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By Tim Hunt

Time for new collaboration between city and school district

Uploaded: Jan 16, 2018

Pleasanton school trustees wisely are carefully considering how to spend the $270 million bond issue that voters passed two years ago.
During this time, they have a great opportunity to reach out to the City Council and re-invigorate the partnership between the two government agencies. The city currently is updating its plan for downtown Pleasanton, a plan that includes relocating City Hall and the police department from their current downtown locations to a new site on the Bernal property. It’s an expensive long-term proposition, but it’s also a welcome recognition that downtown businesses no longer need the presence of City Hall and its employees to survive and thrive.
The school district owns two parcels that can be better utilized. There’s the Vineyard Avenue site that once was planned for an elementary school. Building a school on that isolated site makes no sense. The district should apply to the city to rezone it for residential and sell it to a builder.
The other key site is the district offices/corporation yard and Village High School at First Street and Bernal. It is a waste of a prime site for residential in the downtown area and it poorly utilized by the district. The district should apply to rezone that site for high-density residential given its ideal walkable location to downtown—it’s a prime parcel that builders would be lining up to buy.
Then, the district can partner with the city on a joint venture of city and school district offices on the Bernal property and figure out a joint corporation yard with the city over on Busch Road.
The two rezoned parcels could be sold to builders for millions, money that could help fill the gap between the $270 million bond measure and the $500 million that was identified total needs in studies completed prior to the bond measure. The $270 total was based on polling that showed how much residents would be willing to pay in additional property taxes—not the total need.
During a recent study session, trustees indicated support for a k-8 school located on the north side of town where three schools have about 100 students more than the elementary school goal of 700 students.
While the studies are still ongoing in both agencies, it time to be bold and invite city leaders into conversations about how together they can create win-win solutions to enhance their services and lower costs for the constituents they all serve.
A generation ago, city and school district leaders collaborated on the heavily used gyms at Harvest Park and Pleasanton middle schools. In that same time frame, they could not agree on combining maintenance operations into one facility, thus the school district opted for the First Street site.
It’s time to rectify that mistake and optimize value for both agencies and the public.
Incidentally, one troubling trend is the negative attitude being expressed by trustees and others about portable classrooms. The view implies that portables are not suitable for a quality education—tell that to a generation of Amador Valley students who attended classes in banks of portables while new classrooms were built.
Building all permanent classrooms assumes there will always be the student population to fill them. Check out the closed schools Livermore and it’s clear that’s a faulty premise. Livermore, which has more than 10,000 more residents than Pleasanton has closed four elementary schools over time and still has fewer students can Pleasanton today.
At one time, the state appropriately conditioned matching funds with the requirement that 50 percent of the classrooms were portables. The concept was to build the core school with facilities such as the multi-purpose room and offices that could be converted to other uses and add or remove portable classrooms to meet demand.
Pleasanton has not seen its student population shrink, although the demographers predict it will do just that over the next 10 years.