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Pleasanton school leaders facing dilemma as enrollment surges

Uploaded: Nov 22, 2018
Pleasanton schools have a challenge, said school Superintendent David Haglund at a recent Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce forum (pictured).

That's finding room for increasing enrollment that district leaders believe may continue.

When schools closed for the Christmas break a year ago, the 14,856 students in the district went home for the holidays. When schools opened two weeks later, 140 new kids showed up, a surprise not predicted by the district’s demographer.

Besides rushing to find seats for all of them, the district had to hire 11 new teachers, not an easy task in the middle of the school year.

“The demographer’s predictions were wrong,” Haglund said. “The surge was mostly at the elementary school level. That’s why we have an enrollment issue now. Had that trend (the demographer forecast) not reversed, we would have 200 fewer kids in our schools,” not 140 more.

Analysts blamed the surge on high density apartment projects that have been completed recently after the city incorporated land use changes for 70 acres of largely undeveloped properties to meet state-mandated housing requirements.

But that wasn’t the case. When the district checked to see where the new students lived, Haglund said they mostly came from homes their parents were renting or bought in the Val Vista and Valley Trails neighborhoods, which are served by Donlon Elementary School where the newcomers showed up last January, asking “where do we sit?”

“This is where new families can buy a home in Pleasanton,” Haglund said. “Homes there are less expensive. Those neighborhoods are aging so people are moving out of homes that they that they bought 30 or 40 years ago.”

So it’s not the apartments causing enrollment increases, it’s home resales, especially in these neighborhoods, that are continuing.

Haglund listed several options facing the school district to meet this enrollment surge: build a new elementary school, redistricting, raising the number of children attending each elementary school or converting one or two schools to handle kindergarten through eighth grade classes.

While many favor raising the current 650-student limit to 700, Haglund pointed out that five of the district’s nine elementaries already handle at least 700 students. At the start of the year, Donlon had 814 students, Fairlands had 785 and Walnut Grove a total of 728. Adjusting current school boundaries also has been considered. That could solve problems for now, but Haglund said that would upset everyone in town.

Converting Donlon Elementary and Hart Middle School to K-8, which is being considered, would require spending $14 million over what it would cost to build a new school. The district just doesn’t have the money for that. However, if the city’s East Side is developed with housing, developers would pay for a new school there, which Haglund said would be a K-8 school.

The recently-approved $270 million Measure I1 bond calls for building a new elementary school, but Haglund asked where. He’s spent months searching for an available school site in north Pleasanton, where the school is needed, without success. He did find three office buildings that the district could buy and tear down, but would cost $45 million before a new school could be built. He called that “ridiculous.”

The district also owns a 3-acre school site on Vineyard Avenue where an elementary school to be named Neal was to be built years ago. Once planned to serve the Ruby Hill community, most of the children who lived there are now in college or beyond and the school is no longer needed.

“It’s nowhere near where the kids are today,” Haglund said.

Haglund said he and a study group will propose their recommendations for handling the district’s enrollment dilemma at a workshop meeting of the Pleasanton school board on Dec. 18. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the school district’s headquarters at 4665 Bernal Ave.


EDITOR'S NOTE: An earlier version of this blog stated that the Dec. 18 meeting would start at 7 p.m. The meeting will starts at 6 p.m.

Comments

 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Nov 22, 2018 at 4:56 pm

Suspend all inter district student transfers.
This will make room for all new PUSD resident students.

The past six years inter district student transfers into PUSD schools from other district averaged 243 students year.

The inter district transfers out of PUSD district average 18 students year.


 +   9 people like this
Posted by oldtimer20, a resident of Amador Estates,
on Nov 22, 2018 at 9:06 pm

If you consider the payroll for district employees of Pleasanton school district you will be shocked.
The new superintendent gave himself a $20,000 bonus last year that was his first year in this city.
other High level employees get to go Japan for a month with no recourse on why and what they do and how they spend the money.

Take a drive to district high ranking employees parking lot to see what cars they drive that is paid by PSD.
It is not that PSD does not have the money it is that they pay these guys so much that does not leave room for anything else and this open door policy that you do not pay me and i will go else where to work does not work either.

Most of these guys are brought from other areas in California and have no commitment to Pleasanton they are gun for hire. they do not last a year or two and chaos goes on.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Nov 23, 2018 at 11:35 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

So much missing here.

This was a presentation to the Chamber of Commerce. I think it is their effort to get the Chamber to back a new bond for another $120MM in 2020 . . . on top of the $270MM we just voted for two years ago.

There are over 200 students unable to attend their neighborhood schools. With no buses, these students are driven across town by their parents. It is rare, but sometimes a family with two elementary students could see those children in two different elementary schools.

Rules are such that if an interdistrict student (IDX"children who do not live in Pleasanton) is accepted, as an example, in kindergarten, the child has the right to stay in that school through fifth grade (same for middle and high). If a kindergartner moves into the boundary area of that same elementary and there is no room left after the IDX student is placed, the Pleasanton child will be transferred to another elementary"and potentially can never go to their neighborhood school because the IDX student has the right to stay. There are over 200 IDX students in the district. Some are special ed and some are the students of teachers (I have no quarrel with either of them). But I have been waiting since August for how many of that 200 are students that do not fit in those categories. If the majority of the 200 are not special ed or teachers' children, then we need a moratorium on accepting IDX students.

The new school option has been discussed since the bond was passed with NO action. Lots of discussion. The best idea has come from Mr. Maher to split the property at Donlon and make a TK-2 and 3-5 campus. It is the fastest and cheapest option. But staff keeps pushing for bigger schools. They have no money for that option. None. The board committed to not issuing the $35MM in bonds if a new school was not built (I personally believe the Donlon option is fulfilling a new school requirement), So, they will not sell"and we will not pay for"$35MM in bond funds. That lowers the $270MM bond to $235MM, with a lower impact to taxpayers. Haglund cannot have that money to expand other schools.

A few of us have repeatedly argued that the demographer is not understanding the Pleasanton dynamic. We have shown the board spreadsheets proving we are gaining students. For years. We fought for the new school to be part of the bond, and to my horror at least, watched as they chose to tear down an existing school rather than start the new school (a three- to five-year process that has not even begun), and that school does not add capacity (unless the board reneges yet again and allows schools over 700).

The district once committed to elementaries of 600 students and put it in the City's General Plan. We are now at 700 and more, and staff is suggesting even larger schools.

By the way, Donlon is well over 700; over 800 actually. And 160ish students being sent to other schools are from Donlon, putting the school close to 1,000 or so.

The K-8 option is dead on arrival. The only place this idea would work is if the East Side Development is built and the school is placed there to accommodate those new students.

Staff consistently insists there is no money to operate a new school, trying to build a case for not building anything. Yet we gave $2.5MM in raises, are going to do some “belt tightening", and haven't settled with the classified union, where the belt tightening is likely to occur (always does). The board needs to prioritize and start putting money aside for operating a new school, then they can give raises (and I think the raises are warranted"just want students to come first).

The Neal site is an asset that should be sold or traded to add to the coffers to build the new school.
Now that we are paying for technology through bonds, the Sycamore fund is another asset for building a new school (at any grade level).

I will say this as many times as it takes, staff has an agenda, and they will keep driving the board to that end"by direct recommendation or by continuing to stretch out the discussion process. Doing nothing is also a decision.


 +   7 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills,
on Nov 23, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I should add, bigger schools are a horrible option. Our children had that experience when Walnut Grove was 1,000+ (K-6 and before CSR). There are limited resources and hidden/unexpected costs. Library time and materials (5 students need a book, maybe there are 2 copies). Lunch was split over three periods. Play space is limited. Office/support staff is limited. And if we are belt tightening, office/support/library staff is what will get cut. Often there aren't enough counselors. So all services to students suffer and so do families and their children. At WG (late 80s), they attempted to have the school secretaries trained to give injections to students because they cut nursing staff.

If K-12 education in Pleasanton is a draw, and if we are trying to provide the best learning environments for this community's children, schools of more than 700 (already arguably large) are not the answer.


 +   6 people like this
Posted by Jack, a resident of Pleasanton Heights,
on Nov 24, 2018 at 11:16 am

Jack is a registered user.

Dilemma? What's the dilemma? We voters passed a quarter of a Billion dollar bond, and all these new homes are paying outrageous fees... Build a couple new schools already!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by begoy, a resident of Fairlands Elementary School,
on Nov 28, 2018 at 5:24 am

begoy is a registered user.

Wawa, Inc. is an American chain of convenience stores and gas stations located along the East Coast of the United States, operating in Pennsylvania, New Jersey Web Link


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by billie, a resident of Bonde Ranch,
on Nov 28, 2018 at 2:20 pm

As a short term solution we should start adding portables immediately. If the schools are truly overcrowded should the fire marshall step in? Sounds a bit like a few people complaining. After all our scores are high correct?



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