After months of soliciting public opinion from hundreds of district parents and residents, the Los Altos School District may finally have a firm handle on what the public wants to do with $150 million in Measure N bond money.
A report by Mountain View-based Conteneo aggregated feedback from public and online meetings attended by mostly district parents, including families enrolled in Bullis Charter School, and found that buying land for a new school and relocating the charter school to a new school site were both palatable options.
The public meetings mark the latest effort by the school district to address enrollment growth, as hundreds of new students crowd existing schools and cause traffic congestion around some of the district's more packed campuses. Last year, voters approved Measure N with the assurance that the money will be used to deal with growing enrollment, likely through purchasing land for a new campus.
Other ideas that gained support at the public meetings include turning the district's two junior high schools -- Blach and Egan -- into middle schools, which would mean moving sixth grade out of the elementary schools to the two larger campuses. The shift would effectively free up space at all of the elementary schools, alleviating some of the crowding across the district.
Board president Steve Taglio said the results, for the most part, show the community wants to explore the same enrollment growth options that the board and district staff have been closely considering for the last year. Taglio said it was useful to learn which ideas the public felt shouldn't even be considered.
"Some of the ideas (without support) are actually more helpful in terms of how to move forward," Taglio said.
Participants showed a lack of support for relocating any existing Los Altos School District school, excluding Bullis Charter School, and did not support making the charter school's current two sites permanent.
Bullis Charter School is split between the Egan and Blach campuses, which has caused serious problems in the past. The charter school and the district have spent millions of dollars in litigation against one another, mostly based on the charter school's claim that they have not been provided with adequate facilities.
Public input also showed a lack of support for building greater capacity at existing schools and maintaining the status quo, Taglio said.
One favored idea that has been absent from most of the district's enrollment growth discussion is reconfiguring the Covington campus, one of the district's largest school sites and home to Covington Elementary School and the district office. Community input from the meetings showed people were interested in the idea of relocating the district office buildings and converting Covington to a two-school site.
Earlier this year, the district-appointed Facilities Master Plan Committee explored a number of different options for how to spend Measure N funds to address growing enrollment, and offered up a myriad of strategies, including some creative ideas like merging both junior high schools into a "mega" middle school site.
But when the committee presented to the board in March, the group's report did not include any in-depth analysis or consideration of the 16-acre Covington site. At the time, board members Pablo Luther and Tamara Logan expressed interest in taking a closer look at the Covington.
Taglio said changes to Covington are not off the table as a possible option, but that there's some trade-offs that would need to be considered. Squeezing two schools onto the campus means the district would not have to spend millions to acquire land, but could face very high construction costs to create a far more dense campus, he said.
The support for the purchasing new land didn't come without a healthy level of skepticism. The report shows that people were concerned about the availability of affordable land in the area, and questioned whether the cost of land acquisition would force the district to cut back on site improvements at other schools. Community members also felt unable to throw their support behind the idea of a new school site because they didn't have enough data from the district.
School district officials have largely favored purchasing a new school site north of El Camino Real, where the district's boundaries extend into the San Antonio area in Mountain View. The site would bring a local school to the hundreds of Mountain View students in the district who have to cross a major thoroughfare to get to class.
The district is currently in negotiations with the property owners of 201 San Antonio Circle in Mountain View. Last month, the Mountain View City Council voted in favor of contributing park funds to purchase adjacent land to expand a new school's park space.