Palo Alto school district eyes capital improvements for Hoover Elementary School

Board to discuss funding for upgrades; math curriculum in final meeting of school year

The school board will discuss Tuesday night the potential allocation of $150,000 to launch a capital-improvements project at Hoover Elementary School, which district staff say is in need of major upgrades.

Staff is asking board members to waive a rule that requires them to discuss items publicly in two meetings to approve this funding so that some "start-up activities" -- non-construction activities like architect design fees, cost estimates, a tree survey and conceptual design -- could begin this summer. The funds would come from a Strong Schools Bond reserve with $60.3 million set aside for future elementary improvements. Staff is also recommending that the board release the remaining funds to support improvements at the existing schools, though is only asking the board to waive its two-meeting rule for the Hoover proposal.

Bond Program Manager Bob Golton notes in a staff report that while Hoover was originally chosen for improvements after voters passed the Strong Schools Bond in 2008 — a conceptual design was even presented to the board in 2010 — "it was not voted on because it did not provide increased capacity and increased capacity was the major concern at that time."

At the time, the project had an estimated cost of $8.6 million, according to district documents.

Hoover saw only minimal upgrades from an earlier bond, the Building for Excellence building program (B4E), Golton wrote. The school reopened in 1998 after a "prolonged closure," with some "basic renovation work" done (restrooms, replaced roofs, floors and painting), Golton wrote.

In 2004, the district used state funding to do some lighting and heating improvements. Beyond that, Golton wrote, Hoover has not seen any significant improvements since its original construction in 1974.

The school's two "main deficiencies" are a lack of electrical and data infrastructure and a library that is "not up to district standards in either amenities or size," Golton's report states. A new library was planned as part of the original Strong Schools Bond's scope of work.

Hoover's classrooms have the original casework, countertops, plumbing fixtures and ceilings, which are in need in upgrades, Golton wrote.

There are also voluntary seismic improvements that were done at other campuses as part of the Building for Excellence program, but not at Hoover, according to Golton.

In Superintendent Max McGee's executive summary for Tuesday's meeting, he called Hoover the district's "most needy school in terms of facility upgrades for the library, multi-purpose room, flex space (there is none), and storage."

The board recently discussed reallocation of the elementary reserve funds in light of a major anonymous donation that will fund significant improvements at Addison Elementary School.

In March, the board approved the first of what is expected to be several large donations made to fully fund the project. At least one board member has raised concerns about the implications such a project would have on the district-stated value of progressive parity, under which the district must "provide adequate and comparable school facilities, learning environments, educational experiences, opportunities, and staffing ratios throughout the district, including shared resources (such as libraries, subject specific classrooms, elective spaces, support staff areas, and athletic/play/outdoor areas)," according to board policy.

If the board decides to release the reserve funds to the current schools, the district will convene a sub-group of elementary principals to develop recommendations regarding use of the funds. The board would consider their recommendations this fall, according to Golton's report.

In other business at the board's last meeting of the school year on Tuesday, members will discuss potential new mathematics curricula for the elementary schools. The district engaged this year in an "exploration" of new math materials, with teachers testing out new Common Core State Standards-aligned curriculum in their classrooms along with the district's adopted Everyday Mathematics textbook series. The goal was to deepen teachers' understanding and application of the Common Core standards while identifying the best new curriculum to pilot, according to a previous staff report.

A group of teachers, administrators and parents will recommend two to three curricula to formally implement in the 2016-17 school year. While the district solicited parent input through a survey and selected six parents to serve on the district's Elementary Math Exploration Committee, some parents voiced concern at last week's board retreat and at previous board meetings that parents were insufficiently involved in the exploration process. At the board's last discussion of the topic on Jan. 26, members also stressed that early and genuine parent involvement was crucial to a successful process.

The first meeting of the math exploration committee will be on Aug. 29, 3:30-5 p.m. This group hopes to present a final recommendation to the board in spring of 2017 so the district could purchase new materials, provide teachers with professional development and fully implement the curriculum in the 2017-18 school year. This is a tempered timeline — the district had originally planned to adopt a new curriculum for the 2016-17 school year.

The board will also vote to adopt the 2016-17 budget and discuss several policy updates, among other agenda items. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.


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Editor's note: This story was updated to correct information about what activities would start this summer if the school board approved this funding. It would be "start-up activities," not construction.

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2 people like this
Posted by needs rule
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 20, 2016 at 7:39 pm

"The proposed $150,000 would cover start-up costs — that is, non-construction activities like architect design fees, cost estimates, a tree survey and conceptual design."

If they're not doing any actual construction work at the school, why does this require waiving of the two meeting rule?

The current situation just seems like bad organization and waiving of the two meeting rule should only happen with an appropriate amount of need. There is no need here to waive the rule.

1 person likes this
Posted by Elena Kadvany
education reporter of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Jun 20, 2016 at 7:55 pm

Elena Kadvany is a registered user.

needs rule: I've corrected the story to clarify that -- only "start-up activities," not construction, would commence this summer, per staff's recommendation. The board's next meeting is not until late August.

Like this comment
Posted by Hoover parent
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2016 at 4:39 pm

Hooray!!!! Some updates for Hoover are loooong overdue. This campus has been doing a great job of making a sub-par facilities work for years, and I'm glad to see the district's new administration finally noticed. I have seen all 12 elementary campuses in the district and Hoover's is shabby in comparison to all others. Calls for renovations seemed to fall on deaf ears in the last administration. @ needs rule: I believe the two meeting rule needs to be waved to release the $150k to begin preliminary planning work to generate plans that would then need to be separately approved by the board to release additional funds for construction. It would be a shame to delay a year's long process by several months simply because the board doesn't meet during the summer. Hoover has already waited decades for renovations. Let's not make the kids wait longer!!

Like this comment
Posted by Wondering
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2016 at 2:41 pm

A friend told me they saw air testing going on at Hoover in the middle of the night - anyone know any details? I wonder if that has anything to do with it....

Like this comment
Posted by not all
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 23, 2016 at 9:06 am

"I have seen all 12 elementary campuses in the district and Hoover's is shabby in comparison to all others. "

You must have missed Addison, which has more portables and is a lot more crowded and dilapidated than Hoover.

Not that I think Hoover doesn't need it, a lot of the elementary schools need updates, just don't think you're any worse off except when you look at the likes of Duveneck & Ohlone.

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

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