The city of Mountain View is helping the Los Altos School District secure a property in the north of El Camino Real area for a new school. Finally, the 600 students living north of El Camino but sent to three schools up to 3 miles away – Covington, Santa Rita and Almond – can have a school in their neighborhood.
The district prides itself on providing K-6 neighborhood schools for its students, with this exception. Most parents will affirm that having a neighborhood school builds community, with children and their parents making lifelong friends through school and outside activities shared together.
Some contend that the district is making the “biggest mistake” by using bond money to buy land there when there is so much existing school acreage. No, that does not solve the neighborhood school issue for the north of El Camino students or relieve the attendance numbers experienced by these 600 students at existing K-6 schools. North of El Camino property owners have had a portion of their tax money sent by Santa Clara County to the Los Altos School District, and it has received developers’ fees (set by the district) levied in the north of El Camino area. It is time to use it.
Actually, the “biggest mistake” is selecting the Old Mill/Safeway site for the new school. This decision was made in large part because it is centrally located in this north of El Camino area. Looking at the boundary map for the seven K-6 schools, few are located near their boundary center. It doesn’t have to be so in this area, which is small and densely populated. It is a lousy choice for student safety, with heavily traveled California Street and San Antonio Road at the corner of this site, plus the noise of trains behind it. Also, purchasing these properties through eminent domain will mean two lawsuits and, if successful, this area will lose the potential for much needed new residences that are planned.
The Los Altos School District has this one opportunity to get it right. The ideal location for the new school is the Target property along Showers Drive. It is approximately 1.6 acres larger, which will mean more parkland for the city of Mountain View – a win-win for the city and the school. With the school located where the old Target building is, there will be residential buildings behind it, not car noise and exhaust pollution, less traffic, better access onto the site and additional parking available, if needed, across the street. There is one owner, the Pear family.
This new school should not become a school for Bullis Charter School. Bullis students from all over the district will have to be driven to and from the new school, while at the same time the north of El Camino students are driven away from their own neighborhood to various schools. This is utter folly. This should not happen.
Once this 10th school is built at the Target site and the 600 north of El Camino students are in school, there will be options for the district to provide a school for Bullis Charter School.
The district is mandated to provide Bullis Charter School a school similar to what other district students have, so it should be for K-6 students. Egan Junior High and Blach Intermediate schools can continue for the district’s seventh- and eighth-graders, or maybe they can be combined onto one campus.
I suggest that Santa Rita be selected as the Bullis Charter School K-6 site. It is on the periphery of the district, thereby maintaining the centrally located schools. Santa Rita students can then be assigned to Covington, which is approximately 2.2 miles away with just one major roadway to cross. The district will need to set population limitations for Bullis Charter School so that it fits within the neighborhood.
Those Santa Rita and Almond students living north of El Camino should be assigned to the new 10th school. It is always difficult to assign students to a new school, but youngsters are resilient and will adjust. It has happened in the Los Altos School District many times before.
Andi Sandstrom is a Mountain View resident.