Wed11262014

Schools

LASD assembles community task force


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Baier

The Los Altos School District is appointing a task force to research options that could assist the district in solving its capacity issues.

The panel’s mission requires understanding the enrollment challenges facing the district and weighing potential impacts on the current and future education of the community’s children. The task force is also directed to explore a long-term plan to house Bullis Charter School students and staff using current and/or future facilities.

“Education is an important aspect of life in Los Altos,” Superintendent Jeff Baier said. “The ideas out of this task force have a potential to impact the current and future children of this community. We know one of the issues we have is 10 schools on nine school sites and how we are going to handle that in the future.”

The task force will include 12 representatives selected from various segments of the community: a district parent leader; a district principal; a nominee from the Los Altos and Mountain View Chambers of Commerce; three residents selected by the Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View city councils; three representatives recommended by the district; a Bullis Charter School parent selected by the charter board; and a member of the district administration. Incumbents and past members of the city councils and school district and charter school boards are not eligible to serve.

Baier said the composition is intended to encompass a broad community voice.

“The education of our children is of vital importance to everyone in the community,” he said. “I want to give them a voice in the grand discussion.”

Members will review possible solutions to the student capacity challenges, including, but not limited to, existing school district sites, sites within district boundaries previously considered by the board, purchase or lease of privately owned parcels/facilities for a school site, purchase or lease of publicly owned parcels/facilities for a school site and additional sites or strategies not previously considered.

The group is tasked with determining the benefits, costs and impact of each possible solution; prioritizing and recommending the best solutions; determining whether an additional school site is needed; considering educational recommendations as part of the analysis; and providing an unbiased voice for the broader community and its children.

A district-retained land-use expert with experience determining sites for educational institutions and civic buildings would be available as a consultant.

Meetings, expected to convene around December, will be open and publicized to promote transparency.

District Board President Mark Goines said it is important for the task force to understand the district’s requirements regarding school size.

“I do think we should make sure (task force members) understand and are carefully instructed of our policies on neighborhood schools and school size,” he said. “We believe in that policy; it is a community-centric neighborhood policy.”

Baier said the policy outlines the targets for small, medium and large schools, adding that the neighborhood communities dictate the appropriate sizes. The task force will not address changing the policy but should understand why it is in place.

“As you increase school size, you begin to change the community and the educational dynamic within that school,” Baier said. “We would never want a child to become just another child at the school. Our children are still known by name, and that is of critical importance to us. We factor that into our schools’ successes.”

Goines said the group should evaluate whether the district remains in its current K-6 and junior-high configuration or moves toward a K-5 with a middle-school model. He added that he would like the task force to address the possibility of rolling out full-day kindergartens and how that would affect future facilities plans.

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