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.”