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September 09, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, September 09, 2005

Opinion Opinion (September 09, 2005)

Overcrowded high schools affect our students

by Julie Testa

We are proud to be Amador Dons. My kids are Amador grads of 2003, 2006 and 2011. We are proud of the many wonderful programs, and great administration, staff and teachers. Because I care about the youth of Pleasanton, I must take issue with your Pollyanna editorial about district overcrowding. To imply that the Pleasanton Unified School District is "ready for record-high enrollment" is naive.

To suggest that all students have the opportunity to participate in varsity sports is offensive to the many athletes who have been cut from all levels of sports, including lacrosse. Amador's football team, always proud to allow any boy who could keep up with the sport's intense demands wear the uniform, must now cut hopefuls.

High school extracurricular activities have become near-elite as levels of competition soar with enrollment. Students are turned away from activities in even greater numbers. Cheerleading and basketball struggle for court time and band and football for field time; girls' and boys' teams vie for limited fields.

Don't pretend that overcrowding doesn't affect our students. Many activities must look off campus for space; many students must eat lunch sitting on the concrete. Our students no longer fit in our theater so annual spirit skits are now held outdoors at the fairgrounds. Supervision of the huge numbers attending dances is worrisome; parking at Foothill is a nightmare. Graduation ceremonies have now outgrown the fairgrounds so don't invite grandma and grandpa from Chicago, because there may be no place for them to sit.

The "bubble of enrollment" theory is an insult to affected children. It is unacceptable for our affluent district to allow our children to suffer the consequences of overcrowding based on this unlikely theory. A more likely forecast is that we will peak and stabilize. Our superintendent and demographer agree that generations of students should not be negatively affected for what may happen in the future. Superintendent John Casey acknowledges that elementary numbers may not reflect higher numbers coming to our middle and high schools.

Over the past 10 years, concerned parents have begged the district to prepare for impending growth. They warned that the cost of additions would exceed the cost of building a third comprehensive high school and overburden existing facilities; both are now true. When the PUSD sold property intended for a third high school, it chose not to replace it. Amador's new addition increased capacity to 2000 plus "wiggle room," but there is no room to wiggle! With 2,350 Foothill students, and 2,450 at Amador, we have already exceeded the peak, predicted to come in 2010!

Next election remember: Four members of our current school board are responsible for ignoring the outcry, refusing to be realistic and pushing aside opportunities to prepare adequately for future growth at a reasonable time and cost. Still these Trustees have no plan to deal with swelling numbers, so they close their eyes and pretend there is no problem. They can, of course, take comfort in the fact that their own children graduated before the consequences of their lack of foresight could truly be realized. -Julie Testa is a member of a parent advocacy group that has long advocated a third comprehensive high school in Pleasanton.

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