Board ponders Addison Elementary boundary change | March 2, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - March 2, 2012

Board ponders Addison Elementary boundary change

Minor shift is part of city-wide discussion of enrollment, facilities

by Chris Kenrick

School officials are pondering changes to the attendance boundaries of the crowded Addison Elementary School as a temporary fix among longer-term, citywide challenges of matching new classroom buildings to where children live.

The possible change would switch a portion of Professorville, as well as current Addison households south of Embarcadero Road, from Addison into the Walter Hays attendance area.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly said he would return in April with specific recommendations on the boundary change for consideration by the Board of Education.

In recent years, the boundaries have led to frequent "overflows" of Addison children into Walter Hays and other schools, creating uncertainty for parents and home-buyers in the Addison neighborhood, Skelly said. A boundary change would offer more predictability for families, he said.

The Addison proposal was a detail in a far larger discussion held in a Board of Education study session Tuesday, Feb. 28, to consider long-term enrollment projections and facilities planning.

Though little consensus emerged on specifics, board members generally agreed there's a need in the near future for a 13th elementary school and — perhaps more urgently — a fourth middle school in Palo Alto.

They specifically mentioned two possible sites for expansion: the Garland campus at 870 N. California Ave. and the Greendell campus combined with the district's new acquisition of an adjacent parcel at 525 San Antonio Road.

However, several members noted that many more desks soon will be needed on the west side of El Camino Real due to Stanford University's plans to build faculty housing on El Camino between California Avenue and Page Mill Road, and on California Avenue south of Hanover Street.

Board members did not specifically address a proposal by Skelly to postpone until at least 2019 any consideration of school facilities at Cubberley Community Center on Middlefield Road.

With the school district's long-term lease of Cubberley to the city coming up for renewal, Skelly said the district is "heavily dependent" on the $7 million a year in lease revenue, which represents 4 percent of the schools' operating budget.

Skelly said the surprising bump in elementary enrollment of recent years will be dampened in the near future by the phase-in of a new state law mandating that children turn 5 by Sept. 1 of the year they start kindergarten, Skelly said.

With funds from a 2008 facilities bond, the district has completed or is in the process of building up to 40 new elementary classrooms on existing campuses, including those of Ohlone, Fairmeadow and Duveneck elementary schools.

Current middle school construction will provide district-wide capacity for 2,900 students. Conservative enrollment projections show this number will be reached in 2015, he said.

Skelly urged the board to wait at least a year before firmly committing to entire new campuses, with hope that more data will offer guidance in light of currently iffy growth projections and financial resources.

Board member Barb Mitchell argued the district should "move forward with scenarios for both a 13th elementary school and a fourth middle school" guided by aligning investments in new classrooms with the geographic "clusters" — north, south and west — in which enrollment growth is occurring.

"North cluster" elementary schools are considered to be Addison, Duveneck and Walter Hays; "south cluster" schools are El Carmelo, Fairmeadow and Palo Verde; and "west cluster" schools are Barron Park, Juana Briones, Escondido and Lucille Nixon. Additionally, district-wide "choice programs" are currently located in the south cluster at Hoover and Ohlone and in the west cluster at Escondido.

The south cluster currently has the biggest gap between supply and demand for school classroom space.

But Skelly assured board members that delaying hard decisions for a year would still afford lead time sufficient to prepare new facilities ahead of any student influx.

"We do see lack of clarity around what's going to happen with elementary enrollment, both by cluster and whether it's going to grow at all in the next four years," he said.

"These are large capital outlays and they all have their downsides.

"We live in a community that's action-oriented and wants to make decisions, be decisive and courageous but, frankly, I think the prudent step is to wait."

Board members appeared to reject Skelly's suggestion of accommodating middle-school enrollment growth by moving some sixth-grade programs to elementary campuses.

Another possibility, he said, could be adding classrooms at Terman Middle School, which currently has capacity for only 700 students — 400 less than the capacities at Jordan and JLS.

Board members did agree to Skelly's recommendation to change high school boundaries so that students living in the housing development at Stanford West, along Sand Hill Road, will be assigned to Gunn High School instead of Palo Alto High School in the future.

Stanford West students attend Nixon and Terman but were assigned to the Paly attendance area due to over-enrollment at Gunn at the time the housing complex was constructed several years ago.

Now that Gunn has fewer students than Paly, Stanford West students should automatically be assigned to Gunn along with their classmates from Terman, Skelly said.

The superintendent said he will schedule another board study session in April to continue the discussion on enrollment projections and facilities.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by it's a start, a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 29, 2012 at 7:55 am

This would just deal with some of the "overflows" but not with the bubble classes. The use of bubble classes at Addison has now become endemic. Every second year there is a bubble class, there is no longer any question of whether there should be one. The bubble class teachers at Addison should be given tenure!

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:12 am

City of PA should consider school capacity and traffic flow before they approve the multi unit condos and townhouses.

Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:32 am

Sarah - unfortunately, the City can't legally consider school capacity when approving or disapproving housing. Can you imagine what will happen if the ABAG requirement of 3500 more housing units is implemented?

I think changing Addison's boundaries is a good idea. Turn Garland into a new middle school (or maybe 6th grade only?) and Greendell into another elementary school.

Posted by Start paying atttention to your government, people, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 29, 2012 at 10:46 am

To understand how state government is pushing housing infill,Google SB375. It will make your stomach churn.

See Web Link Evaluating traffic impact of a project will be difficult if they are exempt from CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act).

Posted by AA, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:00 am

I simply don't understand Superitendans Skellys reasoning. Yes there may be some slight changes for the first year or so of the new K eligible dates but the numbers of kids overall in the district won't change. Let's try and get a handle on things now, not in three or four years when it will be another game of catch up. The board voted against re opening Garland a few years back only to reverse itself. Let's talk about Middle and High School options now. We all know where enrolment is headed so for once can we please try and get ahead of the curve?
Palo Alto really needs to get out of the business of choice schools. People want neighbourhood schools, scores are so close these days is there really an advantage to having increased traffic around Hoover & Ohlone? Make them Charter and lose funding or have all schools cater to their neighbourhoods. Honestly Palo Alto is already exclusive enough. If you want specific things from an elementary school you should be welcome to pay for them, our tax dollars shouldn't.

Posted by Mary Carlstead, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:45 am

A message to the City Council. Dig in your heels and say NO to the outrageous ABAB demands - thousands of new houses, condos. If we don't have room in our schools now, think what will happen in the future under ABAG quotas. So what if the State threatens to withhold $$ from Palo Alto ? It doesn't have any anyway. About forty years ago then-mayor Frances Dias in a dramatic speech before the Council and residents when the jobs-to-housing-imbalance first got into the civic vocabulary, said "The time is coming when Palo Alto will have to say 'we have no more room' OR the quality of life will be destroyed for those who already live here." The time has already come. I was at that meeting, and I'll never forget that warning. Our city, our way of life is under attack. And for you younger people, you will have to take up the fight for Palo Alto that we seniors have done for many years. It was a wonderful family community. Fight for it. DON'T LOSE IT. We have no more room.

Posted by Not a bubble or a blip, a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 29, 2012 at 11:56 am

Waiting is a bad idea. This is no bubble.

12 of the 14 houses that have sold in the past five years in our immediate neighborhood, went from an elderly or empty nester owner to a family with 1-3 pre-school or elementary school age children. A few others have become rentals to families with children in PAUSD.

PAUSD remains the "safe bet" district for people coming here for tech jobs. Not that I am proud of the lack of vocational diversity, but who else, but a family w/young kids would pay the premium to live in many of the run down houses around here?

Posted by No surprises here, a resident of Addison School
on Feb 29, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Mom says unfortunately, the City can't legally consider school capacity when approving or disapproving housing.
That doesn't prevent them from using their brains. They don't want to control it, they keep approving more and more, they don't have to.
Housing growth in North Palo Alto has been, and continues to be huge. Superintendent Skelly is surprised at the bump in the elementary school? Guess he hasn't been reading the papers.

Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 29, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I own a house on Stanford campus - Stanford should be made to contribute more to PAUSD. They love to recruit people on the merits of the Public schools, but then they hide in the corner and expect everyone else to pay. Stanford constantly approves visiting scholars form other countries who pile their kids into the public schools for a year or two and never give a cent to PiE or PTA. It's wonderful to have foreign visitors - but Stanford ought to take responsibility for the cost of these scholars' children and the massive drain it puts on the schools - particularly Nixon. There is a reason Nixon suffers with PTA donations - the school has a huge number of visiting scholar kids who are lovely, wonderful, amazing families, but who never give one penny to anything. Many of them are extremely wealthy. And it's not one or two families - the revolving door often makes up close to a third of the school and at the kinder/first grade it's more like half.

Also, Stanford should not be allowed to build even one more tiny condo until they begin to actually enforce the leases in the community. There are people with ZERO affiliation to Stanford living for YEARS on campus to use the schools, and the University it too lazy to bother to get those people out. My next door neighbor has ZERO affiliation with Stanford, has kids in PAUSD and rents from a professor who moved away YEARS ago - Everyone knows - and the University does nothing. There are at least two other families like this within two blocks of my house.

Posted by Dear Landlord, a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 29, 2012 at 12:58 pm

"Stanford should be made to contribute more to PAUSD"

Supplying the land for Palo Alto High School and Gunn High School doesn't count?

Posted by Nixon parent, a resident of Stanford
on Feb 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

I guess the 10 million dollar payment to the school district doesn't count either.

Posted by Escondido parent, a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 29, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Stanford also gave the land for Nixon and Escondido, Elizabeth.

At Escondido we have all the children of all the graduate students living in Escondido village, and most of those parents are not in a position to donate to PIE or PTA either. But the diversity is a plus and it all comes out in universe's karma.

If you know a lot of non-Stanford afilliated people living in on-campus homes please call the Faculty-Staff housing office and report that specifically. You say "everyone knows" and the University does nothing. Well make sure the right people know and make them do something!

Posted by Solon, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 1, 2012 at 9:54 am

What is the relationship between school boundaries, and safe paths to schools?

It seems safe travek, e.g., Professorville can only walk to Addison without crossing El Camino, Embarcadero, or Middlefield.

What is the relationship between reasonable expectation of house purchaser to know where her/his family will go to school?

Seems fair if you buy a house within a boundary, or start a child in a boundary, that family, that child, should attend that school if they wish, even if boundary changes, like zoning, it best would include "existing uses."

Would't this add to stability and predictability, and fairness?l

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 10:59 am

Gotta love the people that want Stanford to give more. Always amazing.

Posted by paly parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

Solon - The District tries to have the fewest crossings of major roads possible to keep kids as safe as they can.

If a child/family is already in a school, the District has never forced them to change schools because of a boundary change. For new students and incoming kinders, there is no guarantee that there will be room at their "neighborhood" school. House purchasers are/should always be advised that they need to verify school availability with the District (though not all real estate agents are up front about that).

No surprises here - if developers are within the existing zoning, the City doesn't really have a choice about approving their applications for housing. They could stop giving exemptions and changing zoning to increase our housing. Unfortunately, according to the ABAG, we are supposed to add 3500 units of housing (which I figure would add somewhere between 3000-7000 new students if that happens). While there are many existing residents without kids, the majority of new residents move here for the schools, just ask the real estate agents.

Posted by Kerry, a resident of Midtown
on Mar 2, 2012 at 8:48 am

This is no bubble. I live in midtown, we feed into Palo Verde. Four homes very close or adjacent to me have been bought basically so the kids can attend school here. The house next door just sold to family with 2 children so they could go to Gunn. The School District and City should look at projections/data and also take into account "transitional" families", just here for the schools. At our school, there are so many families that dont contribute to the Auction, Outings, fund-raisers, restaurant nights who could easily afford to do so. It is so disheartening for the PTA, and I'm sure for the teachers to have almost no support for PIE from SOOOOO many families at our school, and I'm sure the data could be aggregated to make the case for a few other schools too. Why are all the supportive families going to Walter Hayes, Duveneck, Addison, and Ohlone and I'm sure other schools?
Consider Garland for just 6th grades.....

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