News

Upgrades on the way for some MV Whisman schools

Board gives the OK to start building designs for four schools, others must wait

Old, leaky building riddled with dry rot soon will be a thing of the past for elementary schools like Monta Loma. The Mountain View Whisman School District approved building plans last week that will bring many of its elementary schools up to a "common standard," including spacious libraries and multipurpose rooms.

But questions still remain on what to do with Stevenson and Theuerkauf Elementary, which share a site with limited space, and whether the $43 million earmarked for upgrades to Castro Elementary could use a little trimming.

Members of the District Facilities Committee spent the last six months figuring out how to spend the remaining $100 million in Measure G bond money on new school facilities and renovated classrooms, and developed a base facility standard that keeps all the schools within the budget and fairly similar to one another.

"There's a principle of equality here," said committee member Patrick Neschleba. "You're not going to have one school that has a better multi-use room than another. You're not going to have another school that has a better library than another."

The facilities standards call for new, 3,000-square-foot libraries and administration buildings at each school, as well as multipurpose rooms big enough to house the school's entire student population at the same time. The standards also call for modernization of existing classrooms and any new classrooms needed to bump schools up to a total of 18 classrooms.

What's local journalism worth to you?

Support Mountain View Online for as little as $5/month.

Learn more

Board members voted 4-1 for the plans, with board member Greg Coladonato dissenting. Coladonato said he wanted to see more trade-offs and more options that would bring the total cost of the projects both over and under the $100 million budget. His concern, he said, is that construction costs will go over-budget and there won't be enough money left for the schools scheduled to get upgrades last.

But picking and choosing from the list may cause some problems, according to Todd Lee, construction project manager for Greystone West. Lee said Bubb, Huff and Landels Elementary all have libraries and multi-use rooms with serious seismic issues that need to be addressed, and called the current facilities "dysfunctional" and in need of an upgrade.

"You're talking about leaving libraries at those three sites at a 2,400-square-foot portable," he said. "You're leaving your multi-use room with horribly undersized kitchens."

If multi-use rooms or libraries are cut from the project list, Lee said it would also lead to disparities across the district and substandard facilities at some schools that could mean the difference between a 5,000-square-foot library and a portable that's half the size.

Lee said there will be some places to make cuts later on, but the savings won't be enough to open a school in the Whisman and Slater neighborhood area.

Stay informed

Get daily headlines sent straight to your inbox.

Sign up

"I promise you I will come back to you with some options to cut costs," Lee said. "I do not believe you're going to find enough options to cut costs out of this to be able to afford your ninth campus."

The board agreed to have construction start at Monta Loma Elementary first, which has the highest maintenance costs of any school in the district. Monta Loma missed out on some improvements during the district's last bond measure because bond funds ran out, and the aging facilities dating back to the 1950s have dry rot and issues related to drainage and leakage problems.

The committee made a number of cuts and slimmed down the project list to stay in the budget, including ditching solar panels, flexible classroom walls and extra outdoor study areas for the schools.

Special ed classrooms added

While previous recommendations from the committee said there was no room in the budget for permanent special education classrooms at all of the sites, Neschleba said district staff revisited the plans and found that a portion of the 4,000 square feet designated for "multi-use space" can be set aside to construct additional classrooms at a no extra cost.

At the May 21 board meeting, some board members voiced concerns that the committee's recommendations included upgrades to the elementary school kitchens but left out the special education classrooms. Parents complained that students in special education are routinely transferred from school to school when enrollment numbers rise at a campus and space gets tight, causing stress and trauma to their children.

Board president Chris Chiang said he had trouble approving $2.5 million for new kitchens when special education classrooms are left out of the budget.

Both are now included in the final recommendations, but Neschleba defended the decision to include the "full-prep" kitchens in the plans at the June 11 meeting. He said the district stands to reduce its operating costs by enticing more kids with food prepared on-site, rather than having it shipped in from the central kitchen at Crittenden Middle School, and it would help to reduce the stigma associated with school food.

"There are schools in our district where getting school lunch is a sign that you're socio-economically disadvantaged," Neschleba said. "Getting more kids to participate in the lunch program because they want to is going to reduce that stigma."

Decision held off for Theuerkauf and Stevenson

Absent from the recommendations at the board meeting were any specific plans on what to do with Theuerkauf Elementary and the Stevenson PACT program, which share a site next to the district office.

The District Facilities Committee left money in the budget for both schools, but scrapped its earlier recommendation to have the campuses share a new multi-use room and library. Instead, the committee recommended that the board continue to study ways the two schools can share the 17-acre site. And while the district prepares to draft designs for Monta Loma, Huff, Bubb and Landels, PACT parents and teachers voiced frustration that upgrades to their parent-participation school have been put off.

Jennifer Pierson, a PACT parent, told the board she wanted the renovations for Stevenson PACT sooner rather than later, and that the inadequate, small portables on the campus continue to hinder the students' ability to learn. Pierson said when the school invites an author to speak to kids as part of Project Cornerstone, only two grade levels can see the presentation at a time because of the space constraints of the 1,600-square-foot multi-use room. She said the library is only 960 square feet, meaning only 20 to 25 kids can be inside at a time.

"Our teachers and families work very hard to make sure our facilities situation is not detrimental to our students' learning, and inevitably it is," Pierson said.

PACT teacher Terri Hygate urged the board to move Stevenson to the head of the pack for facilities improvements. She said the school continues to operate out of the worst facilities in the district despite a promise from the district that the current facilities are temporary and would be replaced with bigger, permanent buildings.

Hygate explained that her cramped, 700-square-foot kindergarten classroom housed 28 children last year, and while the school's other kindergarten classroom is slightly larger, they had a student in a wheelchair.

"To make that facility ADA compliant our other kindergarten teacher had to remove every single chair from that classroom so the children had to work the whole year standing up," Hygate said.

Coladonato said he has been against approving any capital plan that leaves out schools for months, and that his biggest fear is that the school district is going to run out of money. He said that extends to the board's decision last year to commit $58 million to the middle schools without considering what trade-offs would need to be made for the elementary schools.

The committee recommended against delaying a decision to go forward with plans for Monta Loma, Bubb, Huff and Landels, emphasizing that the district has already lost millions in "opportunity costs" by delaying construction projects. Neschleba said the district loses about $220,000 every week that it waits, and encouraged board members to keep that in mind as they make decisions on how to move forward.

While district staff still need to figure out what to do with Stevenson PACT and Theuerkauf, and schematic designs for Castro Elementary have yet to go through a careful vetting process outside of the Castro Site Planning Committee, Neschleba encouraged the board to get moving on the uncontroversial projects at Monta Loma, Bubb, Huff and Landels as soon as possible.

"There's 2,150 students in those schools today," Neschleba said. "We don't think they should be waiting while the district figures out what to do with the rest of the schools."

Craving a new voice in Peninsula dining?

Sign up for the Peninsula Foodist newsletter.

Sign up now

Follow Mountain View Voice Online on Twitter @mvvoice, Facebook and on Instagram @mvvoice for breaking news, local events, photos, videos and more.

Upgrades on the way for some MV Whisman schools

Board gives the OK to start building designs for four schools, others must wait

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, Jun 18, 2015, 9:57 am

Old, leaky building riddled with dry rot soon will be a thing of the past for elementary schools like Monta Loma. The Mountain View Whisman School District approved building plans last week that will bring many of its elementary schools up to a "common standard," including spacious libraries and multipurpose rooms.

But questions still remain on what to do with Stevenson and Theuerkauf Elementary, which share a site with limited space, and whether the $43 million earmarked for upgrades to Castro Elementary could use a little trimming.

Members of the District Facilities Committee spent the last six months figuring out how to spend the remaining $100 million in Measure G bond money on new school facilities and renovated classrooms, and developed a base facility standard that keeps all the schools within the budget and fairly similar to one another.

"There's a principle of equality here," said committee member Patrick Neschleba. "You're not going to have one school that has a better multi-use room than another. You're not going to have another school that has a better library than another."

The facilities standards call for new, 3,000-square-foot libraries and administration buildings at each school, as well as multipurpose rooms big enough to house the school's entire student population at the same time. The standards also call for modernization of existing classrooms and any new classrooms needed to bump schools up to a total of 18 classrooms.

Board members voted 4-1 for the plans, with board member Greg Coladonato dissenting. Coladonato said he wanted to see more trade-offs and more options that would bring the total cost of the projects both over and under the $100 million budget. His concern, he said, is that construction costs will go over-budget and there won't be enough money left for the schools scheduled to get upgrades last.

But picking and choosing from the list may cause some problems, according to Todd Lee, construction project manager for Greystone West. Lee said Bubb, Huff and Landels Elementary all have libraries and multi-use rooms with serious seismic issues that need to be addressed, and called the current facilities "dysfunctional" and in need of an upgrade.

"You're talking about leaving libraries at those three sites at a 2,400-square-foot portable," he said. "You're leaving your multi-use room with horribly undersized kitchens."

If multi-use rooms or libraries are cut from the project list, Lee said it would also lead to disparities across the district and substandard facilities at some schools that could mean the difference between a 5,000-square-foot library and a portable that's half the size.

Lee said there will be some places to make cuts later on, but the savings won't be enough to open a school in the Whisman and Slater neighborhood area.

"I promise you I will come back to you with some options to cut costs," Lee said. "I do not believe you're going to find enough options to cut costs out of this to be able to afford your ninth campus."

The board agreed to have construction start at Monta Loma Elementary first, which has the highest maintenance costs of any school in the district. Monta Loma missed out on some improvements during the district's last bond measure because bond funds ran out, and the aging facilities dating back to the 1950s have dry rot and issues related to drainage and leakage problems.

The committee made a number of cuts and slimmed down the project list to stay in the budget, including ditching solar panels, flexible classroom walls and extra outdoor study areas for the schools.

Special ed classrooms added

While previous recommendations from the committee said there was no room in the budget for permanent special education classrooms at all of the sites, Neschleba said district staff revisited the plans and found that a portion of the 4,000 square feet designated for "multi-use space" can be set aside to construct additional classrooms at a no extra cost.

At the May 21 board meeting, some board members voiced concerns that the committee's recommendations included upgrades to the elementary school kitchens but left out the special education classrooms. Parents complained that students in special education are routinely transferred from school to school when enrollment numbers rise at a campus and space gets tight, causing stress and trauma to their children.

Board president Chris Chiang said he had trouble approving $2.5 million for new kitchens when special education classrooms are left out of the budget.

Both are now included in the final recommendations, but Neschleba defended the decision to include the "full-prep" kitchens in the plans at the June 11 meeting. He said the district stands to reduce its operating costs by enticing more kids with food prepared on-site, rather than having it shipped in from the central kitchen at Crittenden Middle School, and it would help to reduce the stigma associated with school food.

"There are schools in our district where getting school lunch is a sign that you're socio-economically disadvantaged," Neschleba said. "Getting more kids to participate in the lunch program because they want to is going to reduce that stigma."

Decision held off for Theuerkauf and Stevenson

Absent from the recommendations at the board meeting were any specific plans on what to do with Theuerkauf Elementary and the Stevenson PACT program, which share a site next to the district office.

The District Facilities Committee left money in the budget for both schools, but scrapped its earlier recommendation to have the campuses share a new multi-use room and library. Instead, the committee recommended that the board continue to study ways the two schools can share the 17-acre site. And while the district prepares to draft designs for Monta Loma, Huff, Bubb and Landels, PACT parents and teachers voiced frustration that upgrades to their parent-participation school have been put off.

Jennifer Pierson, a PACT parent, told the board she wanted the renovations for Stevenson PACT sooner rather than later, and that the inadequate, small portables on the campus continue to hinder the students' ability to learn. Pierson said when the school invites an author to speak to kids as part of Project Cornerstone, only two grade levels can see the presentation at a time because of the space constraints of the 1,600-square-foot multi-use room. She said the library is only 960 square feet, meaning only 20 to 25 kids can be inside at a time.

"Our teachers and families work very hard to make sure our facilities situation is not detrimental to our students' learning, and inevitably it is," Pierson said.

PACT teacher Terri Hygate urged the board to move Stevenson to the head of the pack for facilities improvements. She said the school continues to operate out of the worst facilities in the district despite a promise from the district that the current facilities are temporary and would be replaced with bigger, permanent buildings.

Hygate explained that her cramped, 700-square-foot kindergarten classroom housed 28 children last year, and while the school's other kindergarten classroom is slightly larger, they had a student in a wheelchair.

"To make that facility ADA compliant our other kindergarten teacher had to remove every single chair from that classroom so the children had to work the whole year standing up," Hygate said.

Coladonato said he has been against approving any capital plan that leaves out schools for months, and that his biggest fear is that the school district is going to run out of money. He said that extends to the board's decision last year to commit $58 million to the middle schools without considering what trade-offs would need to be made for the elementary schools.

The committee recommended against delaying a decision to go forward with plans for Monta Loma, Bubb, Huff and Landels, emphasizing that the district has already lost millions in "opportunity costs" by delaying construction projects. Neschleba said the district loses about $220,000 every week that it waits, and encouraged board members to keep that in mind as they make decisions on how to move forward.

While district staff still need to figure out what to do with Stevenson PACT and Theuerkauf, and schematic designs for Castro Elementary have yet to go through a careful vetting process outside of the Castro Site Planning Committee, Neschleba encouraged the board to get moving on the uncontroversial projects at Monta Loma, Bubb, Huff and Landels as soon as possible.

"There's 2,150 students in those schools today," Neschleba said. "We don't think they should be waiting while the district figures out what to do with the rest of the schools."

Comments

Christine Case-Lo
North Whisman
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:02 am
Christine Case-Lo, North Whisman
on Jun 18, 2015 at 11:02 am
22 people like this

I would like to thank the Board and the Facilities Committee for finding a way for special day classes to have permanent homes! This will be a huge benefit to the lives of our kids and our families, and allow students to truly be part of their school communities.


Elaine
Cuesta Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm
Elaine, Cuesta Park
on Jun 18, 2015 at 2:36 pm
6 people like this

"Board members voted 4-1 for the plans, with board member Greg Coladonato dissenting. Coladonato said he wanted to see more trade-offs and more options that would bring the total cost of the projects both over and under the $100 million budget. His concern, he said, is that construction costs will go over-budget and there won't be enough money left for the schools scheduled to get upgrades last.

But picking and choosing from the list may cause some problems, according to Todd Lee, construction project manager for Greystone West. Lee said Bubb, Huff and Landels Elementary all have libraries and multi-use rooms with serious seismic issues that need to be addressed, and called the current facilities "dysfunctional" and in need of an upgrade.

"You're talking about leaving libraries at those three sites at a 2,400-square-foot portable," he said. "You're leaving your multi-use room with horribly undersized kitchens."

If multi-use rooms or libraries are cut from the project list, Lee said it would also lead to disparities across the district and substandard facilities at some schools that could mean the difference between a 5,000-square-foot library and a portable that's half the size."
_______________
Thank you to Mr. Coladonato for looking at the big picture! If the spending keeps going as it has, some schools will not get much needed upgrades that they have been waiting for. While some schools are having their libraries rebuilt for a second time, Landels, Huff and Bubb campuses are still operating in original archaic portables along with other much needed improvements. The tax was paid by everyone in Mountain View and all schools should benefit equally.
Thank you to Mr. Lee also for pointing out the big picture to the board!


Dave
Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm
Dave, Monta Loma
on Jun 21, 2015 at 12:54 pm
3 people like this

Did kindergartners at a PACT class really have to work standing all year? This seems to be an incredible claim, is this even legal? Surely there is some way to quickly create a wheel chair accessible layout for the classroom.


Stevenson Parent
Willowgate
on Jun 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm
Stevenson Parent, Willowgate
on Jun 21, 2015 at 3:18 pm
3 people like this

The kids may have gotten to sit on the floor but they truly did not have any chairs in their classroom. There just wasn't enough room.


SERIOUSLY
Old Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2015 at 9:42 pm
SERIOUSLY , Old Mountain View
on Jun 21, 2015 at 9:42 pm
3 people like this

So the pact school has no chairs for the students!?!


Stevenson Parent
Willowgate
on Jun 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm
Stevenson Parent, Willowgate
on Jun 21, 2015 at 10:14 pm
3 people like this

In the one kindergarten room with the student in a wheelchair, there were no chairs because the room wasn't big enough to be ADA compliant if the chairs were there. There wouldn't have been enough room for the wheelchair to maneuver. The rest if the classrooms have chairs.


PACT parent
Rex Manor
on Jun 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm
PACT parent, Rex Manor
on Jun 21, 2015 at 10:24 pm
5 people like this

@SERIOUSLY of Old Mountain View

"So the pact school has no chairs for the students!?! "

As was explained in other MV-Voice posts, the classrooms at Stevenson are below standard size, far below for the Kinder rooms. One of the consequences of this during this past school year was that in ONE Kindergarten class they were required to remove all chairs for the kids.

This was done so the room could SAFELY meet the special needs of a student who needs a wheelchair. The kids understood and managed to make due with what they had. Kids are very flexible and understanding that way. Something we do a lot of at Stevenson, make due with what we have and loving what we have. We have objectively the worst facilities in the district, but we focus on making the best of it.

The rest of the classrooms did have chairs for the kids.


Matt
Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 21, 2015 at 11:23 pm
Matt, Martens-Carmelita
on Jun 21, 2015 at 11:23 pm
6 people like this

To @pact parent. "flexible and understand,and make due"

Sounds like pact parent could learn from the kids. On good behavior. Your arrogance shows even while trying to humble yourself.


Me
Willowgate
on Jun 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm
Me, Willowgate
on Jun 22, 2015 at 1:30 pm
5 people like this

@matt pot, kettle, black


PACT parent
Rex Manor
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:33 pm
PACT parent, Rex Manor
on Jun 29, 2015 at 10:33 pm
3 people like this

@Matt of Martens-Carmelita

"Sounds like pact parent could learn from the kids. On good behavior. Your arrogance shows even while trying to humble yourself"

I'm sorry, Matt, I certainly NEVER meant to mislead you into thinking I was trying to "humble myself".

Perhaps when you mis-quoted me you also misunderstood my words in the process?

If I was silly enough to go begging for something like a... swimming pool or something else of a luxury-item for Stevenson, (which I can't imagine asking for) maybe there might be some reason for that, but personally, I would be happy to get NOTHING at all but to be allowed to stay put at Stevenson for the long-haul.

I wouldn't complain if NOTHING from Measure-G was spent on Stevenson as long as we get to STAY at Stevenson permanently.

Slater School was granted a $30million reserve account and Stevenson is not even on the list of schools to get ANY money.

Personally, I can live with that IF PACT remains at Stevenson and remains OPEN for the next decade or so.

Please don't mis-interpret, that was "sincerity", not "humble".


PACT parent
Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:42 am
PACT parent, Rex Manor
on Jul 1, 2015 at 5:42 am
3 people like this

Nelson wont resign now, He has won! By a clever and under the radar tactic.

Nelson and Coladonato have already taken $30million from the district and locked it away for the exclusive use of building a new Slater School no mater what damage it will do.

WHO are the "greedy takers" now?

Slater gets $30million lock-box funding, Stevenson NOT on any list to get any Measure-G money.

Stevenson is NOT even on the list of schools to get ANY of the Measure-G money for critical repairs or any upgrades at all!

And yet the Slater Advocates on the Board (Nelson and Coladonato) have taken $30million out of the general fund and tied it up in a reserve fund for the exclusive purpose of building a new district standard 450-600 school in Whisman/Slater.

Slater gets well over $30million, Stevenson gets ZERO, yeah those "greedy"...wait, WHO is being greedy?

Slater assured $30million budget already and Stevenson ZERO, yeah, see, that proves how "greedy" the Stevenson families are we want NOTHING from Measure-G and would be happy with NO construction MONEY at all. See, there is the proof of how greedy the Stevenson families are....uh,,huh? Did I read that right?

The $30million the Board voted to be specifically set aside in a special reserve account for the Slater School at the above Board meeting didn't even get mentioned in this article. (That $30million number is rounding down.)

That seems very odd, since this huge Slater set-aside also takes away from district funds which could be spent on other things.

The Slater School now has a $30million budget (which is 3/4 the budget of the whole Castro 2-school project) and yet still Stevenson is NOT even on the LIST of schools getting construction money.

Well, I guess if that's the price the Board decides we must pay to stay at Stevenson, we'll find a way to make due with what we have. As long as we can stay where we are, we will find a way to survive until the next bond measure, whatever year that may come in


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Post a comment

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.