News

School board discusses PUSD properties, new school at facilities workshop

Administrators to bring recommendations to second study session

Splitting grades K-5 between Donlon Elementary and a new school on the property and finding a parcel near Hart for a new elementary school were among the ideas generated by the Pleasanton school board Tuesday night during a study session on current and future district facilities.

No decisions were made at the three-hour workshop, which followed a 6 p.m. regular meeting; rather, administrators will return to the board at a second workshop with recommendations and next steps based on Tuesday’s discussion. The date of the next workshop has not yet been announced.

“I think you’ve challenged us to think creatively about resolving the crowding issue,” PUSD superintendent David Haglund told the board at the end of Tuesday’s meeting. “There’s a whole lot of options you put on the table today.”

Tuesday's workshop was the first of at least two focusing on PUSD's facility needs in light of the school facilities bond Measure I1 passed by Pleasanton voters in November.

The board indicated months ago that it would hold such a workshop as part of the district's planning for how to spend $270 million in bond revenue anticipated through the passage of Measure I1, which established a new property tax of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value for school facilities projects. Money can only be used toward projects on the list approved by the school board last year and as outlined in the ballot language. The list includes a new elementary school, safety and security upgrades like new fire alarm systems, and the Lydiksen Elementary School rebuild among other projects.

Last month, the board authorized the first issuance and sale of Measure I1 bonds. Proceeds from the $72 million initial bond series will be put toward the Lydiksen Elementary rebuild; certificates of participation debt payoff; modernizations qualifying for state funding; infrastructure, safety and security projects; staff and student technology, and a new elementary school feasibility study.

Concurrently, work is beginning to develop a Measure I1 and facility master plan that will include timelines, budgets and project details. A committee consisting of district and school staff representatives, a student, and a city of Pleasanton representative among others is working with an architect to create that plan.

The group held its kick-off meeting Monday, but a notice of the meeting was not posted to the district website, leading to criticism on social media from some residents concerned about district transparency.

PUSD spokesman Patrick Gannon said in an email Tuesday the committee is not subject to Brown Act meeting requirements -- such as public notification.

“Committees formed by the superintendent are different than board-appointed committees and not subject to Brown Act requirements,” Gannon said. “Examples of superintendent committees include our principal and student advisory committees. While these are not typically closed committees, formal agendas are not required to be posted and discussion is limited to committee members.”

Tuesday’s study session saw trustees come down from the dais and sit around a table to review data and discuss the district’s properties and school sizes.

The four-part workshop kicked off with an interactive review of the district’s strategic plan led by Haglund. Using their phones and Chromebooks, trustees, administrators and members of the public responded to online poll prompts related to the strategic plan such as, “‘Every student and staff will feel safe, respected and enjoy positive connections.’ What physical structures are needed to support this statement?”

Answers were anonymously displayed as they came in on screens in the boardroom.

“Better security,” “ADA facilities,” and “safe parking and drop off locations” were among the responses to that prompt.

Next, deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa reviewed data on PUSD facilities, including owned and leased properties; student population; definitions of portables and modulars; estimated costs for building and operating a new elementary school, and guidelines regarding the size of PUSD schools.

Those guidelines, established in the 2013 facilities master plan update, set forth preferred school size ranges of 600-700 students at each elementary school, 1,000-1,200 students per middle school and 2,400 students per high school.

Several schools exceed their preferred sizes, according to enrollment data from the district. Donlon has the most students of the elementary schools at 813, followed by Fairlands at 786 and Walnut Grove at 730.

Hart and Pleasanton Middle School are at 1,265 and 1,248 students, respectively and Amador is the largest school in the district with 2,715 enrolled.

While trustees did not propose new school size ranges Tuesday, they brainstormed ideas for a new elementary school as part of a discussion on the district office and Neal properties.

In February, the board directed administrators to explore building a new elementary school on the district-owned Neal property located at 1689 Vineyard Ave. in the southeast part of the city.

But it appeared Tuesday that enthusiasm for that concept has waned. Trustee Steve Maher was among those who stated they did not want to see a new elementary school built at the Neal site.

“I would not want to see Neal as an elementary school right now,” Maher said. “To me the prudent thing to do is to look for a site we already have.”

Besides the district office and school sites, the only other district property is the upper Bernal Fields property. PUSD has a lease agreement with the city of Pleasanton for use of that property that expires in 2034.

Trustee Valerie Arkin cautioned against selling the Neal property, citing Dublin Unified School District’s current issue finding suitable available land for a new school.

“Seeing what Dublin is going through, I don’t want our district to ever go through that,” Arkin said. “I think it’s a good idea for us to hang on to that (property).”

She also proposed an idea for a new elementary school location.

“What about having two schools on that (Donlon) property?” she said. “For instance, a K-2 and a 3-5. Some of these modular construction things are really good. It’s something that could be done fairly quick, we already have the land for it, we have the bond money to pay for something like this, and it specifically addresses our need of our most impacted elementary schools.”

Trustee Jamie Yee Hintzke raised the concept of giving up the Neal property to acquire one by Hart Middle School, although no specific parcel was mentioned.

“What if we did trade the Neal property for a property right by Hart and do an elementary school nearby Hart so that we have a little more flexibility?” she said. “It would be great for Hart to have a sister elementary school.”

She also said consideration should be given to subdividing some of the district office property to sell and using a portion for employee housing.

“We’re underutilizing this property,” Hintzke said.

Later, board president Joan Laursen told administrators, “I think you heard we’re open to moving and doing something with this site that would generate sufficient funds to allow that to happen and help us with other projects.”

Speaking during Tuesday’s meeting, assistant city manager Brian Dolan told the board they would “likely get some community opposition from a housing proposal on this site.”

“But I think you wouldn’t get opposition at the (city) staff level,” he added.

Four members of the public also addressed the board during the study session, including Measure I1 campaign co-chair Jill Buck.

“We have some tremendous need in this district and some real repairs that are affecting our learning environments and our teachers’ work environments every day, and I’m not insensitive to the needs of our population and the need for our campuses to breathe,” Buck said. “But I don’t think that it’s prudent as a taxpayer and as someone who was out there on the front lines of the bond campaign effort to put so much emphasis on a new school when the existing campuses are in such incredible need.”

Comments

30 people like this
Posted by More housing?
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:17 am

Here we go.... another sneaky way to add more housing to our Downtown area. Already, if the City has its way, we'll be seeing massive housing projects added to the Downtown area (these will be Mid to High-density housing projects or even "micro-units" and large parking garages) not only on the Civic Center/Library property, but in the surrounding Downtown neighborhoods and on Main Street. Now, as quoted by Joan Laursen, the School District is "open to moving and doing something with this site," we all know what that means, even more housing (mid to high-density) on the District property located right at First and Bernal. Why would the School District sell yet another piece of valuable property to housing developers, when Pleasanton is in such a desperate need for more schools? If we can't provide enough schools for our community, then why would we add even more housing and, ironically, on the School District property? Makes absolutely no sense! Use the School District property for a school not more housing.


9 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Sep 13, 2017 at 8:46 am

“We have some tremendous need in this district and some real repairs that are affecting our learning environments and our teachers’ work environments every day, and I’m not insensitive to the needs of our population and the need for our campuses to breathe,” Buck said. “But I don’t think that it’s prudent as a taxpayer and as someone who was out there on the front lines of the bond campaign effort to put so much emphasis on a new school when the existing campuses are in such incredible need.”

I couldn't agree more with this statement. Can the drum beat, and the attempt to hijack funds, for a new school please stop and let's fix the issues that exist currently that were identified and were voted on to get fixed.


17 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 13, 2017 at 2:08 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Joe, As the co-chair of the Measure I1 campaign, Ms. Buck would know that the new school was not only spelled out specifically in the bond language presented to voters, but also in the board's supporting resolution. There is no highjacking of funds. Not mentioned in that quote is her support for the $30MM in the bond to tear down and rebuild Lydiksen. There was no mention of the current plan to push the Lydiksen classrooms from the current front of the campus to the play area and field at the back of the campus. There was no mention that of the $270MM, $205MM are for repairs, modernization, and added safety and additional technology to all campuses.

Also omitted in the comments are the students stuck in the old owned portables; the $215,000 we spend annually from the general fund for the leased portables (29 of them); the 162 elementary students who are unable to attend their neighborhood school (one mother spoke of having to take her child to Valley View rather than Walnut Grove); the February 2017 demographer's report predicting the need for two new elementary schools; the millions we could lose in matching funds from the state if we do not act soon; nor the 3- to 5-year timeline necessary to build any new school if we started yesterday.

I will agree that because of a variety of decisions and external pressures, the district was unable to maintain our sites properly. But I applaud the board's beginning discussions to look at parity at every current site and for providing current and future students the proper space for their education, including a new elementary school. We need to be more holistic and provide equity of opportunity for every student.


1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Sep 15, 2017 at 8:43 am

Kathleen, the line item in the bond measure states upgrades to existing schools and then at the tail end of the description adds the new school facility almost like it was slipped in there. During the campaign, funding for a new school was not made abundantly clear to the wider public who dont follow school matters closely. Many residents I know including myself voted for upgrades only and not a brand new school. We believe with enrollment fluctuations (forecasted to decline) slightly at elementary levels that it is prudent to improve existing schools rather that incurring more taxpayer cost. Adding more administrative staff and more teacher salaries is burdensome and unnecessary in our opinion. Pleasanton is highly ranked in schools and to put money into anything other than upgrades is an expense we can not understand. Modular or prefabricated buildings (ie the new Starbucks on Santa Rita) are state of the art and not the old portables many of us are familiar with.


8 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 15, 2017 at 9:33 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

David, I don't personally think voters are that naive. And you couldn't vote only for one piece of the bond, you voted for all of that bond. Here is the ballot language (emphasis mine):
“To repair and upgrade aging classrooms and facilities at local schools; provide 21st-century learning technology and facilities; improve school safety and security; update science labs; improve energy and water efficiency; renovate, construct, and acquire classrooms, equipment and facilities; **and construct a new elementary school**, shall Pleasanton Unified School District issue $270,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with independent citizen oversight, annual audits, all funds used for local schools, and no money used for administrators’ salaries?”

And from the resolution:
Acquisition and construction of a new elementary school and related facilities, including:
• Acquisition of land, rights-of-way and easements made necessary by construction of such facilities.
• Planning, designing, and constructing the school and related facilities, including costs related to construction services, architectural design, engineering, site inspection and testing services and plan review fees.
• Associated onsite and offsite development, demolition of existing structures, and other improvements made necessary for construction of such facilities.
• Construction of such school and related facilities and grounds, including necessary supporting infrastructure.
• Acquisition and installation of furnishings and equipment related to the constructed facilities.
All or portions of these facilities may be used as joint-use projects within the meaning of Section 17077.42(c) of the Education Code (or any successor provision).

If campaigners did not mention the school, then place the blame there. East Side development looms, other building continues, and the February demographer's report says we will need two new elementary schools. And it takes three to five years to complete a school once you drop a gavel to begin.

We do not have Starbucks portables. Go out to Foothill behind all the buildings and see those portables. I wouldn't want any student or teacher in those structures.

I have a request in, but I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that absent the school, that bond money cannot be spent elsewhere. The bonds simply aren't sold and that debt is not placed on homeowners.

As to operating costs: there is $215K being spent annually and for many years on portables; there are costs that transfer from portables to new classrooms, specifically teachers' salaries and utilities expenses; and counselors, assistant principals, and shared custodial staff also can be moved and would not be a new expense.

And some questions: if portables are okay, why are we spending $30MM to tear down Lydiksen? Certainly the structures are sound; is there a reconfiguration of the inside of the pods that would serve us better for less? I believe those who support keeping portables and Lydiksen's planned tear down are trying to cut it both ways. Otherwise, why not tear down Lydiksen and fill the site with portables?

The board had some great discussions Tuesday evening about some thoughtful approaches to doing what is best for students. You should watch it.


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