After another six-hour meeting over the weekend, Mountain View Whisman School District's boundary committee will be heading into overtime on how to best rezone school attendance areas throughout the city of Mountain View.
On Saturday, March 11, members of the district's Student Attendance Area Task Force spent hours drawing and redrawing boundaries that will determine which neighborhoods will be zoned for which schools, with a goal of narrowing the field to just two options for the board to choose from in June. But task force members are still torn on critical pieces of the puzzle, including where to send children in the Shoreline West and North Whisman neighborhoods, and which school is best suited for the district's military families.
The boundaries, as they exist today, appear gerrymandered and are fraught with problems. Families in the Whisman area are zoned for Huff Elementary and students in the Shoreline West area are zoned for Bubb. Both school are in the southern end of the city -- far from Shoreline West and North Whisman -- and are so packed with students that nearby residents risk getting pushed out of their own neighborhood school.
Although all three scenarios still up for consideration attempt to resolve these problems, it's still an open question as to which one will leave the smallest number of people disappointed. Among the sticking points is whether Shoreline West residents should remain together and all attend Landels Elementary, or whether the neighborhood should be split vertically between Landels and Castro Elementary. While consolidating the neighborhood sounds like a good idea, extending Landels' boundary so far west risks overcrowding the school.
The scenarios also diverge on how many neighborhoods will be zoned for the new Slater Elementary, which the district plans to open in time for the 2019-20 school year. The North Whisman neighborhood, which has been zoned for Theuerkauf since 2006, following the closure of the original Slater campus, will either remain within the Theuerkauf boundary or be moved to Slater Elementary -- it's still not apparent which direction the task force plans to go.
The worry is that by including North Whisman, the district runs the risk of opening Slater with too many families clamoring to get in. Including the neighborhood bumps the estimated number of students in the attendance boundary from 465 to 570, and the aim is to enroll roughly 450 students at each school. Although the district's choice programs, Stevenson PACT and Dual Immersion at Mistral, could peel off more than 100 students from the area based on historic enrollment trends, it's possible that families attending choice programs would prefer to go to a new neighborhood school.
Leaving North Whisman within the Theuerkauf boundary would also have the added benefit of boosting enrollment, something badly needed at the school, which risks dropping to only 271 students after the boundaries are shifted, according to estimates by the district's demographic consultant, DecisionInsite.
On the other hand, North Whisman residents used to be part of the Slater school before it shut down in 2006, and fought for years to get either Slater or Whisman Elementary re-opened. Families in the area argue that they have few safe ways to get to Theuerkauf, and bike routes to the school include traveling on Middlefield Road and crossing Highway 85, Moffett Boulevard and Shoreline Boulevard. Enrollment data from previous years show about half the students in the North Whisman area opt for other schools -- particularly Landels and Stevenson.
Though these lingering questions remain unresolved, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the Voice that the task force is on track to make a decision, and that there's room in the schedule to wrap up by the end of April. New meeting dates have yet to be announced, but in the meantime Rudolph said task force members will be seeking feedback from the school board on how to resolve some of the major sticking points.
"I think the committee has done a great job of finding a lot of commonalities in what they're trying to do," Rudolph said. "We went from five (scenarios) to eight to four to three ... and we're really close to having two."
Maps of the three scenarios were not available prior to the Voice's Wednesday press deadline, which will include the estimated number of students within each school boundary and the number of students who are likely to be siphoned off by choice programs. The tentative schedule calls for community feedback on the final two scenarios throughout May, with a final decision by the board in June.