But the new school can't be called Slater Elementary when it finally open its doors next year, Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told board members at a meeting last week. Although the campus is entirely new, he said the old Slater Elementary still technically exists in the state's County-District-School (CDS) code system.
The old school campus is currently being leased out to Google for the company's day care facility, and district officials have been hesitant to kick out the tech giant and lose more than $2 million in lease revenue each year. Not only is the district heavily reliant on that lease money to build Slater in the first place, but district staff said it would cost a fortune to renovate and modernize the existing buildings for use as a new elementary school.
District officials instead opted to construct a compact, two-story campus on field space adjacent to the old campus located at 220 N. Whisman Road.
"The reason why Stevenson (Elementary School) keeps its existing name is that we razed Stevenson and are placing it right in the same footprint," Rudolph said. "In this case with the new school on North Whisman, Slater still exists as a set of buildings leased out to Google."
The school district recently concluded an online feedback session on potential names with 320 participants, 43 percent of whom reportedly live in the Whisman region of the city. Rudolph said the results show residents want the new school to have a name that reflects "significant success" in education as well as diversity, inclusion and compassion. District officials rejected geographic location names as potential options, as well as some of the heavy hitters in tech that — despite being successful and a source for inspiration — may not be the best role models for kids.
"Many of the big names in technology are drop-outs. For elementary schools, we should pick a namesake who actually values and encourages education," Rudolph said. "Not going to knock the value of dropping out of Harvard, it's obviously made a couple people billionaires, but I think that's an important thing."
The list, presented to the board on April 19, included both the former president and first lady, Barack and Michelle Obama; Bay Area philanthropist Ruth Clouse Chance; former school board member Gail Urban Moore; computer scientist and U.S. Navy admiral Grace Hopper and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, a graduate of Mountain View High School.
Board member Tamara Wilson, who suggested including Vargas back in September last year, told the Voice she felt the process had plenty of public involvement, and that she was happy with the list of potential names and the backgrounds they represent.
"It's a really good representation," she said. "It's got local people, for the most part, and then you have these national figures like the Obamas."
The district is not accepting additional suggestions from the public at this point, according to district spokeswoman Shelly Hausman.
Rudolph said the next step is to put together a focus group to vet the names, rank them and come back to the board with recommendations for the top two. The goal is to have a decision by mid-June. The second- and third-options could be used to name the district's two preschool locations, depending on the board's decision later this year.
Construction at the school was planned to start last month, and is expected to continue all the way through the summer of 2019. Conceptual plans for the school include two, two-story classroom wings and a one-story classroom building for younger children, with the multi-purpose room and administrative building facing North Whisman Road.
District officials are working with the city of Mountain View on potential traffic improvements along North Whisman Road, including a traffic signal at Pacific Drive, crosswalks and bike lanes, according to the district website.
Under new school attendance boundaries set to take effect the same year, all families north of Central Expressway and east of Highway 85 in Mountain View will be zoned for the new North Whisman school. The region of the city includes the so-called East Whisman Precise Plan, which city officials are planning to zone for more than 5,000 homes in the coming years.
Wilson, who lives in the Wagon Wheel area currently zoned for Huff Elementary School, said the accelerated housing growth in the city was a critical reason for her involvement in public schools back in 2014, and that the city and school districts need to collaborate with one another and plan for jumps in enrollment. She said it's not clear at this point how snug the new school will be when it opens up, but her neighbors are showing plenty of interest in adopting the North Whisman school as their own.
"Even the people I see at Huff are really excited," she said. "It's a new school, it's a new opportunity and it's a new start."
The groundbreaking event was scheduled for Thursday, April 26, at 5:30 p.m. at 220 N. Whisman Road.
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