LASD, city should use land more efficiently: Other Voices

As a Los Altos School District parent and Los Altos property-tax payer, I have to express my disappointment in the current slate of district trustees and our city council.

The district has been entrusted with $150 million of our money, via Measure N. Apparently, despite calls from the community to ask district officials not to spend more than $75 million of that money to buy outrageously expensive land along the El Camino Real corridor, it is still their No. 1 goal, according to Superintendent Jeff Baier, who said securing acreage is the “best option” for the long term (“LASD continues to gather feedback on Measure N spending,” Jan. 20).

Luckily, no land has been purchased or leased yet, nor should it. The district should use the 100-plus acres it already owns.

There are large campuses (15-20 acres) at Covington, Egan and Blach. If we don’t spend the money buying land, we would have enough of it to upgrade district facilities on those campuses while creating new space for Bullis Charter School.

The money could go toward building decent facilities for the charter school, repurposing and redesigning parking lots, and renovating sports fields and outdated buildings at the Covington, Egan and Blach sites.

Using the land we have more effectively is the answer. That may include adding one to two classrooms at each elementary school and leaving the junior-high model instead of moving to a middle-school model.

The Los Altos City Council has not done any better.

Councilmembers have been asked by residents to work with the district via the Los Altos City-Schools Public Lands Subcommittee to help develop a workable solution that benefits our kids and our entire community. So far, there is little evidence of them working together.

At the most recent subcommittee meeting, the scenarios presented by the district were clunky and unappealing, seemingly meant to point back to the plan to buy or lease more land.

Rather than working to come up with real solutions, district trustees have sat on their hands, wasting valuable time and resources negotiating to buy commercial property.

Another so-called solution the district came up with includes leasing part of the Hillview Community Center site for a school. While this sounds good in theory, it means losing tens of millions of dollars on a lease, upward of $50 million, on land that will never be owned by the school district.

Before anything is done at Hillview, the city council needs to get moving on a real plan for the entire site to determine whether building a school there makes any sense at all.

Nancy Bremeau is a Los Altos resident.

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