School board backs new high school classes, track at Jordan

Board also likely to support issuance of $40 million in facilities bonds

Palo Alto Board of Education members Tuesday expressed enthusiasm for new class offerings for the city's two high schools, as well as a plan to build a long-hoped-for path around the Jordan Middle School field.

New classes in marine biology, early childhood development, nanotechnology and social justice are proving to be popular with students in Palo Alto's two high schools, officials said Tuesday.

In light of that, board members indicated they will approve an additional two new classes in computer science – one for complete beginners that "will be accessible to every student at the school," according to Palo Alto High School teacher Pat O'Hara and another "capstone project" class for advanced students.

The board also took official action to approve the early childhood development and a sports career class, and will act on the new computer science offerings next month.

The new marine biology class at Gunn has garnered 69 signups, officials said. For nanotechnology, 44 have signed up at Paly and 12 at Gunn. A Paly class in early childhood development has attracted 64 student signups and a new "social justice pathway" at Paly got 30. A new offering at Paly about sports careers, called "Getting into the Game" has attracted about 28 students.

Board members also expressed enthusiasm Tuesday for a plan to build a path around the perimeter of the Jordan Middle School field, to be funded as part of a $250,000 anonymous donation to the school.

"Historically, the P.E. Department wish list has always included a perimeter track but the cost was prohibitive," Jordan physical education department head Dave DeGeronimo told the board.

Board members Tuesday also said they would support an issuance next month of $40 million in bonds under the $378 million "Strong Schools" bond passed by voters in 2008. The $215 million in bonds so far issued under the program has funded major construction and modernization on the school district's 17 campuses, including new, two-story classroom buildings at Gunn and Palo Alto high schools, JLS Middle School and Duveneck, Fairmeadow and Ohlone elementary schools.

Chris Kenrick


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