrooms, with an additional three classrooms expected in planned renovations to Duveneck Elementary School.
Garland could provide 24 classrooms.
In a presentation to the school board last week, officials cited a variety of possible uses for the Garland site, including as a neighborhood elementary school, an alternative program such as language immersion or as a site for preschool and the Young Fives program currently housed at Greendell, adjacent to the Cubberley Community Center at 4000 Middlefield Road.
The last possibility would free up Greendell to become a neighborhood school in a part of the city that has experienced a high level of growth.