It was standing room at the local high school district's Feb. 13 board meeting, as supporters of the preschool and residents of the Waverly Park neighborhood to speak out against the plan to move students at Terra Bella onto the high school campus.
Those opposed to the proposal worried that bringing the county continuation school to the area would bring an increase in crime and juvenile delinquency to the neighborhood, and said that the district should figure out a way to solve the issue some other way. Other speakers said that the preschool, which also functions as a parenting class, is an invaluable community resource.
Board members were sympathetic to the community's concerns — pledging to look for other solutions — but made no explicit promises that the Parent Observation Parent Education Program could remain at its current location.
"We don't want to close the Parent Observation Program," said Phil Faillace, president of the board of trustees, noting that he strongly believes in the value of preschool and parent education. "If it turns out that we need their space, perhaps the parent observation program could find a new space and continue to run their program."
Melissa Neumann, a parent who is active in the preschool, said if the district moves forward, the outcome would be disastrous for the preschool.
Considering the short amount of time the school would have to find a new space if it were forced out, it would likely spell the end for the organization, which serves about 150 families each year and has been a part of the community since 1968, according to Neumann.
State Sen. Elaine Alquist called the program "one of the most valuable resources for parents and children in the local community," according to a press release asking for community opposition to the proposal.
On Jan. 31, the Santa Clara County Office of Education informed the Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District that it would not be able to renew its lease on the Terra Bella County School at 1012 Linda Vista Ave. at the end of this school year. That means that the county-run alternative school — which educates high-risk students from a number of cities, including San Jose, Fremont and Mountain View — will be closed next fall, and all of its students will need to be moved to similar programs elsewhere.
MVLA district officials have a variety of options of where to move the 20 or so of its students who currently attend Terra Bella, including busing them to a county-run facility in San Jose or finding a place for them within the district.
Barry Groves, superintendent of the district, said busing the students to San Jose would be both expensive and a liability. The most feasible option would be to put the students in the building that currently houses the preschool, he said.
The proposal came as a shock to both parents and officials with the preschool, who found out Feb. 9, as well as to those living in the area surrounding Mountain View High School.
"We were very surprised," Neumann said. "We had no notice."
Neumann acknowledged that the district could not control the terms of the county's lease agreement. Nonetheless, she said, the fact that the district notified the preschool of its proposal to evict it less than a week before the board meeting felt sneaky. "I wish they would have been more forthcoming," she said.
According to board president Faillace, the district needed time to figure out its options after learning about the county's plans to close the Terra Bella campus. He pointed out that the item on Monday's board meeting agenda was strictly informational — held specifically to allow for community input. If the board wanted to sneak this item by, they could have put it to a vote that night, he said.
Faillace also said he understands the concerns of the residents living in the Waverly Park neighborhood, as well as the parents of high school students and children attending the nearby Mountain View Parent Nursery School.
Alice Cota, who lives within one block of the Parent Participation Preschool, said she opposes moving the district's highest-risk students to the site.
"We already deal with what I believe is a higher number of incidences by living next to a typical high school and a continuation high school at this point," Cota said, referring to Mountain View and Alta Vista high schools, which are located on the same campus at 3535 Truman Ave.
She said there is a lot of litter and that she knows of three daytime break-ins in recent memory. While she can't be certain that high school students are to blame for all of it, she worries that if more teens — especially high-risk teens — are added to the mix, these problems will only get worse.
Complaints such as Cota's have not fallen on deaf ears, Faillace insisted. The board has instructed the superintendent's office to assemble a task force to explore whether another facility in the district might be found for Terra Bella students.
However, Faillace said the board may have to move forward with the proposal even though it is not "the ideal situation."