News

Palo Alto Unified maps out short- and long-term plans for Cubberley

District plans to reserve roughly 20 acres for a possible future high school, use land now as temporary campus during school renovations

The Palo Alto Unified School District owns a majority of land at Cubberley Community Center, a former high school at 4000 Middlefield Road. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

After years of uncertainty and community brainstorming, the Palo Alto Unified School District is closing in on a plan for its portion of Cubberley Community Center, the rundown 35-acre former high school in south Palo Alto that's partly owned by the district and partly owned by the city.

Under a broad plan laid out at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, the district would reserve roughly 20 acres for a theoretical future high school and use the land in the much more immediate term to temporarily house two elementary schools while their campuses are under construction. The district would be open to negotiations about transferring part or all of the remaining 7 acres to the city of Palo Alto.

Cubberley's fate was discussed as part of a wide-ranging presentation on Tuesday that involved various elements of the district's facility plans, including staff housing and elementary school construction projects.

Board members expressed support for reserving space for a high school at Cubberley. The board also backed fully rebuilding Hoover Elementary School, rather than a more limited renovation, and participating in a planned teacher housing project in Palo Alto for school staff that Santa Clara County is leading.

No formal action was taken at Tuesday's meeting, with the various pieces discussed expected to come back to the board for formal votes at future meetings.

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The 35-acre Cubberley Community Center site at 4000 Middlefield Road has been the subject of long-running and at times contentious discussions between the city, which owns 8 acres, and the school district, which owns the remaining 27. The two bodies engaged a consultant to lead a lengthy, collaborative effort to plan the redesign of Cubberley in 2018 and 2019, but that master plan was ultimately shelved. The city currently rents a portion of the district's land through a 54-month lease approved last year.

Superintendent Don Austin said that the various plans presented to the board on Tuesday are "totally interdependent," with each relying on the others.

"This has more moving parts than moving my San Diego Chargers up to Los Angeles," Austin quipped. "This thing is just loaded — loaded with parts."

No members of the public addressed the board at Tuesday's meeting and board member Ken Dauber was absent.

While the district wants to retain enough space at Cubberley for a future high school, board members supported moving away from plans to put staff housing or the district office on the site.

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Any decision about actually building a high school at Cubberley is still very far off, Austin stressed, adding that the current board members will be termed out and he will be retired by that point.

"It's not even a twinkle in our eye to build that school," said board member Todd Collins, who supported saving the space so a future board could make the decision when the time comes.

Board member Jesse Ladomirak similarly backed the plan to retain 20 acres, while also working with the city to transfer some of the remaining acreage, so Palo Alto has sufficient space to build a new community center. According to Ladomirak, the age and condition of the buildings at Cubberley are such that modernization is "totally infeasible" and the district can't pass a bond to fund construction on the site without concrete plans for a specific school.

"If we can't rebuild it, what's important is making sure the city can, so it can continue to be used by our community, and by our families and our students," Ladomirak said.

Board President Shounak Dharap said that by no longer looking to place the district office or staff housing at Cubberley, but instead just saving space for a potential school, there is more room to work with the city to reach a deal about the land.

"I'm very optimistic and I'm very enthusiastic about the recommendation," Dharap said.

Instead of looking to build housing for teachers and other school staff at Cubberley, the board signaled continued support for participating in a multidistrict staff at 231 Grant Ave. that is being led by Santa Clara County and backed by Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Current plans call for the district to contribute $1.45 million and get 29 units for its staff, which would be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom spaces, according to information that plan developers presented to the school board on Tuesday. That's up from the 12 units that the district would have gotten under earlier plans.

The units would be available to any district employee, subject to income limits and a lottery system.

Elementary school construction

At its Oct. 19, 2021 meeting, the Palo Alto Board of Education supported using Cubberley Community Center as a temporary campus while Palo Verde and Hoover elementary schools are renovated. Embarcadero Media file photo by Veronica Weber.

While building a high school at Cubberley may be decades away, the board on Tuesday supported a much more imminent plan to use the land as a temporary school site over the next few years.

Palo Verde Elementary School would move to Cubberley next school year while its campus is renovated and then Hoover would be housed at Cubberley for the following two school years.

"If we're going this direction, we don't have a lot of time to talk about it for months and months," Austin said. "We would need to start on Cubberley very, very soon to get that going in a positive direction."

Board members supported plans to use Cubberley as a temporary campus, which Director of Facilities and Construction Eric Holm said "dramatically changes the speed at which we can build."

By moving students off of the Palo Verde campus during construction, the project is expected to take a single year, rather than two and a half, Holm said.

The board also supported razing and rebuilding Hoover, rather than an earlier plan to do a more limited renovation on the site. According to Holm, anything short of a full redo of Hoover's campus would still leave it as the site most in need of work.

The plan the board supported is expected to have a total cost of $73 million, compared with $57 million for the more limited renovation.

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Palo Alto Unified maps out short- and long-term plans for Cubberley

District plans to reserve roughly 20 acres for a possible future high school, use land now as temporary campus during school renovations

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Wed, Oct 20, 2021, 9:51 am

After years of uncertainty and community brainstorming, the Palo Alto Unified School District is closing in on a plan for its portion of Cubberley Community Center, the rundown 35-acre former high school in south Palo Alto that's partly owned by the district and partly owned by the city.

Under a broad plan laid out at a Board of Education meeting Tuesday, Oct. 19, the district would reserve roughly 20 acres for a theoretical future high school and use the land in the much more immediate term to temporarily house two elementary schools while their campuses are under construction. The district would be open to negotiations about transferring part or all of the remaining 7 acres to the city of Palo Alto.

Cubberley's fate was discussed as part of a wide-ranging presentation on Tuesday that involved various elements of the district's facility plans, including staff housing and elementary school construction projects.

Board members expressed support for reserving space for a high school at Cubberley. The board also backed fully rebuilding Hoover Elementary School, rather than a more limited renovation, and participating in a planned teacher housing project in Palo Alto for school staff that Santa Clara County is leading.

No formal action was taken at Tuesday's meeting, with the various pieces discussed expected to come back to the board for formal votes at future meetings.

The 35-acre Cubberley Community Center site at 4000 Middlefield Road has been the subject of long-running and at times contentious discussions between the city, which owns 8 acres, and the school district, which owns the remaining 27. The two bodies engaged a consultant to lead a lengthy, collaborative effort to plan the redesign of Cubberley in 2018 and 2019, but that master plan was ultimately shelved. The city currently rents a portion of the district's land through a 54-month lease approved last year.

Superintendent Don Austin said that the various plans presented to the board on Tuesday are "totally interdependent," with each relying on the others.

"This has more moving parts than moving my San Diego Chargers up to Los Angeles," Austin quipped. "This thing is just loaded — loaded with parts."

No members of the public addressed the board at Tuesday's meeting and board member Ken Dauber was absent.

While the district wants to retain enough space at Cubberley for a future high school, board members supported moving away from plans to put staff housing or the district office on the site.

Any decision about actually building a high school at Cubberley is still very far off, Austin stressed, adding that the current board members will be termed out and he will be retired by that point.

"It's not even a twinkle in our eye to build that school," said board member Todd Collins, who supported saving the space so a future board could make the decision when the time comes.

Board member Jesse Ladomirak similarly backed the plan to retain 20 acres, while also working with the city to transfer some of the remaining acreage, so Palo Alto has sufficient space to build a new community center. According to Ladomirak, the age and condition of the buildings at Cubberley are such that modernization is "totally infeasible" and the district can't pass a bond to fund construction on the site without concrete plans for a specific school.

"If we can't rebuild it, what's important is making sure the city can, so it can continue to be used by our community, and by our families and our students," Ladomirak said.

Board President Shounak Dharap said that by no longer looking to place the district office or staff housing at Cubberley, but instead just saving space for a potential school, there is more room to work with the city to reach a deal about the land.

"I'm very optimistic and I'm very enthusiastic about the recommendation," Dharap said.

Instead of looking to build housing for teachers and other school staff at Cubberley, the board signaled continued support for participating in a multidistrict staff at 231 Grant Ave. that is being led by Santa Clara County and backed by Supervisor Joe Simitian.

Current plans call for the district to contribute $1.45 million and get 29 units for its staff, which would be a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom spaces, according to information that plan developers presented to the school board on Tuesday. That's up from the 12 units that the district would have gotten under earlier plans.

The units would be available to any district employee, subject to income limits and a lottery system.

While building a high school at Cubberley may be decades away, the board on Tuesday supported a much more imminent plan to use the land as a temporary school site over the next few years.

Palo Verde Elementary School would move to Cubberley next school year while its campus is renovated and then Hoover would be housed at Cubberley for the following two school years.

"If we're going this direction, we don't have a lot of time to talk about it for months and months," Austin said. "We would need to start on Cubberley very, very soon to get that going in a positive direction."

Board members supported plans to use Cubberley as a temporary campus, which Director of Facilities and Construction Eric Holm said "dramatically changes the speed at which we can build."

By moving students off of the Palo Verde campus during construction, the project is expected to take a single year, rather than two and a half, Holm said.

The board also supported razing and rebuilding Hoover, rather than an earlier plan to do a more limited renovation on the site. According to Holm, anything short of a full redo of Hoover's campus would still leave it as the site most in need of work.

The plan the board supported is expected to have a total cost of $73 million, compared with $57 million for the more limited renovation.

Comments

Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 20, 2021 at 10:51 am
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 10:51 am
Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 20, 2021 at 11:17 am
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 11:17 am

This is incredible, valuable, centrally located land.
I support thoughtful decisions and use by the Palo Alto School District.
An option of a future high school certainly suits.
Cubberley was wonderful.
Use as temporary location while nearby elementary schools are renovated (hopefully, quicker process) makes sense.
Otherwise, no parceling out to oddball uses or special interest groups.
DON’T sell to developers or private commercial schools!!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:17 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 12:17 pm

Two elementary schools to be renovated!

I thought we had B4E and other construction in the past 20 years to make the schools fit for the next 50 years. What is it with PAUSD that they want to knock down what was built in recent memory?

The next thing is we will be asked for another parcel tax or bond to raise money for this!

It is wrong to think that they can come back asking for more money to replace things that we paid for a decade ago!


Samuel L.
Registered user
Meadow Park
on Oct 20, 2021 at 3:17 pm
Samuel L., Meadow Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 3:17 pm

[Post removed. Violation of terms of use.]


PA Community Advocate
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2021 at 9:04 pm
PA Community Advocate, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2021 at 9:04 pm

Do you really trust these bureaucrats to actually produce results? They have been talking about renovating Hoover for over a decade. Time for some new competent leaders of the PAUSD.


Roberta Lancaster
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:14 am
Roberta Lancaster, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 10:14 am

Has Palo Alto's population increased to the point where a new high school is now warranted?

Cubberley was closed decades ago due to a declining student enrollment in Palo Alto.

The PA Online description of the site as, "the rundown 35-acre former high school in south Palo Alto.." is apt and if the PAUSD is to proceed with utilizing the property again, the old Cubberley buildings should be demolished as they are both an eyesore and an outdated design.

And its shared property status between the City of Palo Alto & the PAUSD should be terminated.

Either build a new high school or sell the property off for future development (aka housing).

The Mountain View Union High School District sold the old MVHS campus site on Castro Street many years ago and made a killing off the development.

Palo Alto could easily do the same.


Yousef Mahim
Registered user
another community
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:50 pm
Yousef Mahim, another community
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 1:50 pm

Palo Alto could also consider establishing a subsidized housing complex on this site to accommodate the many refugees and immigrants who wish to settle in the United States and embark on a new life.

Since Palo Alto and its residents supposedly embrace cultural diversity, this measure would be a step in the right direction.

Then again, it could all be lip service smothered in closet NIMBYism.


Erin Jacobs
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:26 pm
Erin Jacobs, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2021 at 3:26 pm

I think many Palo Altans would welcome an influx of refugees and immigrants seeking a new life in America.

Some could get jobs at Google or work in restaurants while others attended Foothill College to acquire the necessary job skills and education needed for higher-paying jobs.

Until then, the state and county should provide living assistance and the Cubberley location would be an excellent site for a projects-type, high-rise settlement to accommodate new residents from abroad.

Our children would then learn to intermingle with other children from around the world and hopefully they would not grow up to be racists and bigots like those in other parts of this country.

The local churches could also get actively involved via fundraisers, charities, and social gatherings.

The demographics in Palo Alto have changed over the past years and so why not go all the way and have a true melting pot of diverse cultures, languages, and various religious faiths?


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:34 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 22, 2021 at 5:34 am

@Bystander
You and I may be the only ones who noticed that we got so little for a previous bond of almost $400million. The bond promised that renovations would be indistinguishable from new construction (pause to wipe a tear and the milk coming out of my nose).

It’s a good thing to just build a new campus at Hoover. Personally wish they had built a new campus at Cubberly and moved kids into a NEW building temporarily, not into these old buildings that are just factories of poor indoor air quality. Even the ones with expensive paint jobs from past bonds.

If the pandemic wasn’t enough to get them to care about the health of our kids’ and teachers’ lungs and how indoor air quality affects learning, attendance, and potential spread of disease, I guess nothing will.

Thinking innovatively, a rebuilt Cubberly could be a great campus for a hybrid model of learning to attract back those who discovered the hamster-wheel model of education isn’t all it’s cracked up to be for their kids.


ConsiderYourOptions.
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 26, 2021 at 12:39 pm
ConsiderYourOptions., Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2021 at 12:39 pm

How will the city and school district address auto traffic impacts on nearby neighborhoods and their school routes of serially moving elementary school strands from all over the city to this area?

Make a plan now.


Ashley Tseng
Registered user
Midtown
on Nov 7, 2021 at 9:29 pm
Ashley Tseng, Midtown
Registered user
on Nov 7, 2021 at 9:29 pm

To Bystander and all who might not attend the Oct 19th school board meeting or having the time to review the agenda, Please look at this PAUSD elementary- current status chart. Web Link

As you could see from the chart, B4E and other construction never happened at Hoover when all the other elementary school has done it in the past 20 years. Hoover has the oldest administration (1952) library (1969) restrooms (1957) resource center (1957) classroom (1952-57). We are happy for all other elementary schools has new updated classrooms, buildings in the 2001-until recently but we are sorry that it hasn't done at Hoover.

Hoover has been waiting patiently for the past decade for it's turn. Hoover rebuild was approved before pandemic and paused last year. We are really grateful that the school board members and property meeting members showed compassion and care regarding Hoover rebuild and take actions to process it now.

Board members receive 4 options recommendations from Eric Holm and came down with option4 rebuild completely instead of option2 still keep some 1957buildings for long turn benefit. So when all other elementary schools progressed to 21 centenary buildings, they won't need to come back to rebuild the 1957 buildings at Hoover which can save money. Hoover has the smallest lot (5.6 Acres) but has been always have above medium size student numbers (400 students.) Recess and lunch time has been very crowded. Option 4 will give the campus a chance to redesign the layout to release much more outdoor spaces for the kids and safer route for pick up and drop off.

Even my kids very likely won't be able to experience the new campus, I am very happy for the school and teachers that they could have a nicer building and environment to serve future students. Hope my sharing help you understand it more clearly and you would support Hoover rebuild too. Thank you very much!!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 8, 2021 at 6:19 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Nov 8, 2021 at 6:19 am

Ashley. Thanks for your response. If what you say is true, and I have no reason to doubt you, then it is still bad press for PAUSD. It sounds then that they hoodwinked the community telling us that this was for all schools bringing all campus facilities, buildings, etc. at all schools for 21st century updates. If they left out a school, that is their fault not ours!

Since I moved to Palo Alto and sent children to Palo Alto schools, we have been in building sites at all schools. My kids' memories are all about changing classrooms into portables - sometimes mid year, having noise and visitors from construction, reduced playground space and all the inconveniences. We put up with it of course because we felt that the next generation of schoolkids would benefit. However it seems that was wrong.

PA Weekly, it would be very intersting for you to do a complete journalistic report of what has happened to the various bonds, parcel taxes, etc. and the updates to schools over the past 25 years or so. We are not pleased about having the wool pulled over our eyes on this and have yet again to finance more school updates when we thought this was all over for 50 years.


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