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Valley Trails site is poor location for school

Uploaded: Apr 18, 2017
The joint meeting of school trustees and city council members last week came around to discussing whether the school district should build a new elementary school on a church site in Valley Trails.
Ponderosa Homes has optioned the site and, after lots of meetings with the neighborhood, is moving ahead with a 36-home plan for the 10-acre site. Building out the neighborhood is a reasonable use for the land. It is an awkward location for a school. It’s like a school site located off Black Avenue that the district sold off years ago for a Ponderosa housing project that finished the neighborhood.
Putting an elementary school in Valley Trails will create significant traffic disruptions for the neighborhood. Unlike most elementary school sites that are located on or near major streets, the Valley Trails site sits at the end of a “U” with North and South Valley Trails drives. To reach the site, drivers must traverse the length of the entire neighborhood. The only elementary school tucked into a similar neighborhood is Vintage Hills.
Bottom line: it is far from an ideal site for an elementary school. It is in the right area of town.
The other site that the trustees are moving ahead with is on Vineyard Avenue between Ruby Hill and the rest of the community. Again, not an ideal site—one that kids will not walk to simply because there are few homes in the area.
Now that the council has deferred any planning for East Pleasanton for at least two years, if trustees are determined to build a school, there will not be an ideal site. If East Pleasanton moves forward with a residential community of 900 units, there would be a logical spot for an elementary school in that project.
What’s critical, particularly for the Valley Trails church site, is a speedy decision so Ponderosa doesn’t get strung out with its project that already has been a multi-year effort.
Incidentally, there was an interesting set of letters in a recent Pleasanton Weekly edition. Jan Batcheller’s letter pointed out that the district was planning a $35 million elementary school that will cost $1 million annually to operate. That’s not pocket change.
If the goal is simply to get within the enrollment goals for elementary schools or to move some students out of portables, as Jan points out, research has shown no correlation between the size of the school and the achievement of the students.
There also seems a question from some people about whether portables are a suitable classroom for Pleasanton students. Many years ago, before the elementary schools across the district were renovated, the modular units with efficient heating and air conditioning systems were far more comfortable for students.
It makes no difference, as long as maintenance is appropriate, whether a 30x30 classroom is stick-built or a modular unit. Students can learn equally well whatever the classroom.
Remember, the test scores at Amador and Foothill did not tank when there were a huge number of modular classrooms on the campuses while the stick-built facilities were being renovated.
The number of portable classrooms vary across the elementary schools with several elementary schools with none, while others have one-third or more. Frankly, I haven’t seen a measurable difference in test scores because Fairlands has one-third of its classrooms in portables—like Valley View and Vintage Hills.
The state, to tap into matching construction grants, required districts to utilize portables for half of the classrooms at new schools. That allowed sites to evolve as student enrollment changed.
Pleasanton has not seen the shifts in enrollment that have been seen in both Dublin and particularly Livermore. Livermore has closed several schools over the years, sold school sites and is preparing to sell another site. Portables provide the flexibility for districts to adapt.
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Posted by nomotrump, a resident of Val Vista,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 10:08 am

How about we allow mobile homes in kottinger ranch & other residential areas . They are just as unsightly on school property as in neighborhoods. Good schools in Ca. are non-existant & the portables only show one aspect of the lack of regard for education in Ca. You might as well put classrooms in a barn.

Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 10:56 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.


The issue surrounding new schools and portables is even more intriguing then you opine. There is a thread in Townhall that I've been commenting on and I'm confounded by the numbers someone has publicized.

Take a look: Web Link

Kathleen posted a spreadsheet that breaks down school population and number of classes and other criterion. Not only do we have enough space to accommodate all the kids in elementary grades, but using an average class size of 25.42, there is still 13 unused "fixed-structure" classes district-wide. This does not include the 60 portables that are being used now.

We have capacity in this district for an additional 1855 kids with the current space so the question is, why and more importantly WHO are we paying for the additional space?

Perhaps PW might want to ask this question of the district?

BTW as far as I can tell this is the same issue at the middle school level too but I haven't done the numbers yet.


Posted by DKHSK, a resident of Bridle Creek,
on Apr 18, 2017 at 10:59 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

Holy moly I was totally wrong about the portable number. The 60 I used was those that were OWNED by the district. There are more that are leased and another column that are unused.

Wow...even worse than I thought.

Posted by Tim Hunt, a blogger,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 4:48 pm

Tim Hunt is a registered user.

The school board at its meeting Tuesday agreed to send a letter to the City Council saying the district is "precluded from pursuit of the property." The district also has a signed mitigation agreement with Ponderosa. With the Planning Commission's 3-2 approval, the housing proposal moves to the City Council, possibly on the May 2 agenda.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 5:06 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Tim, Trustees have agreed to look at Neal. They have yet to set priorities or even discuss what that site looks like.

The demographer calls for two schools, so if the East Side comes up, that is where the *second* school would go.

The information is incorrect regarding operating costs. It would be nice if you did some fact checking. But as long as you are reading, I've posted information about classroom sizes (960 sq. ft.) and school acreage guidelines from the state. There is a difference between modulars and portables. Modulars are used effectively and require different construction. We have portables we leased and portables we bought. Some of the ones we bought were put on foundations and facades slapped on the outside. There are questions of ingress, egress, windows, cross ventilation, stability, connection to school offices, whether they are remotely located, etc.

“As long as maintenance is appropriate" . . . I think you must have missed that much of the $270M in bond money is to be spent on the maintenance we have not done for years. What happens when that money is gone? Do you believe that as contributions for STRS and PERS increase from $13M to $20M that the district will put aside funds for maintenance, because I sure don't.

Test scores, as you know, are one measure of an educational experience. Get out and talk to students and teachers about their schools; then talk to students who actually have amazing facilities and a variety of learning experiences because they have the space and incredibly interesting and challenging programs.

School sites are a community asset, and I've seen them used well even when enrollment declines so they provide income to pension strapped school districts (that would be all California districts).

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Apr 19, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Did you read the agreement Tim. Signed prematurely for the cash . . . to pay for portables or interest on COPs?

Posted by TK421, a resident of Valley Trails,
on Apr 21, 2017 at 9:17 am

TK421 is a registered user.

Valley Trails is a great location for a school and all homeowners should be welcoming the prospect.

It will only increase the property values. Moreover, there are a lot of children in the area that will benefit from having a school so close by.

That land had always been set aside for the purpose of having a school, and many original homeowners in the 70's bought into the properties thinking that it would come to fruition. It's great to hear that it's a possibility, and I for one would support it.

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