The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees filed a bond measure for the November ballot last week that includes language prohibiting the district from using Rosita and McKenzie parks as a 10th school site.
After several special meetings this summer at which members of Save Los Altos Parks (SLAP) voiced their disapproval of transforming either park into a school site, district trustees acceded to their request to include language that bars bond money from being used to build a school at Rosita or McKenzie.
Despite his displeasure with having to add the specific language to the bond measure, Trustee Doug Smith said the board ultimately must craft a bond the community will support. Board President Tammy Logan said she, too, “begrudgingly” supported adding the conditions to the bond measure.
“What this means is (that) you guys are going to have to campaign your butts off,” Smith said, addressing the parks supporters. “This is the explicit tradeoff I want to make. I want the people here to campaign as strongly for the bond as they would have campaigned against it.”
The bond – requiring 55 percent of the vote to pass – taxes homeowners $30 per $100,000 of assessed value per property and would raise an estimated $150 million for the district.
The language of the bond project list, drafted last month, did not change during the Aug. 4 meeting. It lists projects included in the district’s Facilities Master Plan, totaling approximately $300 million.
Logan pointed to the lack of time and the need for flexibility as reasons the district did not whittle down the list.
“We don’t know how much land – and a developer – will cost to help us handle the district’s enrollment growth,” she said. “It’s difficult to figure out where to draw the line. We will be going through this process for a few years. We want to have the flexibility to adapt when needed.”
By taking the parks off the table, trustees emphasized that the district would have to spend a lot more money to acquire a 10th school site.
“There is definitely a tradeoff inherent in this,” Trustee Mark Goines said. “Buying private land is very expensive. Using public land for other uses is less expensive. If voters are willing to spend more to protect parks, that is what we are signed up for.”
Bond project priorities
District staff presented their bond project priorities at the meeting, reinforcing that the district’s first priority is managing enrollment growth. Additional priorities, in order, include:
• Pursuing energy efficiency/solar.
• Creating a planned maintenance fund for future upkeep; paying off capital leases; and converting remaining portables from lease to purchase.
• Upgrading to current code standards where appropriate.
• Replacing multipurpose buildings at three schools; replacing portable classrooms with permanent ones; implementing new transitional kindergarten and kindergarten classroom and play-area configurations at elementary schools; and replacing library and office portables with permanent buildings.
Logan said trustees would continue to discuss their priorities and collaborate with the Facilities Master Plan Advisory Committee to make decisions on which bond projects the board should move forward with.
“They have a role in the bond development,” Logan said. “The board will listen and work with the community and finalize those priorities. We are looking to have a collaborative relationship with the advisory committee.”
Also at last week’s meeting, the board directed district staff to add more community members to the advisory committee. It currently comprises parents and teachers from each school in the district, including Bullis Charter School. Trustees said they want to add representatives from civic groups, the Campaign for a Balanced Mountain View, city representatives, someone with expertise in development and construction, more teachers, some principals and Edsel Clark, the district’s new assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.