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Editorial: Yes on Measure E

 

Counselors working out of closets. Cramped and outdated classrooms, libraries and cafeterias. Portables, some damaged and past their lifespans, crowding out parking spaces.

That's what students and staff at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools have encountered in recent years as increased housing development has led to a rise in enrollment -- a trend that's only expected to continue.

The two schools were designed to house 3,600 students (or 1,800 at each), a number that was surpassed in the 2011-12 school year, according to Mountain View-Los Altos High School District data. Today there are 4,200 -- 2,240 students at Los Altos high and 1,960 at Mountain View high.

And with 46 housing projects in the pipeline or under construction in the district, total enrollment is expected to continue climbing. Demographic projections indicate the student population is forecast to surpass 5,000 in the 2021-22 school year.

With the high schools already housing more students than they were intended to, the district has had to get creative to find space as more teens arrive each year. Los Altos High's auto shop has been cut in half, with a 3D modeling class occupying the storage area of the facility. The school's engineering program is in a portable that was previously used for preschoolers.

If this is how it is now, imagine adding hundreds more students into the mix.

Saying there is no Plan B, district officials are asking voters to approve Measure E, a $295 million bond measure on the June 5 ballot that officials say would go toward expanding and adding classrooms and other facilities to accommodate more students. Money would also be spent on repairs and improvements for district buildings, some of which date back to the 1970s and 1950s.

We encourage district residents to vote yes on Measure E.

The district has gone about the process of placing a bond measure on the ballot in a thoughtful and responsible manner. They have a facilities master plan, a blueprint for how the bond money would be spent that calls for a new classroom wing at each school, a new campus for Freestyle Academy and more space for facilities like libraries and counseling offices, among other projects. District officials encouraged residents to take part in the facility master plan process and made adjustments in response to feedback.

Moreover, the Mountain View-Los Altos school board opted for a $295 million bond measure when the district was eligible for up to $425 million. Included in that is $30 million earmarked for future enrollment growth, which district officials say may not be needed. If it isn't, those bonds won't be sold, with no cost to taxpayers.

Measure E also has a 15-year term, which means interest payback is lower compared to the more typical longer terms.

If approved, the district plans to put bond proceeds to use quickly. Officials are working on designs for new classroom buildings and plan to break ground in fall 2019 with the goal of having them occupied the following year. That would mean more space for current and future students and programs, as well as 21st century learning environments for schools that rank among the best in California.

The school district, which has the lowest tax rate of any in Santa Clara County, has only pursued smaller bond measures in the 1990s and in 2010, when voters passed the $41.3 million Measure A bond. District officials say that if this initiative fails, they will have to try again in two years. By then, the student population could grow to nearly 4,900.

We believe now is the time to fund new and improved high school facilities. Vote yes on Measure E.

Editorial endorsements reflect the opinion of the editorial board of the Mountain View Voice and do not affect the operations of the newsroom or its staff.

— Mountain View Voice editorial board

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Comments

84 people like this
Posted by ex-Hooli person
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 23, 2018 at 5:24 pm

Meanwhile, on the same day in the same publication, news that the Los Altos district has shrinking enrollment:
Web Link


99 people like this
Posted by Tina
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 23, 2018 at 6:36 pm

Gee, how much are they spending on the new administration building where the district offices will be?? 750 San Pierre Way?? Anyone know the details?? It looks like a massive project.

Does anyone know if the district publishes a budget so we the tax payers can actually see where our money is going? I don't feel like the media is giving us enough information. They need to do a little more digging.

I would vote absolutely NO unless we can see some real numbers.


5 people like this
Posted by MVWSD Parent
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 23, 2018 at 7:57 pm

@Tina

Here is the MWVSD Measure G construction spend by school [Web Link]

There are 2 phases of the DO work.

Phase 1 - Where Stevenson is temporary housed this year, which will be part of the DO: ~$5.7M
Phase 4 - Do modular work - $7.5M

Hope this helps


14 people like this
Posted by Homeowner
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 23, 2018 at 9:53 pm

So, 7 years ago we voted for $41M. The current high school population is 4,200 and it might grow another 500 students, so of course another $295M (or 7X what was approved 7 years ago) is warranted?! That is an INSANE number...who is backing this? My guess, contractors. Definitely a "no" from us.


8 people like this
Posted by Citizen84
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 24, 2018 at 9:25 am

Citizen84 is a registered user.

The increase in student population is largely due to employment growth at the Googles and Microsofts of the city and the housing demands of these companies' employees.

They will benefit, therefore they should pay.

Not the people who have lived here and whose kids can't afford to stay in the area. Again, because of the Googles and Microsofts.


14 people like this
Posted by peanutboy
a resident of another community
on May 25, 2018 at 10:44 am

peanutboy is a registered user.

I fully understand and sympathize with the needs for schools to grow. But the article convenient skims over how the mouse is being spent today and will be spent tomorrow.

New housing units mean more property tax and with record housing price, I am frankly baffled as to why there isn't enough money to pay for expansion and maintenance.

Measure E will impose tax for the next 20 years, at a rate of $300 per $1M assessed property value, or $6,000 over 20 years. That is a hefty sum for recent homebuyers as median home prices in Mountain View and Los Altos are now $2M (or about $25,000/year property tax).

I place much of the blame on 1979 Proposition 13, which caps property tax on properties purchased before 1975 at ridiculously low rate. Many such homes are being rented, so the property tax is locked in at ridiculous low rate, starving school budget.

The secondary blame goes to Mountain View approving housing projects left and right without much thoughts given to infrastructure and schools.

Even though I have a great sympathy for our schools, I would be voting NO on Measure E.


5 people like this
Posted by Doug Pearson
a resident of Blossom Valley
on May 25, 2018 at 9:54 pm

Doug Pearson is a registered user.

peanutboy said, "New housing units mean more property tax and with record housing price, I am frankly baffled as to why there isn't enough money to pay for expansion and maintenance."

Good question. I don't have an answer, but suggest it may be in this fact: Although housing prices are spectacularly high, the actual number of housing units being sold per year is small (how small, I don't know) compared to the total number of houses in Mountain View.

And, housing units being added to the available stock are nearly all in multi-family structures such as apartments and condominiums. This is so, because there is not enough vacant land available for it to be any other way. In today's market, more than 75% of the cost of a single-family, detached home goes for the land alone; only 25% or less for the house.


Like this comment
Posted by Clark
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 31, 2018 at 6:32 pm

Clark is a registered user.

Poor management on the part of the district. Mountain View is experiencing unprecedented growth HUGE GROWTH!! there is construction happening literally everywhere you look and you need money for schools? Infrastructure is sagging streets are a mess it's taking 3 years to get a bike friendly path from east to west. Come now, I was ok with measure A but not this time. Prove you can get public projects done on time and on budget and maybe try again.


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