"We are asking the board for clemency, more time, help or all of the above," said Dara Gray Tynefield, board president emeritus for the Los Altos Parent Preschool, at the high school district's board meeting on Aug. 9. "If the move date remains June of 2011, it could be the end of LAPP."
Tynefield, along with three other women, pressed the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District board at its Monday meeting, voicing their support for the preschool and its low-cost, pre-kindergarten education. Tynefield said that she has exhausted just about every avenue she could think of in her search for a new home for the school. She has talked to elementary school districts in both Mountain View and Los Altos, both city councils, the local community college district and more than 40 churches.
The district, in preparing for an estimated 25-percent increase in its student body by 2020, has informed the preschool that it must leave its current location on the Los Altos campus before June 15, 2011.
The preschool's lease with the district is scheduled to end in 2014. However, the district reserved the right to terminate that agreement early.
Los Altos Parent Preschool is a cooperative, where parents give a portion of their time — about one day a week, on average, according to Tynefield — to volunteer. The preschool, which Tynefield estimates serves about 60 families annually, is a part of the Mountain View-Los Altos adult education program, although it has run independently of district funding since its subsidies were cut last year. Parents earn credit for the time they volunteer at the preschool, as they receive instruction from program staff and work with the children to apply what they learn.
The preschool is open to families of all income levels, even if they don't live in the high school district. Scholarships are offered to low-income families.
Tynefield said that parent participation in the program keeps tuition down. The preschool offers multiple programs for different age groups with tuition ranging from $1,900 to $3,600 annually. "Simply, we cannot afford commercial rents and offer the quality program we do, at an accessible tuition," she said.
In contrast, monthly tuition for Wonder World Preschool in Mountain View is $950 for half-day preschool for 2- and 3-year-olds; tuition for Action Day Primary Plus preschool in Mountain View can run as much as $1,524 per month for the pre-kindergarten.
The adult-education component makes the preschool even more indispensable to the community, Tynefield said.
"We educate our parents," she told the board, saying that the parent-participation model would be threatened if the preschool were forced to move.
As a mother of three, Tynefield said she understands the district's concern with meeting the anticipated demand of a growing student population — her children will one day be in high school and she said she wants the best for them when they get there. However, she said, if the site of the preschool is going to be used for "one more classroom or parking spaces, I think it's worthy of a community conversation about what's more important."
While board members expressed sympathy for Tynefield and the other supporters, they maintained their stance. In anticipation of a large influx of students over the next decade, they said that they need the space on the west end of the Los Altos High School campus. The preschool moved there in 1998 from its original location at a local church.
"We need that space to accommodate students," said Barry Groves, district superintendent. Groves called the program "outstanding," and said that he participated in a similar program in Petaluma when his children were young.
Joe White, superintendent of business services for the district, said that Los Altos High School can expect about 450 additional students over the next 10 years, and that the district would like to use the 15,000 square feet now occupied by the preschool's parking area, playground and portable classrooms to accommodate that growth.
"We need all the space we can get," he said.
White said the district has made no final decision as to how the space will be used. It is possible that the preschool's portable classroom will be used for high school students. The land may also be cleared to make way for new construction.
"I'm disappointed," Tynefield said of the board's decision. "We were hoping that they would reconsider their decision."
Tynefield is optimistic that although the board members are not going to change their minds, they may help the preschool find a new home.
After Tynefield spoke, board member Julia Rosenberg told her that the two of them might speak "offline" about how the district could help. Tynefield said she has already begun talks with some board members who have new ideas for locations for the preschool.
"We would like to help you find a home for your fabulous program," Rosenberg said at the meeting. "Unfortunately, it cannot be at Los Altos High School."