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 Cramped and outdated classrooms, libraries and cafeterias.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.