News


School board looks at locations for new elementaries

Members suggest bond measure may be needed

With the need for two new elementary schools and hundreds of millions of dollars in repairs to existing facilities, the Pleasanton school board is once again talking about a bond measure.

At its meeting Tuesday night, the board heard a demographer's report calling for one new school on the city's north side to accommodate overcrowding in existing schools.

The district wants each elementary school to have between 600 and 700 students. Donlon, Fairlands, Walnut Grove and Valley View elementaries are already above 700 students.

A 10th elementary in north Pleasanton would be filled to capacity by 2018, and future growth on the city's east side means that an 11th elementary will be needed by the early 2020s, according to Davis Demographics and Planning.

Previous estimates from the district put the cost of building a new school at about $37 million, not counting the land and site preparations. That's in addition to an estimated $92 million needed for immediate repairs to facilities, and other medium- and long-term needs that total nearly $400 million.

"We have many, many projects that have not gone away," board member Joan Laursen said. "I think it's time for us to start talking about a bond."

Of seven scenarios presented, two were the most viable, according to Isaac Jones, project manager at Davis Demographics, although board members added a third scenario to the discussion.

All three call for a new school in north Pleasanton and for an 11th school to be built in east Pleasanton, with one scenario using property on Vineyard Avenue already owned by the district known as the Neal School site.

But board members seemed hesitant to commit to any of the three plans deemed most workable.

"In looking at these documents, one thing that becomes abundantly clear is we're looking at adding two new schools," said board member Jeff Bowser. "Regardless of the cost, we have a duty to house those students appropriately."

But board members are still weighing options that include moving the district offices to somewhere in the Hacienda Business Park and selling the land that houses the district's administrative offices, a maintenance facility, Village High School and an adjacent ball field.

Board members also want to consider new uses for the Neal School property, which could also involve a land swap. Laursen questioned whether the district could swap land for other property, something that Deputy Superintendent Luz Cazares said would require hiring a professional for negotiations.

The district has also floated the idea that the developers of homes in the East Pleasanton Specific Plan set aside land, and possibly build a school in the area.

While the board considers the alternatives, board member Chris Grant suggested the district reach out to the city.

"I would see this as a tight collaborative effort," Grant said, pointing out that Pleasanton would need to be involved in infrastructure, such as roads, and the district needs to "impress upon the city that this 10th site is really necessary."

He also called for a discussion on funding.

"I think we would be remiss if we go about planning a new school or two new schools without having a long term funding strategy," he said.

A discussion of the budget brought out about a dozen parents and three speakers to ask again for class-size reductions. Gov. Jerry Brown has pushed for smaller class sizes from transitional kindergarten to third grade, with a goal of 24 students per class by 2021. Parents want the district to move more quickly than that.

"Parents in Pleasanton have suffered through a lot of large class sizes and 30-1 just doesn't work," said parent Delia Cooper. "There's classroom chaos."

Cooper said classes with 30 students are noisy and that "teachers are focusing on crowd control."

Parents successfully lobbied last year for smaller class sizes for first grade, which the district plans to continue at an annual cost of $552,500 a year for a 25-1 ratio.

Each successive class would cost an equal ongoing amount and the district has several options: gradually changing the ratios for all classes, changing the ratio for each grade level over time or reducing class sizes across the board all at once at a cost of $2.2 million for 25-1 or $2.6 million for 24-1.

"We pride ourselves on high quality education, and that does equal lower class sizes so the teacher has the time to concentrate on each student," Cooper said.

Board member Valerie Arkin asked Cazares to look into potential state grants to alleviate overcrowding.

The budget discussion also included good news: an additional $2 million in locally controlled funds. That totals $5 million for the upcoming year and the money can be used in a variety of ways, from building maintenance to reducing class sizes. The district has created an advisory committee to make suggestions about how the money should be spent.

Board members split on a request from Bowser to donate $5,000 a year to Leadership Pleasanton, which teaches local residents and business owners the inner workings of local government. The leadership program has traditionally included two staff members from the school district at no cost.

Joyce Shapiro, program coordinator for Leadership Pleasnton, pointed out that chartering a bus for the year-long, once-a-month program costs $1,000, and lunch runs about $600.

Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi suggested the district back the program.

"For me, as a new member of the community, it was the best thing that I did," Ahmadi told the board.

Bowser said the program could be viewed as an advertisement for the school district and that it has the added benefit of bringing in potential new volunteers and connections in the business community.

But other board members balked at spending $5,000 a year. Board President Jamie Hintzke suggested that the district pay for the day Leadership Pleasanton classes spend touring the district and pay the cost of sending employees to the program in the future.

Grant, Arkin and Laursen were hesitant to commit to a specific plan. Arkin noted that the board voted down an increase in stipends for itself, and Laursen said the board already faces difficult spending choices.

"I would like to support the program," Laursen said, "but it's just a little bit difficult when we're looking at the budget and we have groups coming to us and asking that we restore their programs and we have people coming to us and looking for a raise."

Comments

Posted by Upcoming Kindergartener, a resident of Downtown
on Jan 30, 2014 at 11:23 am

This story mentions that within PUSD, First Grade will have a "continued" ratio of 25:1, and that the goal is to extend this up through the grades. However, it does not mention the current ratio for kindergarten. Does anyone know what the current ratio is in Kindergarten for PUSD, or what the anticipated ratio is for next year?


Posted by Jill Buck, a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:20 am

Years ago, I had the privilege of talking with Dr. Rice who was the Superintendent who shepherded the Measure D bond that made Pleasanton school facilities what they are today. His strategy for involving the City, Rotary, the Chamber, and parent groups was brilliant, solid, and tremendously effective. A roadmap for bringing the community together around this issue exists, and I would love to see this approach applied once more.


Posted by Jill Buck, a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 31, 2014 at 8:23 am

It was Dr. James - Lori Rice's dad. :)


Posted by Reduce Class Sizes, a resident of Birdland
on Jan 31, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Kindergarten currently has a 30:1 ratio. First grade is currently the only grade with "class size reduction".


Posted by Bond measure? Yeah, that's the ticket!, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 5:25 am

No one will vote for another Bond Measure. PUSD owes $68.3 million in principal alone for bonds from Measure A/B. PUSD also owes $25.6 million principal and interest to pay back certificates of participation loans.

Plus they have Ahmadi+Cazares. No one will vote for anything until they resign or are fired and are long gone.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 10:44 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

"The district has also floated the idea that the developers of homes in the East Pleasanton Specific Plan set aside land, and possibly build a school in the area." Because this worked so well with Signature?

". . . moving the district offices to somewhere in the Hacienda Business Park and selling the land that houses the district's administrative offices, a maintenance facility, Village High School and an adjacent ball field." This has been on the table before, but at least part of the Bernal site makes it a difficult property and the cost to build new facilities in Hacienda are likely far more than you would get for Bernal.

"pointing out that Pleasanton would need to be involved in infrastructure, such as roads," If I remember, the City was great in giving us the bill for infrastructure to the tune of $4 million for straightening Vineyard already. Why swap that land and pay another bill for infrastructure?

As to Leadership Pleasanton, "Bowser said the program could be viewed as an advertisement for the school district." It's a public school district; why would it need to advertise? There are many ways, already ongoing, to work with the City and business community. I think Hintzke's suggestion makes the most sense.


Posted by Schools, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 3:11 pm

I do not see any mention about Middle & High Schools? They are already over crowded, and with plans to add over 3000 new housing units in Pleasanton, is the assumption there will be no impact to these schools?


Posted by Jake, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 1, 2014 at 8:36 pm

"It's a public school district; why would it need to advertise?"

Are you crazy? Public entities need to advertise, just like private entities. That's the whole idea. Public entities need to be run like business. Business advertise. Public school districts advertise.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 1, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Maybe you can explain. We have a district that is impacted by growth, that is talking about bonds to build capacity to house that growth. What is it we need to advertise for--to attract more students? Families already find us by reputation and sites like greatschools.org


Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:09 am

I find it hard to take PUSD seriously after following the Neal School situation:
PUSD gets a site on Vineyard Ave. Signature Properties agrees to build a school on the site. All the homes in Ruby Hill provide huge fees in the name of building the school. PUSD never gives Signature the "go ahead" to build the school. Instead they sue Signature. They lose the suits. The people of Ruby Hill never get their school. Their kids are doing just fine at Valley View and Vintage Hills. Where did the money go? (Probably north of 20 million) And now that PUSD is "exploring new sites," they will sell off the Neal site to some home builder, and pocket the money. Where will that money go? It is a total Double Dip. They collect fees and land sites in the name of building new schools, but then never build the schools?
You can shear a sheep a hundred times… You can skin him once...


Posted by local, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:44 am

Is Bowser nuts? Advertising our school district? Our school district complains already that we do not receive an adequate amount of funding per student to run the programs we want. That is why they tried for a parcel tax, twice. If we really do not receive enough from the state for our operations, like the district administration says, adding more students make the problem worse! Think of it this way, if it costs you $2 to produce a widget and you get paid $1 for it, making more widgets gets you further in the hole. It is obvious there is a basic misunderstanding of math at our administration/board level. Even our forth grade students could figure out this math problem.

The district has already squandered the money it has received from the taxpayers. We have two bonds we are still paying for. They were refinanced so we will be paying for them longer that we should have. They also did an illegal cash-out, at the taxpayer expense, and have squandered that money. They took out COPs (Certificates of Deposits), another loan type, to build things like the daycare center on the district property and to build projects they did not have money for but a COP was easier than a bond since it does not require voter approval. The COP interest for the last many years is being paid for by the developers fees which are supposed to go towards the new facilities needed for new development.

It is time to take our district back and restore it to the prestige it once was. We need to remove much of the school board that is in place as well as the top administration. It saddens me to see how this current administration has ruined one of the best things in Pleasanton.


Posted by local, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 2, 2014 at 10:46 am

Jack, don't forget that the district had an option on the east side, Ponderosa Plan, but they made a deal with the developer to eliminate the option on that land for a cash payout to the district. That money was squandered and we no longer have that land. How can we trust the school district to spend any more of our money. It is like giving a drunk more alcohol.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:06 pm

"What is it we need to advertise for--to attract more students? Families already find us by reputation and sites like greatschools.org"

What is the need? Why stop at "great" when we can be extra-great or super-great. We need to run the schools like a business. Of course we need to advertise.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Cute, "Jake." We can send you the bill, for the promotion and facilities and staff.


Posted by Jake, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 2, 2014 at 2:57 pm

"Cute"?

The bill will go to me, you, and anyone else who owns a house in Pleasanton. That's "Cute" or something? I think I don't get your humor.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Gonna disagree with you Jake. No need to advertise. It would be money wasted; better spent in the classroom.


Posted by Advertise, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 3, 2014 at 2:22 pm

The only advertising should be for a new Superintendent...


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 3, 2014 at 3:21 pm

Can we all get along...there'S clearly no need to trash the sup...she's supposed to be doing a fine job...or so I've heard on BART!

If advertising is part of it what do you say in the add...STAY AWAY?

i'm so tickled by all the conflict...what's a person to believe?


Posted by local, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 3, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Advertising is the first and foremost way to show the community that a parcel tax is not needed and donations to PPIE are not needed as your money would be wasted in advertising instead of programs that help our students. This is a governmental agency and they will be judged on their output. There seem to be quite a few people upset with the current board and administration and the best thing that can be done is to get engaged to replace the board and direct them to make changes in the administration all before you will give them more money.


Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Feb 3, 2014 at 5:11 pm

If you tax Massage Parlors in the Tri-Valley but mostly in Plutonia you can raise enuf $$$$$ to fund 30 new schools! COOL OR WHAT?



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