San Antonio school will serve neighborhood

LASD trustees leave wiggle room while soothing MV council concerns

Los Altos School District board members cautiously endorsed a plan to build a San Antonio school serving children in the area, hoping to push ahead with a complex land deal for a new campus.

With barely a quorum and using ambiguous language, the three trustees agreed at a special meeting Monday night that, if the school district succeeds in building a school at the corner of California Street and Showers Drive, it ought to serve neighborhood kids. It remains unclear whether it would serve Mountain View kids from day one, or if it would be a traditional elementary school. Trustees did not take formal action at the meeting.

Since the spring, Los Altos School District officials have been negotiating with Federal Realty to buy roughly 9.5 acres of land on the northeast corner of the San Antonio shopping center, currently home to several businesses. The school board has held a dozen closed session meetings over the last two months about the acquisition, which would allow the district to redevelop the existing businesses as a new school site.

In order to offset the high cost of buying real estate, the district has sought significant financial support from the city of Mountain View, including $23 million in park fees and permission to sell to developers any "unused" density for building projects elsewhere in the city. But Mountain View City Council members were reluctant to sign off on the support last month until they had more clarity on what kind of school would be put there.

The decision to postpone any action came abruptly at the end of the Oct. 9 City Council meeting, just after midnight, after hearing that the school board made no definitive call on the 10th site usage at a school board meeting the night before.

But clarifying the plan has been difficult for the school district, with the leadership uneasy about making a concrete decision before buying the property and trustees receiving mixed messages from the community. On the one hand, the Mountain View City Council expressed its support for a school serving children in the San Antonio area, where the district's boundaries extend into Mountain View. At the same time, the majority of a Los Altos district task force concluded in August that relocating Bullis Charter School out of Los Altos to the new site would be the right call.

Other groups in the community, notably Bullis families, have advocated for killing the deal entirely, arguing that the land is too expensive and ill-advised at a time when the district's enrollment is dropping.

At the Nov. 26 meeting, school board member Jessica Speiser said she believes the school district needs to plan for the residential boom in the San Antonio area, both now and in the future, and part of that means building a school that would serve the area.

"I want to make sure that we have a school that will serve the neighborhood," she said. "That's how I feel it should be used -- that it is something that serves the neighborhood."

Board member Bryan Johnson spoke broadly about the site usage and said he "agreed" with what Speiser said, but did not respond to requests for clarity on his position. Board president Vladimir Ivanovic doubled down on his prior position, which was that a school serving neighborhood students would be the best option.

"This is a school that ought to serve the neighborhood. It's the one area that we don't have a school, so it seems like a no-brainer," he said.

Trustees Steve Taglio and Sangeeth Peruri were both absent.

District administrators will be crafting a letter to the city of Mountain View expressing the board's opinion, in hopes of getting the financial support deal back in front of the City Council. Ivanovic told the Voice that the language of the letter, while still in flux, gives the district some flexibility. Serving neighborhood students doesn't necessarily lock the district into building an elementary school or a junior high school for kids in the area, nor does it preclude the "temporary or permanent siting" of students outside the neighborhood, he said.

A minority of the current council members, Margaret Abe-Koga and Pat Showalter, have argued that the city shouldn't be ponying up so much money without a guarantee in writing that the district will create a neighborhood school serving the nearly 700 Mountain View children living near the shopping center. It's unclear how the new council members elected in November -- Ellen Kamei, Lucas Ramirez and likely Alison Hicks -- might upset the majority that has granted the district flexibility in the future school's use.

The best guess for when the school would be finished and open to enroll kids is 2023, Ivanovic said. Assuming that estimate holds, a child attending kindergarten when the district's Measure N bond passed will be in high school when the school is finally built.

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39 people like this
Posted by Haha
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 2:39 pm

They're lying. This is just a ruse to get MV city council to okay their purchase - that's why none of the trustees will commit. How on earth does purchasing a school for NEC solve the district problems? They have no budget for administrating a 10th LASD school so they'd have to close one of the existing elementary schools especially since enrollment is declining. They can't possibly justify running all their schools at enrollments of less than 300. And boundaries would need to be changed which supposedly is their hangup in giving Covington to BCS.

And if the new school is for NEC LASD kids, where will BCS go? They have to provide facilities to them by 2019/2020 school year per the 5 year agreement they made 5 years ago.

They don't need any new schools let alone an additional elementary school (moving 6th grade to middle and giving Covington to BCS solves ALL their problems but then that would be conceding to BCS and we can't have that). Better to keep litigating and eating up that $150M we're paying for.

If the MV city council is naive enough to believe that this land purchase is going to serve MV kids and they grant approval based on LASD's wishy-washy non-commitment, then they can't whine when the corrupt LASD trustees pull their bait and switch.

15 people like this
Posted by Park - PLease
a resident of The Crossings
on Nov 29, 2018 at 2:43 pm

The important element is the 2 ACRE PARK for a total of 11.5 acres (not 9.5 acres) with the mutual understanding that the LASD facilities can be used by the community as is the case with other schools in the City of Mountain View.

What a wonderful excited and happy to see this finally come to fruition.

25 people like this
Posted by Missing Info
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 3:54 pm

Peruri is recused from the issue so his absence was not a factor. I'm not sure they are lying, but they do weasel a lot. The park issue does not involve the separate 2 acres apart from the school. There would have been a park there anyway according to the Federal Realty futures. This is just an issue where Greystar paid for part of it, which affects no one.

Their saying that they are uncomfortable with deciding the use before purchasing is ludicrous. They tie themselves into knots a lot. They should be uncomfortable with purchasing with no planned use in mind. That's the normal approach.

The thing is that what should be built there is a normal 500-550 size school like all the other neighborhoods have. That site is NOT one which should be shared with the charter school. Once they do take 200-250 kids out of Covington though, then that 21 acre site is perfect for sharing. This assumes that LASD elects to keep operating Covington when it is that much smaller.

The best thing would be to keep the Palo Alto side of San Antonio Road attending Santa Rita, and have the new school only serve the kids from Mountain View currently split between Covington and Almond. Almond School too will shrink in size, allowing some growth space there too.

The new school at San Antonio shouldn't be some weird 3 story monstrosity which costs a lot to build. With 9.5 acres it can be the same style of school as Almond, which is less costly to build. They could even use portables for part of it. It was always weird when they spent so much to convert Covington into an oversize elementary school with all permanent remodeled buildings even with the other schools having 20% portable buildings.

They are uncomfortable because the district hasn't been realistic for 20 years about its site plans. Covington was overbuilt and overspent. Crap about how expensive it is to operate so many schools and at the same time this crap about how small schools are the be all and the end all. The problem is they aren't clear. Sometimes they say 350 students is a small school and sometimes 550. Sometimes they want to move 6th grade to the middle school model and sometimes not. They don't make any observation of how much smaller the already small elementary schools would get without 6th grade. They just really have their heads buried in the sand.
The only connection to BCS is that this kind of stupidity is what made the new charter school want to form in the first place. Well, nothing has changed, they are still very thick on the denial and lacking in realistic perception of what they want.

23 people like this
Posted by Reindeer games
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 4:51 pm

Reindeer games is a registered user.

Parents from BCS and LASD have joined forces to ask the two Boards to work together and solve the issues. I am very disappointed that LASD is not being forthcoming with their exact intentions and is continuing to kick the can around despite the joint letter written by two parents. The games are not helping to resolve the issues. MVCC needs to demand that LASD says exactly which school population will be housed on this site or there is no deal. Frankly, it is insulting to the MVCC that LASD thinks they are stupid enough to seal the deal based on the promise that the school will "serve the neighborhood".

Like this comment
Posted by J
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 5:06 pm

I’d this is true, fine, but where are we putting BCS?

31 people like this
Posted by Haha
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 5:25 pm

@ Missing Info - while I agree with much of what you've said, opening a school NEC has zero practicality unless they completely close another school. If not, where will the money come from to administrate an additional school? Do they have extra money in the coffers of which we're unaware? If so, they should discontinue the parcel tax. The cost to administrate an additional school is significant- duplicating non-salaried staff and administrative staff alone is hefty plus they'd have significant utility and maintenance costs for the building. I've yet to see any cost analyses of thess hair-brained schemes. Plus, if the NEC school were only opened for the East of San Antonio kids are those on the other side 2nd class citizens? The east kids get a new neighborhood school but the west kids can continue to cross El Camino and commute down to Santa Rita? What part of that is fair?

Then they still have the issue of providing facilities for BCS. They can't just give BCS a piece of land somewhere (i.e."part" of Covington), there needs to be a school upon the land and constructing those facilities costs money.

Originally the $150M bond was supposedly to reduce overcrowding (which was fictitious to begin with since moving 6th grade to middle would have immediately reduced any crowding) but regardless, LASD enrollment has declined overall and BCS is growing, further reducing the LASD population. No overcrowding exists. How can the BoT justify adding another school when the existing schools are under capacity and where will the funds come from to accomplish the construction of a new NEC school, construction of facilities for BCS and administration of a new school?

I'm sticking to my story. They're lying - they have no intention of building an NEC school, they're just saying that so the MV council will approve the purchase. If they get the land I'm betting that they'll want to stick PART of BCS there, leave the rest of the kids in portables and the litigation will continue. SMH over the re-election of these corrupt trustees who care only of continuing their BCS feud leaving us (the taxpayers) holding the bag. If they actually wanted to solve ALL the issues, they could move 6th to middle, give Covington to BCS and negotiate an enrollment cap and be done with it. Forever. Wouldn't that be a hallelujah?

24 people like this
Posted by MV resident
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 6:04 pm

LASD knows exactly what they are not saying. With 1200 BCS kids on the horizon, this site will serve a portion of BCS and the rest will stay where they are on the Egan site. Neighborhood kids will attend this neighborhood school IF they land a spot off the lottery, City Council will need to live with that arrangement if they support this purchase. LASD is financially in the red. They cannot afford to operate another small LASD school. Look up their finances. The writing is on the wall. They will need to close schools if they continue to lose kids to BCS because they can’t afford to operate all of the current schools plus hypothetically one more.

21 people like this
Posted by William Hitchens
a resident of Waverly Park
on Nov 29, 2018 at 6:09 pm

William Hitchens is a registered user.

I have felt for a long time that almost all LASD and MV-Whisman school district board members are grossly incompetent and totally incapable of managing their school's diverse curricula --- let alone dealing with far more sophisticated legal, managerial, and real estate issues. Most are relatively ignorant "but" well-meaning parents and ex-teachers who are totally unfit to make informed decisions on any issues of real value to their districts. Until we can elect far more competent board members, then expect chaos in the local K-8 (and high school) districts' educational and legally custodial policies.

23 people like this
Posted by Really?
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 7:41 pm

@ Kevin Forestieri - What's with the headline "San Antonio school will serve neighborhood"? Clearly the LASD board has made no decision re what community the potential school would serve - they're still hedging- so why present a false narrative? Many people only read the headline which makes it... Fake News.

3 people like this
Posted by Horizons
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 8:44 pm

The new school site opens in 2023. BCS has enrolled 1105 kids for 2019-2020. I think you have to look at two horizons. Look at 2019-2020 through 2021-2022 and then also realize that the Next period from 2022-2023 and beyond are what operate when the new school opens. I foresee a school size for BCS of 1500-1800 when the new site opens. It only makes sense.

Yes, if BCS is 1800 kids, then there could be 180-300 or so attending a new San Antonio site who actually live in that area. That's a neighborhood school for them. But keep in mind that BCS will have another 600 kids there and one or two more sites of 450-600 kids each by 2023-2024

17 people like this
Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Nov 29, 2018 at 10:26 pm

How dumb do they think we are?

"serve the neighborhood" does not mean "neighborhood school"

They could still put BCS there and say it serves the neighborhood.

28 people like this
Posted by President Vladimir
a resident of Monta Loma
on Nov 30, 2018 at 1:19 am

It does not matter what current school board members plan or pretend to plan. Plans are not binding. And yet these slippery politicians on the LA school board still use vague language that could even describe Bullis Charter at the new site (serving a couple of children someone in the area). Only placing legal conditions on the use of city money by action of the MV City Council can produce a school serving nearby school children. Even those conditions could be lifted by having a dishonest Donald or two added to the MV City Council.

9 people like this
Posted by Head Fake
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 1, 2018 at 1:58 am

LASD could be technically telling the truth about serving the neighborhood. Though it's not by building a standard LASD neighborhood school. No, that's the bait. The switch is a play against BCS. Here's how.

1. By signaling a neighborhood school at the 10th site, LASD entices Mountain View to approve the land deal.
2. Mountain View approves the deal under the condition that the new school must primarily serve the neighborhood.
3. LASD builds a school, with some oddities because of the small size and being constrained in a built-up area.
4. LASD allocates (leases) the 10th site campus to BCS.
5. LASD Facilities Use "Agreement" requires BCS to give top preference to the neighborhood. LASD insists it's non-negotiable since Mountain View made it a binding condition.
6. LASD redraws attendance areas with NEC assigned to BCS.

LASD could revel in their victory. BCS is pushed out of Los Altos to an inconvenient location (traffic!). Los Altos residents are less likely to win the BCS lottery, diverting them back to District-run schools. LASD doesn't have to operate a 10th school which they say they can't afford anyway. Disadvantaged kids are moved from District-run schools to BCS, raising LASD test scores.

Or, Mountain View could avoid a bait-and-switch by requiring that the 10th site cannot be leased out and only a neighborhood school run directly by LASD is allowed. It would be funny if LASD suddenly loses interest, since that would reveal their true motivation.

8 people like this
Posted by Assistant Head Fake
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

The terms of the facilities use agreement can't require BCS to give any preferences. Preferences are very limited under the laws and regulations governing charters. Enrollment has to be without any preferences, but there is a preference for students residing within the school district. It's not considered a lease when a charter school gets Prop 39 facilities from its district.

The way I'd like to see the city council intervene would be to say no. Failing that, there could be some attention to the issue of just how big the school buildings would be on that site. UNLESS the reason is to serve some of the EXISTING 800 K-0 students who live in that area of Mountain View, the new school shouldn't be so much bigger than what is found at Almond (10 acres 500 students), Santa RIta (12 acres, 550 students) or Covington (21 acres, 550 students). Allowing more density because 500 K-5 students live right near the site makes no sense if those 500 K-5 students are just some of the 5000 eligible to opt for the charter school.

4 people like this
Posted by Head Fake
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 1, 2018 at 12:09 pm

@Assistant Looks like we agree that the City Council should examine this carefully and preferably say no.

Pretty sure that preference by location of residence is very much allowed, in fact that's the most important kind of preference. Forbidden preferences include socioeconomic status, race/ethnicity, disability, and discretionary selection like what private schools do.

I'm not a lawyer, but to use LASD facilities BCS must pay rent and sign documents strictly restricting how the facilities are used (e.g. Facilities Use Agreement). Otherwise LASD keeps the keys. Looks like a lease to me, or essentially equivalent in the important ways if we're being strict about terminology.

6 people like this
Posted by Assistant Head Fake
a resident of another community
on Dec 1, 2018 at 6:21 pm

Preference is allowed for residence. It's allowed for residing within the school district boundaries. Any other residents of the state can take spaces if there are any left, but they have to be randomly selected. The guy in Orange County that somehow wants to go has just as much call as someone living in Mountain View Whisman. No distance issue.

You may be thinking of a CONVERSION charter school which can occur when/if an existing school is closed. It is allowed to give a preference for the former attendance boundaries of the closed school. This is a way designed to allow parents to keep a school open if the district closes it. That doesn't apply here because LASD has never had a school serving just this little 1/4 square mile area.

15 people like this
Posted by Ron Weasley
a resident of another community
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Ron Weasley is a registered user.

I see this as MVCC handing over 100 million dollars to LASD to be used how they want. LASD is infamous for giving a song and dance of what they say they will do but end up doing something completely different. Best example is Measure N money (we have enrollment growth to pass the Measure has magically evolved to solve the BCS problem 4 years later). MVCC, do not hand them anything. Will they actually follow through and provide a neighborhood school to all Mountain View students who live NEC? Or 5 years from now, will the only area within LASD with enrollment growth which is NEC still be trudging across El Camino to inflate the Covington, Santa Rita, Almond numbers? Frankly, based on LASD financials, they can't even afford to operate an additional school let alone all 9 that they currently maintain. LASD meeting agenda we are poor because of BCS slide deck (but we were not managing our finances well before 2018 but we won't tell):
Web Link

Sure, LASD can't wait to punt even a fraction of BCS to the Kohls site. I prefer that Kohl's stays, personally. Otherwise, turn the entire area into a park. LASD only needs a 10th site in their minds to put BCS. They cannot financially support a 10th district school! A neighborhood serving school is a joke that they are hoping to pull off on the MVCC. Shameful. LASD did not do what MVCC asked which was to state which school will go there. If they can't follow directions, don't give em what they want. If MVCC decides to pursue the school route with LASD, they should 1. Demand a cap of 600 and 2. GET EVERY SINGLE THING IN WRITING AND SIGNED. Words mean nothing with these jokers. Good luck on Tuesday.

2 people like this
Posted by Fred Coates
a resident of another community
on Dec 9, 2018 at 10:47 pm

Fred Coates is a registered user.

Sounds like the Los Altos district should use that bond money to fix up their current schools. It is a bad idea to spend it on an additional school if they can't afford to manage the ones they have now. I think if the Mountain View City supports their new school on the land, they will regret it. Maybe the Whisman School District can take over that area. If the new Bullis wants a site that doesn't bother another school, that would work. I hope the new Bullis can provide busing to kids all over Mountain View.

2 people like this
Posted by Twilight Zone
a resident of another community
on Dec 10, 2018 at 9:49 am

‘To serve neighborhood children’

This isn’t a plan for a neighborhood school. It’s a menu! Their going to eat our kids!

1 person likes this
Posted by President Vladimir
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 10, 2018 at 6:11 pm

The gang of four men on the MV City Council have approval of the $100 million giveaway on the City Council agenda Tuesday night, December 11. If they need John McAlister as the 4th vote, figure he will illegally cast that vote.

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

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