| After considering nearly 50 different proposed scenarios for boundary changes in the Los Altos School District, board members Monday night reached a decision that will affect more than 200 Mountain View students.
In a 3-2 vote, the school board chose "Scenario 2.3" over two other scenarios on the table, "L.1" and "V.2."
Scenario 2.3 addresses the overcrowding in the district's northernmost schools, Almond and Santa Rita, in several ways. It moves 122 students living north of El Camino Real in the Crossings and Showers Drive neighborhoods out of Santa Rita Elementary School and into Covington Elementary, which is located south of El Camino Real.
It also shifts 22 students living in the Yerba Santa Triangle neighborhoods south of El Camino, currently attending Santa Rita, into Bullis Elementary School. And it takes about 60 Mountain View students living in the Hollingsworth and Gilmore neighborhood schools out of Almond and into Springer Elementary.
The changes would be effective beginning in the 2008-09 school year. Exactly which students will be taken from each school (referred to as the "grandfathering policy") will be debated next year.
Board members Bill Cooper and Mark Goines voted against 2.3, favoring other plans.
"It's done," Cooper said, immediately after the motion passed. The audience applauded the ending of an extended process which had gone on for nearly six months and concluded just after midnight.
Parents living in the Hollingsworth and Gilmore neighborhoods -- dubbed 'H2G' during the process -- have opposed the plan from the beginning, because it would require them to drive their children to Springer, when they can currently walk to Almond.
"I feel badly for the H2G group that will have to drive," said Goines. But he said there was no way to please every neighborhood during the process.
Board member David Luskin reasoned that "If we keep H2G at Almond, we go to a four-school solution north of El Camino." He said he opposed splitting the neighborhoods north of El Camino into four different schools, because it would be too many schools for one area.
Residents of the Hollingsworth and Gilmore neighborhoods vented their frustrations over a drawn-out process that was not going in their favor. One father from there said it appeared that "students are being arbitrarily sacrificed to make the numbers work."
Mark Friedman, a parent from the H2G area, said the board "veered from scenario to scenario, tweaking them all the time. I don't know if the latest set of scenarios is any better than the ones we started out with."
The district's hired demographer, Jeanne Gobalet, seemed to support that interpretation, saying at one point that the process had "invaded her nightmares." However, she also noted that in her experience, the process of redrawing boundary lines is always especially difficult in affluent communities like these.
"In communities where there are quite a large number of well-educated and successful people, you find they want to get involved in the process, they want to exhaust every option and use every tool they can," she said.
"People who are more successful get used to influencing their lives," she said.
While Gobalet was satisfied with the district's choice -- "it will work," she said -- she added there was no perfect solution for the community, based on the distribution of students and the locations of the school sites.
A common theme among speakers Monday night was the need to look into creating another school in the north of El Camino area. Several suggested converting the Egan Camp site, located at Egan Junior High School, into an elementary school.
Board member Margot Harrigan warned against that path because, she said, it would diminish the quality of the junior high school at Egan, and would create an unfair imbalance between the Egan and Blach in the district.
"Let's not get too far down the road," she said. "Let's work with what we have."
Harrigan also said there was no way the district could afford to buy enough land -- about 16 acres -- north of El Camino for a new elementary school, but board member Goines disagreed.
"It would cost about fifty million," he said, adding that the district would need a new parcel tax to generate the funds.
"We should rule it out only if we think the voters wouldn't support it," he said.
The board has agreed to allow a task force to be formed to study that issue. For now, the district is going ahead with a traffic study of Scenario 2.3, the results of which will be released in the fall.
The board did not line up a backup scenario, and members were confident that Scenario 2.3 will pass muster in the traffic study.
"We've put this community through enough," Cooper said. "It's going to work. It's obviously not perfect for everyone, but parents can know their kids will still be going to great schools."
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