It was a full house at the Pleasanton school board's special workshop Tuesday night, as trustees and staff talked over how to best address overcrowding in north Pleasanton schools.
Specifically, the 3-1/2-hour meeting focused on facilities planning, enrollment projections and the possibility of implementing one or two kindergarten through eighth grade campuses -- all three are subjects that have been discussed over the past few months, but staff and the board decided to talk about them all together in one public meeting, as they all apply to the capacity issues.
"The overcrowding of the schools in north Pleasanton isn't going to go away," Superintendent David Haglund said. "It's going to get worse without a solution to it."
As a workshop, no action was taken, a point emphasized multiple times throughout. However, trustees directed staff to begin engaging the community about K-8 possibilities, something staff didn't want to begin if the board was against that concept.
This week, the discussion centered less on specific programs and more about how a K-8 would address the capacity problem.
The northern Pleasanton schools specifically affected by overcrowding are Donlon Elementary School, Hart Middle School and Fairlands Elementary. As an "impacted site," in the words of Haglund, any possibility of expanding Fairlands was off the table, so the workshop centered primarily on Donlon and Hart.
The options discussed included converting Donlon and/or Hart into a K-8 school, changing the district's enrollment boundaries, expanding the existing sites or building a new elementary school by trading or selling the district-owned Neal property on the southeast side of town for a parcel on the north.
While Hagland said no option was "off the table," there were some constraints.
Changing enrollment boundaries or otherwise bringing children from northern Pleasanton to less-populous schools in the south side of town might keep students from attending their home schools and would just be a temporary fix, according to Board Vice President Valerie Arkin.
"Boundary changes are a pretty temporary band-aid type of fix ... We pride ourselves in this district of kids going to their neighborhood school," Arkin said.
The board had already decided after many talks, Trustee Joan Laursen pointed out, that they wanted to keep elementary school student enrollment at 700, which clashed with any potential expansion of the respective schools.
And the trade or sale of the Neal property for a possible new K-5 school could be difficult, considering the long process of selling the land, finding a new 10-acre spot for a new campus and construction.
When David Kaitz from Davis Demographics presented his company's updated enrollment projections for the district, he also advised against using boundary line adjustments to solve enrollment issues, pointing to the significant enrollment growth disparities between north and south Pleasanton.
According to the demographers' data, northern Pleasanton is projected to see a peak enrollment of nearly 2,900 students in 2023, an increase of about 460 students from this past fall. Southern schools, though, are projected to be "stable or decreasing," Kaitz said.
However, by converting Hart and/or Donlon into a K-8 school, staff said they could potentially solve the increasing capacity problem at both the elementary and middle school levels on the north side.
"The idea was could we convert a, or more than one, school into a K-8 model to solve both the elementary overcrowding issue in north Pleasanton, and then the one that wasn't talked about and that's the middle school overcrowding in north Pleasanton," Haglund said.
Though the different design options were not the primary focus of the workshop, staff touched upon it briefly.
In terms of the rationale behind the various specialized K-8 programs, assistant superintendent of educational services Odie Douglas and Jenni Tyson, director of educational services, emphasized that success of a particular model depended on its implementation, though Tyson also pointed to research indicating that fewer "transition" years could prove beneficial academically to students.
Haglund delved a little more into this topic, noting that a K-8 model could allow children to maintain relationships with staff formed in earlier grades through their middle school years, he said, years often recalled as being "rough."
A few of the eight speakers during the public comments section asked the board to look into re-drawing boundary lines before moving to a K-8 model.
"In your survey, (really) ask parents, 'Are you interested, to take your student to another school in south Pleasanton?'" parent Jill Jones said. "I wouldn't be opposed to that, and I think other parents might be open to that too. Just as a possible solution."
The issue of equity and accessibility also came up during public comments, especially in light of last workshop's talk on possible International Baccalaureate (IB) or dual language immersion magnet schools.
"I looked at the program as much as I could, and it's a neat program and I don't know enough about it," Donlon first-grade teacher Denise Morgan said of the IB program, which has an annual cost associated with it. "But I do have a problem spending money for a school, when we are really working on trying to get the school district a little bit more equitable and equal for our kids."
Douglas emphasized that ensuring all students had equal access to any possible program would be a priority.
Before entering specifically into the capacity discussion, Nick Olson, director of facilities and construction, presented the updated version of the Facilities Master Plan in light of board feedback at the March 27 meeting.
The plan dictates how the $270 million of Measure I1 funds should be allocated; the most up-to-date rendition addresses the board's concerns expressed at the last meeting that too much was being spent on roofing repairs and upgrades to schools' HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) systems, and not enough on school security.
The plan will return to the board May 8 in its final version and then again on May 22 for possible approval.
In other business
* Before the workshop, the board unanimously approved $11.5 million of the first issuance of Measure I1 bond money for two modernization projects: $10 million will be used to replace portable classrooms at Amador Valley and Foothill high schools, while $1.5 million will go toward installing security fencing at Mohr and Fairlands elementary schools and at Harvest Park Middle School.
* Also before the workshop discussion, the board unanimously approved just under $1.68 million of Prop 39 funds for the first phase of the district's Energy Expenditure Plan.