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New elementary school proposed for Palo Alto

Original post made on Apr 5, 2013

The Palo Alto school district should open a new elementary school at the site of the old Peninsula Day Care Center at 525 San Antonio Road combined with the adjacent Greendell campus at 4120 Middlefield Road, a community advisory committee has recommended.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, April 5, 2013, 9:52 AM

Comments (26)

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2013 at 10:00 am

Great idea! I hope they move both the Immersion programs there since they are by definition, mainly commuter schools. There is a huge parking lot at Cubberly which would make drop off and pick up safer. It would open up neighborhood space at Escondido and the regular Ohlone program (which always has way many more applicants than spots.)

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Posted by marian
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Apr 5, 2013 at 10:24 am

How about Hoover program?

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Posted by member
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 5, 2013 at 11:14 am

The entire area should have an elementary, junior high and high school located on the Greendell and Cubberley site. The school district has time to do some long term planning. I'm sure in time Wilbur will need to be renovated or closed.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 5, 2013 at 11:39 am

We don't need another high school. Who would want to go to a less established high school in Palo Alto? Plus, building a high school is very expensive. Could the school board/city afford it? we should build less high-density housing instead.

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Posted by Jim H.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 5, 2013 at 12:06 pm

@ Neighbor
So, you think the quality of the two high schools in Palo Alto are due to the fact that they've been around for so long? Terman, the newest of the three middle schools seems to be doing quite nicely. I'm sure a new high school would have a similar quality as Paly and Gunn. Might even improve the overall district quality as you would have smaller schools which would allow for a more personalized education.

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Posted by Choice school ghetto
a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Apr 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

There is massive development happening on San Antonio Road in Mountain View which will impact the 525 San Antonio area enormously. I hope the district will carefully consider the need for mitigating traffic impacts and cut-through traffic onto nearby neighborhood streets --which are school commute routes for local walkers and bikers-- if they choose to approve this recommendation.

This would put ALL of the choice programs with ALL of their related traffic impacts in the south cluster. Hoover, MI, SI AND Ohlone would then replace potential neighborhood school space in the south cluster with choice programs that draw from the whole district. The west and north clusters get the benefits of tight neighborhood school attendaries boundaries PLUS they have the option attending choice schools without living with the traffic these programs generate. Nice for them. How does that work for the south cluster? More importantly, what will PAUSD do to make it palatable for the south cluster? This is a gigantic imposition.

Seems like some additional work needs to be done to balance out the choice school ghetto problem. This committee should NOT be done.

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Posted by Christine
a resident of Downtown North
on Apr 5, 2013 at 3:11 pm

@Choice school ghetto

Where did you read that ALL the choice programs will go into this one site? Everything I have read says it is just the language immersion programs, which are both pretty small.

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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Apr 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm

Moving the two Immersion programs would put about 4 classes of each grade level at this new school putting it at about 500 or so kids.

If Middlefield is the primary entrance, there is plenty of parking and room to drop off and pick up safely. While people would still need to drive there, at least it is not in the middle of a neighborhood and is a relatively major street. I'm not sure what "choice school ghetto" means, but a lot of the growth in school kids is in the South so it makes sense to add a school there. The school most impacted by overcrowding is actually in the north - Addison.

Member - two of out three middle schools are already in the southern part of town so I'm not sure we need another middle school there. I would however, love to see much smaller middle schools, I think the size of the schools contributes to the bullying issues.

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Posted by Grid Locke
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 5, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Oh, good. Because there's not quite enough traffic yet on San Antonio.

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Posted by Solution
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm

They should kill all choice schools in PAUSD and turn them back into neighborhood schools. Doubt the School Board has the courage, however.

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Posted by Former PAUSD Parent
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2013 at 12:06 am

I think that site is a good one for a choice school whose students come from all over the district, especially if access is available via both San Antonio and Middlefield, which are both streets currently configured to carry relatively large volumes of traffic. (That is, as long as the traffic engineers don't get cute and decide to take a lane away as they did on Charleston.) But it would also be a boon to that part of town to once again have its own neighborhood school, especially if there were a way for students to access the school without having to walk or bike along a busy street.

@Grid Locke: I would not be too concerned about the developments along San Antonio in Mountain View, since people living in the apartments there feed into the Los Altos schools, and will be taking their kids in the opposite direction. Shoppers would not be an issue for school dropoffs in the morning, and afternoon shopping traffic would be spread out over time. If a lot of offices go up, there could be extra commute traffic at morning dropoff time on San Antonio, but not likely much increase on Middlefield.

@PA Parent: My sons were both bullied in the late elementary grades, but neither one was in middle or high school. My eldest, who has disabilities, was so traumatized that he is still in therapy for extreme social anxiety at age 25. I have been following the district's recent bullying troubles with interest. He actually found it easier in middle school to find a private corner to eat lunch and avoid being picked on, not possible in elementary school. So school size can actually be an advantage in making bullying less of an opportunity.

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Posted by laura
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 6, 2013 at 6:48 am

This is a fantastic idea. I applaud them on their foresight. Let's plan for the future now - enrollment is zooming and this school is much needed.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 6, 2013 at 5:19 pm

I think Choice School Ghetto is saying that moving SI to the Greendell site means all the choice programs would be in the south cluster. Currently, SI is in the west cluster.

However, both Hoover and Ohlone-main fill entire schools. SI and MI don't, so moving the immersion programs makes the most sense. And Greendell, given its location, is a natural for a choice program--given the big roads and large parking areas.

Also, moving choice programs is less disruptive than rezoning a bunch of kids away from their neighborhood school.

That said, I'm not massively impressed by the "hybrid" school model--the immersion programs have an issue in playing well with others, so to speak. Any "hybrid" program needs to offer a benefit to the kids who aren't in the boutique program, such as FLEX. I'm tired of a tiny percentage of kids getting immersion while the rest of the kids get zilch. While Mandarin's a pain, there's no excuse for neighborhood kids at Escondido not to have had Spanish classes.

Anyway, hope the board doesn't wuss out on the new-school issue yet again. And thanks to the advisory committee for thinking the issue through.


Killing the choice schools does not solve problems. All the kids in choice programs would still be in the district. Just means that the overflow issues would be even more convoluted since no one would be voluntarily removing their child from the neighborhood school.

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Posted by Garland mom
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 6, 2013 at 10:26 pm

I Love the idea of both immersion programs at one location. The Mandarin program at Ohlone is lovely but growing beyond Ohlone's capacity.

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Posted by Near neighbor
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 6, 2013 at 10:41 pm

A choice school is being considered to avoid the PAUSD having to re-draw elementary school boundaries. It will mean that when Greendell is opened every new elementary student registering with the school district that year will be sent to Greendell. Somehow they will immediately have to come up with around 25 students per class kindergarten through 5th grade, to make it a viable and economically sound elementary school.

Because they've decided to fill the school this way it will mean an extra 100 - 150 cars travelling to Greendell from North, West and South Palo Alto. Expect even bigger backups on Middlefield and Charleston, during the morning commute. I hope the School District will provide School buses because Greendell is located in the furthest south-east corner of the School District.

To avoid putting all these extra cars on Palo Alto's streets, they should re-draw the boundaries of Fairmeadow, Palo Verde and El Carmello and fill Greendell up that way.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 7, 2013 at 4:34 pm

Most of the new growth in PA is in the south--I think that's why the discussion is about the Greendell site instead of Garland or Pinewood--well, that, and the fact that the JCC moved its preschool.

No decisions have been made--an advisory committee made a recommendation.

Anyway, the SI and MI families are *already* commuting. Given Ohlone's terrible street access (one entrance on a small neighborhood street) and the cross-town commute involved for SI at Escondido for many, moving those students to a school where there will be access from major streets actually makes more sense than the current situation.

Unlike Ohlone and Escondido, Greendell abuts a large parking lot, which would mean a less-intrusive pick-up and drop-off situation.

Your comment that every new student would be sent to Greendell doesn't really hold. Presumably there will be some redistricting, but if both immersion programs were moved there that would be three strands and that, in itself, would ease up the crowding on Escondido and Ohlone. I assume, at that point, Ohlone would open up another half strand of its own program--which was the plan before Mah and co. pulled their me-first shenanigans.

Anyway, the neighborhood strand would, I'd guess, be built up from the K or K/1 class with added grades as the kids grew.

It is true that Greendell is at the southern end of the district, so it's not central the way Garland is. However, I think the growth in the south balances that negative as far as traffic goes.

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Posted by Sally
a resident of Midtown
on Apr 7, 2013 at 9:38 pm

Just a note to remind you there is a Jewish school (not sure the levels) on San Antonio between Middlefield and Central Ave. Also, a lot of traffic on San Antonio new due to expanded Google site.

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Posted by San Antonio can't carry it.
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 11:13 am

Not to mention the gargantuan San Antonio Center developments. Phase I is underway. Phase I is about one third of what is being planned. here's what we can expect: office towers, movie theaters, multi-story (up to 8-stories)housing,retail, a hotel, and a multi-story parking garage to serve it all --just a couple of blocks from this proposed school site. In addition, the former Hewlett-Packard site (one block away)is reopening this summer. Together, these projects will dump thousands of new car trips on San Antonio AND south Palo Alto. San Antonio is not an option for school traffic circulation. I wish the Weekly would give some coverage to the effects Mountain View development is about to have on south Palo Alto so the community would have some information to guide decision-making...and so our City Council would have a clue. They appear completely in the dark. These projects, though they are mostly in Moutain View, will have enormous impact on south Palo Alto.

I hope PAUSD will pay more than lip service to conserving neighborhood school communities in the south cluster. I DO NOT want any car trip generating choice program at this site. I want a neighborhood school there. If the Board thinks choice schools are so wonderful and they want to move a choice program, they should put it in the north cluster where 4 of 5 Board members live and where there are NO choice schools at all.

Putting most of the choice schools in the south cluster has been destructive to our neighborhood schools, and this will just exacerbate the problem. I feel like my neighborhood is being targeted. It really makes me angry. This site is two blocks away from Hoover choice school and it will be served by the same intersections.

It bothers me even more that noone from the affected neighborhoods was on the committee as far as I can tell.--although the choice schools were VERY well represented.

I am disappointed in this ill-informed recommendation. I am frustrated the the Weekly has failed to provide the community with information about huge development proposals that are very relevant to this decision-making process.

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Posted by anon
a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 8, 2013 at 11:29 am

I am in favor of expanding the Mandarin Immersion program. The first class is in 5th grade right now, if I am correct.
Are there plans for them to continue MI into middle school as the Spanish does?

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Posted by Also anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:17 pm

I am NOT in favor of expanding any more choice schools.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2013 at 1:40 pm

Mandarin Immersion is a flop at this point. Poor program that doesn't deliver. They need to fix the current program before any talk of expansion takes place. It's also inefficient, given the lack of native Mandarin speakers in the district. Even more than SI, getting native Mandarin speakers is a real reach. In other words, the upper grades of both MI and SI are smaller than the maximum.

There are no plans to continue MI in the middle schools. Grace Mah and PACE agreed that they wouldn't push it in exchange for getting MI at Ohlone. Grace Mah then tried to get a Mandarin class at a middle school, but not enough people were interested.

Unlike other sites, Greendell has the potential for entrances on two major roads--San Antonio and Middlefield. Not sure why anyone thinks a neighborhood school means kids would be walking to school. Greenmeadow's the only neighborhood from which kids can walk without going by major traffic.

The Middlefield entrance is already used for heavy pick-up and drop-off. I'd actually guess that this would be the heavily used entrance.

Having dealt with the massive increase of traffic on Louis, Greer and Amarillo from the massive expansion of Ohlone, I'm not that sympathetic to complaints about traffic on Middlefield and San Antonio, which are 4-lane roads *designed* to handle traffic. (San Antonio's mostly nonresidential to boot. The Middlefield entrance has *hundreds* of parking spots. Ohlone has about eight. Same with Addison and Duveneck.

Greendell's the only site I can think of that's actually better suited to being a commuter school than a neighborhood school. I also doubt that there are enough kids in Greenmeadow to support a four-strand school. I suspect that's part of the reason moving an immersion program is being suggested.

I think, though, that it's time the district paid more attention to the management of its hybrid schools--as I say, I think any neighborhood strands at Greendell should get something out of having to share space with a choice program.

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Posted by Neighbor
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Apr 8, 2013 at 2:43 pm

I don't understand the need to allocate school fund to create MI. There are many, great options for children to learn Mandarin in this area either as an after-school or weekend programs.

Instead of immersion programs, why don't the school board let all kids learn a foreign language (either Spanish/Mandarin) once or twice a week. I see it working very well in some local private schools.

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Posted by to OhlonePar
a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 8, 2013 at 6:43 pm

I suggest you educate yourself about morning peak hour traffic at the Middlefield/Charleston and Middlefield/San Antonio intersections. Also, you should inform yourself about the development impacts of gargantuan projects being moved forward in Mountain View that will be just a couple of blocks away from the 525 San Antonio site. San Antonio's capacity has been spoken for. These projects, together, will generate thousands of new car trips.

I can understand why you might not know about south Palo Alto challenges because you live in north Palo Alto--but why would you take a public position without studying the issues? It is clear that you have not.

Question: If you believe that MI is such a "flop" as you say, why should it be moved at all? Why not just dissolve the program rather than dump it on a potential new neighborhood school? If you truly believe the program is a failure, WHY would you support that? Could it be that you just want it removed from Ohlone?

It is not correct to say that Greenmeadow is the "only" neighborhood that would have safe bike and walking routes to Greendell. Many south PA children presently cross Middlefield and Charleston to get to Fairmeadow, Palo Verde, and (get this--a few bike from Greenmeadow to Ohlone) every day. On- and off-road bicycle and walking routes exist. You may not know them if you don't live in the area. Some of them aren't on the city's maps because they are private, but the locals know about them.

It sounds to me like you are "unsympathetic" (as you say) to concerns about traffic here because you will be unaffected by it...and you don't know very much about it.

I support a school at this site. Projections show that future growth is going to be in the south and west clusters. The west cluster has a little growing room. The south needs capacity. A hybrid school is a separate question. I'd like to know that there is a traffic plan that can work safely...and that a choice component is necessary for a good reason. There is already a choice school (Hoover) just around the corner. I'd like to get the facts on the table and hear from some folks from the neighborhood who will be affected.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm

to OP,

You're making a lot of assumptions. One, I've lived in south Palo Alto. Second, I've done the morning drive down to Cubberly on Middlefield. Anyone with a kid in Palo Alto has spent time getting to and from Cubberly.

I agree that traffic is an ongoing issue in this city and any access to Greendell from San Antonio is going to need to be designed with traffic issues in mind--i.e. you can't have school traffic back into San Antonio. I also think, however, that the school won't generate that much traffic on San Antonio because very few people would come to the school from that direction.

However, you seem unfamiliar with the heavy traffic issues at the current schools as well as the politics behind MI. Anyone who's read my posts on the subject knows I'd have no problem seeing it shut down and that I think the program's a poor fit for the district's needs.

The fate of MI won't, by the way, have an impact on me. I won't have a child at Ohlone by the time Greendell's scheduled to open.

More general note, anyone know why the focus switched from Garland to Greendell?

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Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 8, 2013 at 8:16 pm

Just to remind everyone, that the San Antonio site is not actually on San Antonio but a relief road. It is presently used by a school and has been used as a day care with after school care and many school buses. I think that even a choice school with 2 back and front offroad parking lots would not produce as much traffic as the Peninsula DayCare which functioned every weekday of the year catering not only to preschool children but also after school childcare from all over the area.

I think it is a good location for a choice school, but I would hesitate to put both MI and SI there as that would not allow any space for neighborhood regular classes. Fairmeadow and Palo Verde would be the obvious schools to have relief if it were a neighborhood school and ElCarmelo possibly also. As people often opt for a choice program if it is in their neighborhood (more Ohlone students are local and many Palo Verde bound families opt for Ohlone just because it is closer to their home rather than desire for the Ohlone program), it may take a few years to discover how popular a move of a choice program might be.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 8, 2013 at 9:53 pm


Thanks for clarifying the San Antonio side lay-out--this makes sense to me.

I think the original proposal is to move an immersion program, not necessarily both. Since both Ohlone and Escondido are huge, I expect the board will look at moving the programs. Moving MI would be the easiest because it's a single strand and would make room for an expansion of Ohlone, which is heavily in demand and could easily pick up a half strand. That said, Escondido's been in the position of having to bump neighborhood kids because of SI--the result of the district expanding SI to two strands to handle overflow years ago from the north cluster.

As for why families choose Ohlone--I don't know about those on the list, but I've never met one who did the lottery simply because the school was in the neighborhood. Not saying there aren't, but that's not your typical Ohlone parent. Some people like the volunteering/community thing, some like the Farm, a bigger chunk like the whole idea of project-based learning, but I'd say the biggest reason Ohlone attracts interest is that people are concerned about the competitive environment they hear about at the other elementaries. That many live near by can be read another way--there are some families interested in Ohlone, but they don't want to commute cross-town at rush hour.

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

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