Sat08302014

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School Enrollment Task Force releases findings and path toward solutions


Photo By: Traci Newell/Town Crier
Photo Traci Newell/Town Crier Parents and community members break into small groups to discuss what they like and dislike about the Enrollment Task Force’s proposed solutions for enrollment growth in local schools.

The Los Altos School District’s Enrollment Task Force last week discussed several possible solutions for serving the increasing number of students – and all of them include adding at least one more school.

The task force met April 2 to seek public input on 10 scenarios that address the district’s and Bullis Charter School’s estimated growth in coming years. Approximately 60 people attended the meeting at Covington School.

Task force members Jeremy Minshull and Jeff Fixler explained why they expect the district to expand, noting that the number of students living in condominiums and apartments is on the rise.

“The desirability of the district attracts families,” Minshull said. “We have a great problem: People move here because the schools are so good.”

Fixler said that over the past 10 years, more than a quarter of the elementary student population growth has come from areas north of El Camino Real. Looking to the future, he noted that the district could expect an additional 800 housing units to be completed in the next few years, with another 700 units in the planning stages through 2017.

After reporting the results of their research, task force members Fred Gallagher and Duncan MacVicar outlined several different approaches for handling the enrollment growth. The options are a work in progress, they said.

Every solution included securing at least one site for a new school, and some propose two or three additional sites. The task force also considered the option of not taking any action.

Potential solutions

• Acquire a site for Bullis Charter School outside the district and reconfigure Los Altos School District schools to accommodate growth.

• Make room for Bullis Charter School by reconfiguring district junior highs to grades 6-8 and elementary schools to K-5, and acquire a site within the district for a third junior high.

• Acquire a site for Bullis Charter School outside the district.

• Acquire a site for a district school and give Bullis Charter School one existing district site.

• Acquire a district school site north of El Camino Real and a new site for Bullis Charter School outside the district.

• Acquire a site for the charter school outside the district and partner with the city of Los Altos to develop a site within the district (such as Hillview, Rosita Park or McKenzie Park/Municipal Service Center).

• Acquire a site for the charter school within the district and one north of El Camino Real for a K-3 district school.

• Split Covington into two schools and acquire a site for Bullis Charter School within the district. This option would require an arrangement with the city of Los Altos to use Rosita Park as a playground during school hours, and could include busing students from north of El Camino Real.

• Acquire a site for Bullis Charter outside the district and two smaller sites for the Los Altos School District either north of El Camino Real, in the city central (Hillview) or in the south end (Los Altos Hills).

• Acquire a site for a district school and acquire two sites for the charter school. The two sites could be within or outside the district. Both could be K-8 or have a different configuration. One of the charter school sites could be located close to or on a district junior-high campus to share specialized facilities.

 

Small groups discuss options

Following the presentation, attendees gathered in small groups to compare and contrast solutions and determine what they liked or disliked about each.

Task force members noted the themes and observations during the breakout discussions in an effort to narrow the options they will recommend to the district board of trustees.

Several participants said the district must work side-by-side with the Bullis Charter School Board of Directors to find a solution. Feedback included establishing a better working relationship with the city of Los Altos so that the community could make optimal use of city land.

One parent suggested a mixed-use site that would benefit students, parents and others in the community. Funded by bonds, the site could include a school, a community pool and/or space for a theater.

A great deal of discussion centered on the possibility of a smaller program – such as a magnet program – to handle the growth. Parents were interested in learning how expanding the district’s junior highs to include fifth or sixth through eighth grades might affect the capacity at existing campuses.

“The Los Altos School District needs flexibility,” one parent said. “We shouldn’t pick a site that doesn’t leave room for future growth and reconfiguration. The district is just going to grow.”

The task force is scheduled to meet every two weeks and report to the district board in May. The next meeting is slated 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the district office, 201 Covington Road.

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