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Mountain View Whisman approves $481K contract to design Monta Loma overhaul

District moves forward with broader campus redesign after community outcry over proposal to fence off the school

A parents with his children at Monta Loma Elementary School on June 4, 2019. The Mountain View Whisman district has approved a $481K contract to overhaul outdoor space at the school. Photo by Magali Gauthier

The Mountain View Whisman School District approved a $481,000 contract with an outside firm last week to design an overhaul of the outdoor space at Monta Loma Elementary, after an initial plan to erect fences around the campus was met with widespread outcry last year.

The board of trustees voted 4-1 at a Sept. 9 meeting to hire the architectural design firm Carducci Associates to come up with a proposal to redesign Monta Loma's fields, walking paths, blacktop, playgrounds and other outdoor areas.

The district originally wanted to fence off the school in an effort to increase security and stop members of the public from coming onto campus while classes are in session, but reversed course last year after backlash from the community. The campus represents some of the only open space in the neighborhood and is used frequently by the public.

In June of this year, the board decided to instead move forward with a broader campus reconfiguration in an attempt to satisfy the needs of the school, city and residents.

The project still has a lot of unknowns, including what changes will actually be made, how long design and construction will take, and how much everything is going to cost. It's also unclear how much of the tab the city of Mountain View is willing to pick up.

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The public was notably quiet at last week's board meeting, compared to the large numbers of people who previously turned out to oppose the fencing plan. No community members addressed the board last week, although one person raised their hand over Zoom to speak after the board had closed public comment.

Board member Ellen Wheeler said she viewed lack of commenters to be a positive sign, indicating that people were happy with the direction the district is moving in.

"My take is that a lot of the Monta Loma community is publicly silent about this right now because they are supportive of us continuing with this process," Wheeler said.

Board member Chris Chiang, on the other hand, read the silence as evidence of continued dissent.

"I don't believe that the silence is a sign of support," said Chiang, the sole board member to oppose hiring Carducci. "I believe the silence is a sign of concern and resignation."

Moving forward

With the board's approval last week, Carducci will now schedule meetings to get input on how the space should be modified. According to Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, the goal is to create a vision for the campus that meets everyone's needs.

"This is an exciting time for us," Rudolph said. "It's taken us a while to get to this point, but (I'm) really glad that we can move to what is the next phase of Monta Loma's open space reconfiguration."

The final cost of the project isn't currently known, Rudolph said, because it will depend on factors such as how the fields are reconfigured, the extent of blacktop removal and whether playground structures are moved. Plans to install a solar array and lighting on campus are also delayed until the project design is finalized, Rudolph said.

In June, school officials said they were earmarking anywhere from $8 million to $9 million to pay for the overall campus redesign.

Whether and how much the city might contribute to the project is also still unknown. The city and school are working to create a new joint use agreement for the site, which will lay out who pays for what, Rudolph said.

Chiang opposed moving forward with the project, saying that he doesn't believe the school district should be paying for a project that is largely a benefit to the city, which currently lacks park space in the neighborhood.

"For the school district, I feel like this is a solution chasing a problem. Whereas for the city, I believe it's a real problem," Chiang said. "It's not a school problem, yet we're using school funds to pay for this."

He instead supported considering "non-facilities" solutions, such as hiring a security guard to patrol the campus.

Chiang was also the sole "no" vote in June when the board originally approved spending $382,200 to $702,000 to hire an architect to design the project. Last week, Board President Devon Conley told Chiang that since the board already voted to spend the money, they should now follow through and approve Carducci's contract. Chiang responded that if the board hires Carducci, he would support paying them, but doesn't want to hire them in the first place.

Conley also objected to the idea that the Monta Loma improvements only benefit the city, saying that although the district hadn't originally intended to reconfigure the fields, the majority of the project cost will go to items Mountain View Whisman already intended to spend money on, such as replacing the blacktop, updating playgrounds, adding outdoor learning spaces, installing solar arrays and finishing the school's lighting project.

"It would be foolish to spend money on them and then reconfigure the field," Conley said. "That would cost us a lot more money in the long run."

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Mountain View Whisman approves $481K contract to design Monta Loma overhaul

District moves forward with broader campus redesign after community outcry over proposal to fence off the school

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Tue, Sep 14, 2021, 1:51 pm

The Mountain View Whisman School District approved a $481,000 contract with an outside firm last week to design an overhaul of the outdoor space at Monta Loma Elementary, after an initial plan to erect fences around the campus was met with widespread outcry last year.

The board of trustees voted 4-1 at a Sept. 9 meeting to hire the architectural design firm Carducci Associates to come up with a proposal to redesign Monta Loma's fields, walking paths, blacktop, playgrounds and other outdoor areas.

The district originally wanted to fence off the school in an effort to increase security and stop members of the public from coming onto campus while classes are in session, but reversed course last year after backlash from the community. The campus represents some of the only open space in the neighborhood and is used frequently by the public.

In June of this year, the board decided to instead move forward with a broader campus reconfiguration in an attempt to satisfy the needs of the school, city and residents.

The project still has a lot of unknowns, including what changes will actually be made, how long design and construction will take, and how much everything is going to cost. It's also unclear how much of the tab the city of Mountain View is willing to pick up.

The public was notably quiet at last week's board meeting, compared to the large numbers of people who previously turned out to oppose the fencing plan. No community members addressed the board last week, although one person raised their hand over Zoom to speak after the board had closed public comment.

Board member Ellen Wheeler said she viewed lack of commenters to be a positive sign, indicating that people were happy with the direction the district is moving in.

"My take is that a lot of the Monta Loma community is publicly silent about this right now because they are supportive of us continuing with this process," Wheeler said.

Board member Chris Chiang, on the other hand, read the silence as evidence of continued dissent.

"I don't believe that the silence is a sign of support," said Chiang, the sole board member to oppose hiring Carducci. "I believe the silence is a sign of concern and resignation."

Moving forward

With the board's approval last week, Carducci will now schedule meetings to get input on how the space should be modified. According to Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, the goal is to create a vision for the campus that meets everyone's needs.

"This is an exciting time for us," Rudolph said. "It's taken us a while to get to this point, but (I'm) really glad that we can move to what is the next phase of Monta Loma's open space reconfiguration."

The final cost of the project isn't currently known, Rudolph said, because it will depend on factors such as how the fields are reconfigured, the extent of blacktop removal and whether playground structures are moved. Plans to install a solar array and lighting on campus are also delayed until the project design is finalized, Rudolph said.

In June, school officials said they were earmarking anywhere from $8 million to $9 million to pay for the overall campus redesign.

Whether and how much the city might contribute to the project is also still unknown. The city and school are working to create a new joint use agreement for the site, which will lay out who pays for what, Rudolph said.

Chiang opposed moving forward with the project, saying that he doesn't believe the school district should be paying for a project that is largely a benefit to the city, which currently lacks park space in the neighborhood.

"For the school district, I feel like this is a solution chasing a problem. Whereas for the city, I believe it's a real problem," Chiang said. "It's not a school problem, yet we're using school funds to pay for this."

He instead supported considering "non-facilities" solutions, such as hiring a security guard to patrol the campus.

Chiang was also the sole "no" vote in June when the board originally approved spending $382,200 to $702,000 to hire an architect to design the project. Last week, Board President Devon Conley told Chiang that since the board already voted to spend the money, they should now follow through and approve Carducci's contract. Chiang responded that if the board hires Carducci, he would support paying them, but doesn't want to hire them in the first place.

Conley also objected to the idea that the Monta Loma improvements only benefit the city, saying that although the district hadn't originally intended to reconfigure the fields, the majority of the project cost will go to items Mountain View Whisman already intended to spend money on, such as replacing the blacktop, updating playgrounds, adding outdoor learning spaces, installing solar arrays and finishing the school's lighting project.

"It would be foolish to spend money on them and then reconfigure the field," Conley said. "That would cost us a lot more money in the long run."

Comments

gretchen
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:24 pm
gretchen, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:24 pm

No this is not resignation, it is not being informed that this was on the agenda. The district somehow chooses to inform the neighborhood when it is forced to by law or it sees some benefit. I see this as just another act of bad faith. At least one of the board members and the mayor were at a recent ice cream social in the park and I am sure that neither went away thinking that the neighborhood was resigned or approved.


Seriously
Registered user
Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:41 pm
Seriously, Martens-Carmelita
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:41 pm

This is one of the reasons why I opted out of paying Measure B parcel tax. MVWSD board cannot be trusted with five bucks, let alone the millions that they continue to squander on poorly conceived projects.


Parks
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:42 pm
Parks, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 2:42 pm

This whole thing is a solution in search of a problem. Are there truly urgent security threats at Monta Loma requiring massive spending to ameliorate? Not even close. We have a lovely park that is beloved by our neighborhood and sharing the space has gone smoothly most of the time. Better signage and communication would solve the few problems there have been. Is the new cone system marking off the fields during school hours not working? Seems to be going well. The district should just acknowledge their mistake and back down. We don't need all this--we just need access to our park.


smorr
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 14, 2021 at 9:13 pm
smorr, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 9:13 pm

My biggest concern now is that "going back to the drawing board" to come up with a plan that satisfies all constituencies could result in the park being chopped up into smaller sections with limited or no access to parts of it for some groups.
We could lose the beautiful expansive space we have now. And IMO, that would be worse than a fence.
I agree with what others have said. All they need to do is hire one or two security guards. Problem solved at much less expense and no ill-effect on the community. Which makes me wonder why this is all happening in the first place.


Abe
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 14, 2021 at 10:31 pm
Abe, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 14, 2021 at 10:31 pm

That "silence" was the public blocked from speaking.

This meeting had 2 days' notice and you could either listen or wait to speak, not both (Web Link

The previous working group was suddenly disbanded while the board pushed a proposal to fence off the entire park or cut off most of it -- either way ending the neighborhood's open green area. The new Architectural Program only allows for 2 public community input meetings. No design review.

I haven't heard anyone who's happy with the direction. People may be worn down but not resigned.

The school has a fine pilot approach right now: signs, temporary cones during school hours, and a staffer on watch for those stray walkers. They could get a lot of security guard years for $8-9 million! Replace the fences around the buildings if that makes the staff feel safer, but please do some threat modeling rather than security theater.

We didn't vote those funds for this. Clearly Chris Chiang is the only board member to reelect.


Old Steve
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:10 am
Old Steve, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 8:10 am

Sorry folks! The open space is a school playfield used by the public after hours. IT IS NOT A CITY PARK!! The sign is a convenience, the land belongs to the school district. The community did not want it fenced, inspite of the fact there was unauthorized use going on. Security guards forever would be more than what the district has allocated. Trustee Chiang is a useful foil for conventional wisdom. Unfortunately, both of his board tenures seem to lack common sense when it comes to facilities. He is certainly an experienced teacher, but I am not sure what all of his board experience has taught him about design and construction of school based public facilities. Just because the designer has been hired, does not mean anybody has agreed to a project.


sarahdox
Registered user
Monta Loma
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:22 am
sarahdox, Monta Loma
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 11:22 am

Sorry, OLD STEVE (apparently of Rex Manor, not Monta Loma), but the school park space is maintained by the City of MV - not the school district - and there is a long-standing arrangement that MV-Area school parks are open to the public during hours and locations appropriate for each school. We've been shown no specific instances of so-called security incidents that fencing would definitely have prevented. Also, the voters provided the money in order to improve facilities, not to create pointlessly hostile areas by building fences instead of environmentally safer and more economically maintainable school buildings.
It is true that successive MV City Councils have allowed for private, public, and commercial real estate projects to gobble up potential park space in a variety of ways. While the southernmost parts of the city enjoy ample residential park (e.g., Cuesta Park) space there is a dearth of same in much of the rest of the city. Tiny "pocket parks" and shared school/city parks allow for much-used-but-very-limited recreational opportunities. And yes, indeed, the recent MVWSD meeting was announced with very short notice, with the new rules that restricted online participants to comments only via email during the meeting. The only way to comment directly was to physically attend the meeting. A board member's explanation that this was a "return to normal" was at best closed-minded. Why spend district funds on using meeting space in lieu of full participation via online conference? Why force people to spend extra hours and $$$ for transportation, parking, baby sitting, rearranged mealtimes, etc.? A properly run online session with direct audience input can be nicely managed - as has been done by MVWSD in the past. ***Citizens are watching this MVWSD Board and the MV City Council***, and they definitely will be basing future votes (in public elections) upon the *actions taken*, *and* those that are *hidden* or *not taken*.


Old Steve
Registered user
Rex Manor
on Sep 15, 2021 at 3:37 pm
Old Steve, Rex Manor
Registered user
on Sep 15, 2021 at 3:37 pm

So because I don't live in Monta Loma, my voice does not count? The school is part of a "school district". I have been familiar with the City Parks/School District "arrangement" since 1992 so I don't need to be lectured on that or the resumption of normal meeting practices. No agency would typically make the details of security incidents broadly public, so why should the district? Go ahead, watch the board and council all you want, but the last time we got frustrated, we were rewarded with Trustee Steven Nelson. We live with fencing and access issues at Stevenson/Theuerkauf all the time. Maybe get out of the Monta Loma bubble for a walk or bike ride. Our set up is one of the reasons we moved here.


Steven Nelson
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Sep 18, 2021 at 5:53 pm
Steven Nelson, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Sep 18, 2021 at 5:53 pm

@ Old Steve, your voice is heard and counts. MVWSD Board President is under some grave misunderstanding of how free legislative democracy works if she thinks 'minority opinions' should bow and be silent before The Majority. really?
-We and great Britain would not have had slavery abolished if that were the case! The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 would still be in force (fed agents tracking down runaways etc.). So - hogwash to supression of minority legislative opinion! Calhoun and his ideas have died - Wilberforce lives.

Trustee Chiang is speaking out for Priority Use of Public school facility money for Kids. Especially Academics. Save resources (public tax money) for those FIRST! His voice has many supporters. Certainly I think more than 1/5 of the properety taxpayers footing these paricular school bills.


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