Re-open Whisman School?

Community meeting set for May 28 to discuss the idea

A former city of Mountain View official, along with leading members of some Whisman-area neighborhood associations, plan to hold a meeting to discuss the possibility of re-opening Whisman School.

Area homeowners and current or former parents of elementary-age students with an opinion on the matter were invited to attend the event, according to a flyer for the meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 28.

Robert Weaver, former environmental planning commissioner with the city of Mountain View, is spearheading the event. According to Weaver, the meeting is going to be held in a small space, and is intended only for those living in the attendance areas of Whisman and Slater schools.

Both campuses have been closed for some time.

The district originally leased the Whisman campus to the German International School of Silicon Valley in 2000, and recently agreed to allow the school to install some new portable units on the grounds. Slater was leased to Google in 2006 and the search giant currently runs a company childcare facility on the campus.

Speaking for the neighborhoods group in a statement, Weaver wrote that the meeting was being called for a number of reasons.

"The district's recent demographic study, along with the allocation of Measure G bond money throughout the district was a catalyst in bringing together the several neighborhood associations in the Whisman Elementary School area, to explore the possibility of reopening the school," he said. "It has been over a decade since Whisman Elementary closed, and the neighborhood has undergone significant change during that period. The lack of a traditional, walkable neighborhood school has been a concern for many years."

Craig Goldman, the district superintendent, has been invited to the meeting and plans to go. He said he is viewing the meeting as a chance to hear what the community thinks ought to happen in their neighborhood and to answer any questions that may arise.

"I'm interested in hearing what they have to say," Goldman said. "And also discuss issues that might come up when opening a school."

Goldman said he isn't ruling out the possibility of re-opening Whisman in the future, but currently he doesn't think re-opening the school -- or any elementary school in that neighborhood -- is imperative. "Right now, we're able to accommodate the students that we have with the facilities that we have," he said.

The superintendent also underscored Weaver's point, saying that the meeting was not intended to be very large.

Some in the community, including Steven Nelson, a Mountain View Whisman School District trustee, have advocated using Measure G funds to reopen Whisman as a district public school.

When Nelson ran for the school board, he said one of the things he would do when elected is explore the possibility of re-opening a school in the Whisman area. In an interview with the Voice, Nelson said he was pleased to see that a meeting was being held to discuss the future of Whisman.

"What I'm advocating is that there be a real open, public discussion," he said. "I'm happy that the community there has organized."

Those interested in learning more about the event can contact organizers via email at


Posted by Open it ! Pay for it !, a resident of Gemello
on May 21, 2013 at 2:26 pm

I hope they are taking a collection at the door! Bring your checkbooks people.

Posted by Celine, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 21, 2013 at 2:37 pm

It seems like the district is way more interested in packing more kids into classrooms than finding more space for them these days, but good luck to you.

Posted by Old Steve, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 21, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Folks who need this revisited have not been paying attention long enough. Measure G funds can only update the physical plant at Whisman School. They cannot fund a principal, a school secretary, or the utility bills. Nor can Measure G make up for the rent paid by the German School. Proponents should be on the lookout for about $1 million per year they want the Trustees to cut from the other schools to pay for these ongoing expenses and lost revenue. As a comparison, the district spends about $2 million in Parcel Tax revenue each year.

Posted by @ Celine, a resident of Sylvan Park
on May 21, 2013 at 3:30 pm

If our District is more interested in "packing more kids in a classroom", then the Districts who are our neighbors are even MORE interested in that. We have less kids in a classroom than elsewhere.

Posted by @ Old Steve, a resident of Slater
on May 21, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Hey Old Steve,

By your logic, it sounds like the district would be a lot better off if another district elementary school or two were closed, and rented out. Right? Measure G funds could be used to build 2-story buildings at 2 or 3 of the schools, and the rest could be closed down, and rented out, and everyone from the closed neighborhood schools could drive over to those sites?

Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 21, 2013 at 4:51 pm

If I'm not mistaken, enrollment is down to its lowest level in many years. So why reopen the school?

Posted by Old Steve, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 21, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Where is there data that says kids do better in a school of a precise size? When Whisman was closed after the Navy left Moffett field, there were not enough elementary kids in the neighborhood to support a school. The extreme logic the other way is places like Oakland, where there are many small schools still open, even though money is tighter there than in many other districts. We don't need to close other schools, like Whisman needed to be closed at the time. The district's demographic data does not support re-opening neighborhood school at Whisman. I thought we wanted to be a data driven district. When families move into town, data on where schools are located is certainly widely available, so that those who value walking to school can decide what choices to make.

Posted by Herman, a resident of Gemello
on May 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

Renovating Whisman will cost upward of $15M. Running the school for 200 or so kids will cost about $3M per year. The district will loose another $1M in rental income. This money will come presumably by reducing what's available for the other schools in the school district. I am not sure I can see the business justification for taking back Whisman.

Posted by Nicle, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 22, 2013 at 2:46 pm

The education of our children, or of anyone for that matter, should not be a simple business decision.

Posted by Herman, a resident of Gemello
on May 22, 2013 at 3:25 pm

Exactly. A decision in this domain is a complex amalgam of several different criteria. It does not boil down to just one criterion, like the desirability of offering smaller class sizes. One will not get very far if one ignores other relevant factors. Cost is most certainly one of them.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm

"The education of our children, or of anyone for that matter, should not be a simple business decision."

It should. It should be the best education possible for the funds available. Nothing less.

Posted by Connie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 22, 2013 at 7:23 pm


It really depends on the context. For a family, yes please get the best education possible for the funds available. But speaking as a high-tech worker on behalf of businesses, education is not a cost, it's an investment. Businesses are only as competitive as our graduates. New products absolutely rely on the research produced by our universities and research centers. Unfortunately, public school funding for some of the best universities in the world (Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, etc...) has been severely cut. Universities and pure research as the engine of America's economic growth is in jeopardy. First, the death of Bell Labs. And now for the rest.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 23, 2013 at 12:18 pm

@Connie - The context is Whisman, which is a grade school, not a university.

Posted by Make it a charter school, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Make it a charter school

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 24, 2013 at 7:55 am

This Steve is a MVWSD Trustee. Other Steve (Shoreline West) "You are mistaken", the District enrollment is up since Slater closure and it's projected to continue to rise through 2018 (latest Demographic Study, Tables 15, 16, 17, 18). The data from the 2010 US Census, 1708 minors in the two Whisman census tracts, 1616 in the Huff tract (plus it's blocks South of El Camino, and East of highway 85). Now "data" is different than "politics". So be sure you know what game you are playing here!
Steven Nelson one of five MVWSD Trustees
(but Other Steve, business does matter, - you can renovate 5X more classrooms for price of one new, think ROI)

Posted by Steven Nelson, a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 24, 2013 at 8:16 am

to Herman - Your numbers are way off! MVWSD is not getting $1M a year in rent from the German School (and Chinese sublease). The cost of running a 300 kid school (not counting teachers/janitors which are needed anyway) is not $4.5M. (Stevenson School benchmark). So made-up, 'highball' numbers do not really add to this community discussion. Your $15M number is also very unrealistic! No new buildings are needed for over 400 students in the permanent, Class 1 classroom structures at the Whisman site (Conditions & Needs Analysis, pg. 200-220).
Steven Nelson is one of five MVWSD Trustees

Posted by Steve, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 24, 2013 at 10:46 am

@Steven Nelson -

Do you have links for any of the reports you are quoting?
Regarding my remark about enrollment - I was just going by what they said when I registered my kid for kindergarten.

Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Slater
on May 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm

gcoladon is a registered user.

@ non-Nelson Steve:

I am very interested in hearing more about "what they said when [you] registered [your] kid for kindergarten", could you elaborate?

Posted by Connie, a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 24, 2013 at 2:38 pm

A better investment for Mtn View would be a location in a more attractive, growing area. We want to continue to attract young tech workers into the Mtn View economy, and those folks are not going to want their kids to be near a dying area & Superfund site.

Posted by Old Steve, a resident of Rex Manor
on May 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm

There are apparently too many Steve's interested in this subject. When Whisman Station opened, it should have increased Slater enrollment. When it did not, that School Board decided, after quite a bit of community involvement to close Slater. Apparently, whatever kids live in Whisman Station still are not interested in MVWSD schools, or there are not many of them. For working parents, Whisman is not really a walkable school from Whisman Station. Slater is across the street, but that was not good enough for high tech parents last time. I would support a set aside in Measure G to re-open Whisman School, but not until the operational funding picture is clear enough, or the enrollment trends are more clear. An extra Principal and utilities on an extra school site were almost $400,000 when the decision was made to close Whisman. Those figures have got to be higher now.

Posted by Herman, a resident of Gemello
on May 24, 2013 at 6:58 pm

to Nelson Steve

Rent MVWSD receives is indeed between $900K and $1M. I suggest you double-check. Should not be that difficult, as a trustee.

Posted by David, a resident of Monta Loma
on May 25, 2013 at 9:28 am

Kids are safer and more likey to learn at home, on-line or in small classrooms and schools. There can be no terrorist attack or crazy person attack on home schoolers. Diseases are not transmitted through home schooling. . Access to public schools should be on a sliding school. Poor families should not be charged but rich folks should pay to enroll their kids in public schools. Most taxpayers never had children in public schools. Ehy should we all pay for some rich people in the Los Altos District, for example, who want a school in Mountain View so their kids do not need to encounter kids whose parents are not rich? Well, the rich have always used government to their advantage.

Posted by gcoladon, a resident of Slater
on May 27, 2013 at 3:09 pm

gcoladon is a registered user.

@ Herman,

Are you looking at the total annual district rental income? Because, the school district has more than one tenant. The amount of rent we should be discussing would be the rent paid for the Whisman site. Google apparently pays much more rent for the Slater site. I think you may be looking at the total of these two, and others.

Posted by Garrett, a resident of another community
on May 27, 2013 at 4:48 pm

Whisman and Slater was built to handle the post war baby boom that produced hundreds of school age kids from acres of new tract homes. Small more about Whisman, which was a larger replacement school.

If a school is needed, open a K to 2 school. Add grades when needed. Good that we kept 2 school sites in reserve.

We haven't seen the baby boom like after WW2 but we might have to turn schools into senior centers some day.

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