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School boundary process fraught with distractions

Original post made on Jun 8, 2007

As a resident and taxpayer in Los Altos for almost 30 years, I am very distressed by the process and possible outcome of the planned redistricting of the elementary schools. It appears that safety, health, traffic and common sense have taken a back seat to public displays of protest, parades, newspaper letters, articles and editorials.

Read the full story here Web Link

Comments (17)

Posted by Matt Raschke, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:08 am

Jarin wrote: "Make the important principles — safety, health and minimizing total traffic — central to the redistricting decision."

If that is truly your recommendation, then the Board should adopt a more sensible plan such as shifting 6th grade to the Middle Schools and converting Covington into a third Middle School. They could also consider moving Bullis Charter School (BCS) to the renovated Bullis-Purissima campus and NOT opening a new elementary school there.

Both options would free up classrooms in the north end of the District where the room is needed. Remember, you said you didn't want more driving. Many families North of El Camino walk and bike to Santa Rita. For some of them it is because they don't have other transportation options (i.e. they don't own two cars!). My family uses Peninsula Day Care Center (PDCC). PDCC is far more affordable than the onsite aftercare programs at LASD schools. PDCC also buses our children with many others to and from Santa Rita. PDCC has stated that they will not serve Covington or Bullis-Purissima.

Los Altos and Mountain View are both growing steadily. Los Altos student population is growing at 1.5 times the rate of Mountain View.
Web Link
The attendance boundary solutions being considered right now will not mitigate this growth in the long run. Los Altos School District had over 5000 students at its peak. It is currently around 4000 students with a much larger housing base than in the past, and more housing is still being added.

P.S. Please note that this is an attendance boundary decision, not redistricting.


Posted by Amy Reilly, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 9:56 am

Jarin wrote: "These parents knew they would have to provide transportation for their children to and from school when they purchased (or rented) their homes. This decision was made so their children could benefit from high-quality schools, many without paying into the property tax base and school bond assessments. A similar example could be people who move into a home close to an airport, or freeway, and then complain that there is too much noise and others should be inconvenienced or pay the cost to mitigate their situation."

When I purchased my home in the Crossings, I had a reasonable expectation that my child could attend one of the two schools within a mile and a half radius of my home. It is not simply a matter of driving further to attend school; please consider the natural social interactions that come from shopping in the same stores, playing in the same parks, participating in the same sports teams or casual pick-up games and other aspects of daily life. These things do not occur with the same frequency if many of my child's classmates are doing these activites elsewhere because of geography. Also, moving North of El Camino to further schools only displaces the traffic concern, it does not mitigate it - which is possible with a clear plan to address growth with more proximate schools. Further, I plan to have my children bike to school as they get older, but that is only possible if the school is close enough to make that safe. The further the schools are, the less likely that solution and I will be driving up San Antonio or El Monte for more years than necessary.

The school district should do everything in its power to allow all students to attend their closest schools for traffic mitigation and for the health and happiness of school communities.



Posted by Phil Aaronson, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:30 am

I bought, and pay taxes on my home in the Crossings with the expressed intention of DRIVING LESS. The Crossings is located opposite the San Antonio Caltrain station, and I'll typically go a week or more without ever getting in the car. That includes getting to work. I did not buy my home thinking I would need to drive my child across Los Altos each day.

Our neighborhood has been assigned to a different school every time there has been a rezoning. This is what, the fourth or fifth time in 12 years? At some point your arguments about the small fraction of people who "walk" to school before getting in their cars to go to work needs to take a back seat to the educational quality of my neighborhood's children. Moving them every three years is not the best this district can do.


Posted by Phyllis Michel, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 10:50 am

I believe Mr. Feldstein's statement that "many (NEC families benefit)without paying into the property tax base and school bond assessments" is incorrect. I am certain the LASD school bonds appear on our ballots and not MV-Whisman's. And since more of the housing north of El Camino is new, I'd bet the average property taxes per household is not as different from Los Altos as expected just from the difference in housing prices.


Posted by Jin Thui, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2007 at 11:01 am

Jarin wrote: "This decision was made so their children could benefit from high-quality schools, many without paying into the property tax base and school bond assessments. "

What difference does it make who pays the taxes and bond assessments directly? The property owners do pay those and if they're landlords, their renters will pay indirectly for those costs in their rent. Rents on the north side of El Camino can easily exceed the mortgage payments of hundreds of long time Los Altos residents. Furthermore, the contributions of those residents to the property tax base is capped by Prop 13. The owner of a $500,000 condo pays between $6-7K in property taxes a year, but the 30 year resident of Los Altos pays, what, $600/year?

How does re-opening Bullis-Purissima contribute to economic and social diversity? If anything, it reduces it by concentrating the children of the very wealthy in their own school. Shouldn't we be distributing them among 4 or 5 schools too? "This is not a matter of discrimination. It is a matter of common sense." What about Springer? It's percentage of white students is not in balance with that of other schools in the district. Should we be targeting an area of Springer's enrollment and distributing them elsewhere in the district to achieve social diversity?


Posted by Ari Polidi, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 11:15 am

Jarin wrote "public displays of protest, parades, newspaper letters, articles and editorials" Every community has the right to voice their opinions in a civil way. I disagree with Jarin's views, but I would not restrict his rights to voice them. Jarin in the same manner should not restrict or condone others.

Jarin wrote an analogy regarding an airport. The analogy is false. We bought our homes with the logical expectation that the closest schools would be the ones our children would attend. Here the "airport" continual changes location. In the eleven years that I have lived in the crossings, the target school has changed several times. The district does not have good grandfathering clauses forcing siblings of different ages to go to different schools.

Jarin's letter has the position that the NEC community came later so they should be quiet and take what is given to them. I hope the school board takes the broader view that we are all part of the same community and all our voices have the same value. It is my expectation the board has detailed and fair criteria for boundary changes and then follows them. I expect the board will look for a solution that will work for many years to come.


Posted by Lee Goldman, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 11:18 am

The comment "As to economic and social diversity, it would seem that disbursing students from north of El Camino among multiple schools (more than two) is much more desirable. This is not a matter of discrimination. It is a matter of common sense."

How does this make any sense? How is it much more desirable? Desirable for whom????

I purchased my house in the Crossings in 2005 and think that the prop taxes I pay into the LASD is pretty substantial due to the high tax basis of the Crossings. None of us here benefit from a low tax basis--- like Feldstein for being a 30 year resident. I am more than willing to pay my share--- in fact it was one of the main reasons we purchased here. I knew about my tax basis before purchasing. For Feldstein to say that the Crossings is not paying their share into LASD and therefore is benefiting unfairly is dead wrong.




Posted by Ashamed to be a Los Altos resident, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:12 pm

I find this comment by Mr. Feldstein absurd:

"At a time when we are encouraging children and their parents to conserve energy, reduce pollution, get more exercise, and reduce childhood obesity problems, redistricting youngsters who can safely walk wastes energy, increases pollution and deprives both children and adults of an opportunity for regular, healthy exercise."

Let's not be so narrow minded by targeting people who are less well off than us. If you want to conserve energy and reduce pollution, let's look in our own front yard! Let's start with the banning gas lawnmowers in Los Altos. All my neighbors as far as I can see from my house, have a yard service that comes weekly to mow their expansive front and back lawns. It is estimated that 1 hour of lawn mower use spews out as much exhaust as driving hundreds of miles in a car! I myself have switched to an electric mower and occasionally will use a classic push mower!

Web Link

Let's ban the incandescent light in Los Altos. "Each time you choose a compact fluorescent light bulb over an incandescent bulb, for example, you'll lower your energy bill and keep nearly 700 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the air over the bulb's lifetime." How many of my neighbors have their artwork bathed in halogen light?

Web Link

Today I dropped my child off at school, on my way to work, in my 40+ mile per gallon Honda Civic Hybrid. While I was there, I saw kids being dropped off by a 19 mpg Mercedes ML class SUVs a 12 mpg Suburban, a 16 mpg Volvo XC90 and a 17 mpg BMW 5 series. I honestly doubt those parents are from the other side of El Camino, do you?

Do you really think that a half mile walk will keep our kids fit? A leisurely half mile walk by a hundred pound kid will burn 30 calories and round trip, 60. It will be even less for smaller kids. Are other parents in Los Altos really using that to control their kids' weight? Instead they should be promoting healthy diets and actively involved with their children after school and on weekends. They need to make sure their kids get plenty of exercise instead of sitting in front of their 50" plasmas playing Xbox 360.

Web Link

I think many of us in Los Altos, like Mr. Feldstein, are afraid of change and would rather find ways to stall it or lessen its effects on us. He prefers hiding behind the 'issues' quoted above and singling out a group of people on the other side of El Camino to take the hit. Instead he should be sharing the burden with those families, many of whom have children who are friends with our children.


Posted by Disinterested party, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:16 pm

Phyllis is correct that the property taxes, school bonds and parcel taxes that those MV and PA residents who live within LASD boundaries pay go to LASD. So they are paying the same fair share as homeowners in Los Altos. Los Altos residents who live in the Cupertino school district have their school-designated property taxes paid to CUSD, not LASD.


Posted by I'm glad I don't live near Los Altos, a resident of another community
on Jun 8, 2007 at 12:27 pm

I wonder how many others in Los Altos besides the author incorrectly think that MV & PA residents are freeloading off their property tax base. It's this kind of thinking that got us into Iraq searching for WMD.


Posted by Anjana Parker, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Mr. Feldstein writes:

"As to economic and social diversity, it would seem that disbursing students from north of El Camino among multiple schools (more than two) is much more desirable. This is not a matter of discrimination. It is a matter of common sense."

These comments are extremely offensive to say the least. The goal of a public school is to serve the nearby population within its district boundaries. And the student population should reflect the diversity that comes from the location of the school. A proposal to distribute the students among other schools far from their homes to create a 'simulated diversity' is simply frightening!

I am simply dismayed that such a proposal continues to remain on the district website.

I hope Mr. Feldstein is alone in his opinion. However, if other residents of Los Altos feel that their children suffer from a lack of
"diversity" in their schools, I suggest spending some time in local charities and shelters helping out those in need. It would be a far more enriching experience than putting other children from the district far from their homes so that the others living in more insular communities can experience diversity.

Anjana Parker


Posted by Amanda, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:09 pm

Last I checked, the Monroe Park neighbourhood of Palo Alto IS North of El Camino. You acknowledge that they can walk, and seem to believe that the rest of the North of El Camino can not? I'll tell you now that that is inaccurate, as are the rest of the above assumptions.


Posted by Tanya Raschke, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 8, 2007 at 1:54 pm

Jarin Feldstein writes, "I urge the Los Altos School District board to see through the political games offered by some district residents. Make the important principles — safety, health and minimizing total traffic — central to the redistricting decision."

Perhaps he should review the LASD Mission Statement:

Develop confident, successful students in an optimal learning environment that builds on a tradition of academic excellence and fosters critical and creative thinking, strong character traits and a love of learning in each child.

Adopted by the Board of Trustees,
April 23, 2007

Hmmm, transportation is not mentioned there. However, the learning of EACH child is! That means EVERY SINGLE ONE, not just those that live in a particular area code. It is unquestionable that placing an undue burden on a small geographic area will negatively impact the families and children living there.

The "Growth Problem" of our District is not centered in a particular area, rather all areas are increasing in students. There must be a District Wide solution to this problem. If the majority of the District residents are unwilling to move, then alternative solutions, those that put classrooms where are kids are, must be found.


Posted by Konstantin Martynenko, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 9, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Jarin Feldstein writes, "• As to economic and social diversity, it would seem that disbursing students from north of El Camino among multiple schools (more than two) is much more desirable. This is not a matter of discrimination. It is a matter of common sense."

I would like to ask the author. What common sense is she talking about? And btw we are paying same property taxes to LASD as she is.

Jarin Feldstein writes, "Having lived on Almond Avenue for nearly 30 years, I have watched school traffic increase and have observed vehicle-versus-pedestrian accidents. How can any Los Altos resident condone increased traffic congestion at or around our schools?"

You schools? Since when public school became your schools? As as mentioned above we "Norht of El Camino" paying same property taxes to LASD so these schools are as much ours as yours. We live in country where every citizen has the same rights, and what ever school board is doing right now looks like a pure example of discrimination based on the income level, but we "Norht of El Camino" community donating a lot of money and our own time to "YOUR" schools so these schools can be even better.
Just my 2 cents.


Posted by Mithu Ranjan, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jun 11, 2007 at 8:34 am

It is really saddening and upsetting to read the author's opinions. I was proud to be an American (justice for all). I was not aware that people who live in expensive houses, (consequently pay more taxes) are entitled to high-quality schools and others are not.

If you stand at El camino,during school hours, you will see students walk home across El Camino everyday. If fact these residents walk to grocery stores and to shop. I hope this is the view of an individual. I am afraid of children growing up with similar views.
Such views from residents, simply bifurcate the community.


Posted by sJ, a resident of another community
on Jun 26, 2007 at 2:17 pm

It is ridiculous for kids who are living in the Hollingsworth to Gilmore streets to be sent to a different school other than Almond. For example, Gilmore st and almond avenue are practically the same street if Springer and Elmonte were not cutting through.

moreover, i see in bay area that the prices of the house is related to the school district very tighly. Why should we pay high price and pay high tax and drive our kids over to a school farther, while people at NEC pay a relatively cheaper house and pay less tax and send their kids to a school like Almond ?

Mithu Ranjan says "I was not aware that people who live in expensive houses, (consequently pay more taxes) are entitled to high-quality schools and others are not."

I am sure only people who can afford can send their kids to Ivy league schools and pay huge tuition fees. On the same token, only people who can afford to live in expensive neighborhoods will be able to send their kids to a higher quality schools.



Posted by Amanda, a resident of The Crossings
on Jun 26, 2007 at 7:03 pm

"I am sure only people who can afford can send their kids to Ivy league schools and pay huge tuition fees. On the same token, only people who can afford to live in expensive neighborhoods will be able to send their kids to a higher quality schools."

The key difference here is that Ivy League schools are private.

So your example is not apples to apples.

I agree that it's unfortunate that H2G is having to go further up the road to Springer. The whole situation is unfortunate. However, your feeling of entitlement is displaced here. Public education is PUBLIC education.

If you want to use your money to send your child to a "better" school, private schools are always an option for you as well.


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