School overcrowding an urgent issue, PUSD staff say

Admin appointments, Measure I1 updates and more at school year's first meeting

Enrollment talk featured prominently at the three-hour-plus Pleasanton Unified School District board meeting Tuesday night, as trustees received the most updated enrollment data and confronted the district's rising student population at the dawn of the new school year.

The district is at a critical juncture, staff said, as schools in northern Pleasanton are seeing a sharp increase in students, with ramifications for the district and city as a whole. And while staff have narrowed down their options, PUSD officials say that coming up with the ultimate solution is a balancing act -- of weighing urgency with wisdom and of ensuring they consider all stakeholders' perspectives.

"The community understands there's a sense of urgency around this issue," Superintendent David Haglund said after reading through comments on a recent online survey. "Everybody realizes that we have an issue and we need to address the issue."

No actions were taken at this first meeting of the 2018-19 school year, however, as the enrollment presentations were just informational updates. The public conversation will continue throughout the fall.

Last year's enrollment growth saw a 78-student increase from the previous year, and a 140-student increase between October and June. An additional 14 full-time teachers plus one music specialist and 1.64 PE specialist positions were added at the elementary level, while staffing positions are still under review at the secondary level.

This year's total district enrollment (also as of Aug. 7) stands at 14,963.

The bulk of the enrollment increase affects schools in the northern part of the city, especially Donlon and Fairlands elementary schools and Hart Middle School.

Donlon has the highest number of resident students being overflowed, at 103, with Fairlands following behind at 67. And at the middle school level, Hart also recently reached capacity, according to staff -- as of Aug. 7, 26 new resident students were overflowed.

The four options currently being mulled over by the district to address the strained capacity include adjusting current school boundaries, building a new elementary school, implementing a K-8 school configuration and increasing the enrollment capacities within existing school configurations.

Haglund and PUSD communications coordinator Patrick Gannon went over community input on these choices, feedback gathered via an online survey over the summer and during two meetings in May. Overall, Haglund said, while responses varied widely, there were a few points of consensus: an acknowledgment that there is no easy solution, and a desire to mitigate traffic impact.

Over 100 community members attended the community input meetings in person, while 606 people responded to the online survey, Gannon said. Survey-takers consisted overwhelmingly of parents, making up 77% of the respondents, though teachers, community members and students were were also represented.

A school boundaries adjustment would be a low-cost option and could help balance the distribution of students, respondents said. However, they also countered that the possibility could be disruptive to some families and would only be a temporary solution.

Community members saw building a new elementary school as a good long-term possibility that would reduce overcrowding and traffic; on the other hand, they noted, the district would need to take into account the cost to build infrastructure and purchase land, along with the land availability where it is needed -- in northern Pleasanton.

A K-8 school configuration is a possibility that sparked substantial debate last year, and was presented as a way to use the overcrowding issue as an innovative opportunity, in terms of scholastic structure.

Survey-takers said a K-8 configuration could offer more continuity for students and allow them to strengthen bonds with staff. But cost and traffic concerns, along with some uneasiness around the wide student age range and the equitability of school structures district-wide remain as potential hurdles and issues for respondents.

And in terms of increasing the capacity within existing school configurations, community members noted the option's comparatively low cost and appreciated that students could stay at their same school site. However, they again pointed to infrastructure concerns and said that it might be difficult to preserve the sense of community and quality of education with larger schools, along with extra staffing needs.

In reviewing some of his key takeaways from the responses, Haglund noted that the possible construction of a new K-8 school was mired in questions and uncertainty -- an indication that the option would require a good deal of work, logistically and pedagogically.

"There was just so much work that we need to do, that almost flies in the face of the urgency at which we need to do the work," Haglund said.

Staff highlighted possible criteria to consider in moving forward with one or more options: impact on students, implementation complexity, cost, implementation time, school size guidelines, adaptability for future population changes and allowing students to attend their neighborhood schools.

Next steps will be to consult with trustees on the proposed criteria and possibly narrow down the options, complete a traffic study in conjunction with the city of Pleasanton, review architect conceptual designs on Aug. 28 and hold a board workshop Dec. 8.

In other business

* During closed session, the board appointed six new administrators, at the district office and all school levels.

Eduardo Guerena and Kelly Hilton were both named as vice principals at Amador Valley High School, Lisa Hansen as administrative assistant of human resources, Steve Chapman as vice principal at Hart Middle School, Doris Kwok as assistant director of special education, and Leslie Navarrette as vice principal for Vintage Hills Elementary School, Walnut Grove Elementary School and Harvest Park preschool.

* Trustees heard updates on the implementation of the Measure I1, the $270 million facilities bond measure approved by voters in November 2016, with proceeds funding facilities and technology projects at district schools, and to prepay part of PUSD's 2010 certificates of participation (debt-payoff).

Steve Zevanove from the Citizens' Bond Oversight Committee presented his group's findings and recommendations for district staff as bond projects proceed. The committee had found everything to be transparent with projects progressing at the anticipated scheduled, he reported, though he acknowledged that they were still in the early stages.

In terms of committee recommendations, he highlighted the fact that while the bond could not be used to pay teacher or administrative salaries; however, bond monies could be used to pay district staff working on bond projects.

In order to ensure an appropriate usage of these funds, the committee was suggesting that Pleasanton Unified "develop internal guidance for district staff to use when charging bond funds," and periodically report these charges to the board.

And trustees subsequently heard a collective update on bond financing and the district's outstanding debt.

In October last year, PUSD issued its first series of Measure I1 bonds in the amount of $70 million, with $3.7 million funding short-term technology, $52 million directed to infrastructure projects and the rest going to certificates of participation (COPs) payoff.

Currently, the district has three series of refunding bonds outstanding, according to staff.

* The board heard a short presentation on budgetary adjustments in recent months, based on re-shuffled allocations at the state level in addition to expenditure changes from the district.

In light of a decrease in California's new funding allocation rate for average daily attendance (ADA), along with Pleasanton Unified expenditure increases for additional staffing and supplies costs, the district will see a $1.7 million decrease in fund balance.

* Staff presented the 2018-19 emergency preparedness and district safety report, which focused not only on standardizing basic emergency know-how drills and protocols, but maintaining a healthy school culture throughout the school year.

* Trustees approved a contract for district produce to Daylight Foods.

* The board approved two new district job descriptions: coordinator II benefits/risk management/safety/leaves and behavior intervention specialist.

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


14 people like this
Posted by Reimvent the wheel
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2018 at 8:48 am

There is a completed and approved EIR already in place with traffic studies to build a school at the Neal site right now. If it is an urgency issue, bulldozers could literally arrive at Neal today to start construction preparation and grading.

But it sounds as though PUSD is embarking on yet another folly to perform more studies with the end result that there will be no new school. Ever.

At least this is what every Pleasanton resident knows this means.....

"Next steps will be to consult with trustees on the proposed criteria and possibly narrow down the options, complete a traffic study in conjunction with the city of Pleasanton, review architect conceptual designs on Aug. 28 and hold a board workshop Dec. 8."

In reality, there will be no new school anywhere, but PUSD will just go through the motions and deliver absolutely nothing.

4 people like this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Aug 15, 2018 at 9:36 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

Yeah, why is that? Why do they not want to build on the Neal site and then rearrange boundaries? Is it that they feel they can’t relieve northern overcrowding this way without having people drive too far? Or are they hoping that they can trade the surge of value for Neal for a bigger lot elsewhere? Or use it as investment proceeds? What am I missing?

25 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 15, 2018 at 9:56 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

From the article: “PUSD officials say that coming up with the final solution is a balancing act, of weighing urgency with wisdom and of ensuring they consider all stakeholders' perspectives.”

District staff defines “stakeholders’ perspectives” as parents, period. There are two problems with that definition. Parents move in and out of the district, meaning some portion of those opinions are new (also true of the entire community). If all we do is take another survey, the results are going to shift. And their definition ignores that every homeowner in this community is a stakeholder through taxes and bonds they have been paying for years (since 1988). Most recently we approved $270MM in new bonds. And the board also discussed adding another $124MM in bonds in 2020. So, I prefer to look at this from the entire community’s perspective—we all have a stake in what education means and should be for our community. Many of us put our children through these schools; many of us have grandchildren in the schools.

This “balancing act” also has been going on for years (Neal). There is nothing new to discover, really. Families are attracted to Pleasanton. More children arrive. Portables have been slapped up on every campus. Enrollment in the north has been a problem for a long time and now has hit Hart Middle School. We are overflowing 288 students out of their local schools, sometimes across town. And it’s the parent’s problem to get them to the assigned school. In some cases, families with more than one child in a school are split to different schools.

While “weighing urgency”, students have been placed in portables for many years, portables that are past their lifespan (and now the decision is to take out portables and build permanent structures—stick builds or modular). These portables sit on play areas. The additional students in those portables also need space in MP rooms and libraries, which are not being expanded. I am not certain the district meets the state standards for these spaces (sq. ft or acres per student) on any campus in Pleasanton.

Also while weighing the urgency, the district chose to tear down an elementary school and rebuild it rather than start on a new school which would actually add capacity. That was not addressing the urgency.

From the article: "’The community understands there's a sense of urgency around this issue,’ said Superintendent David Haglund, after reading through comments on a recent online survey. ‘Everybody realizes that we have an issue and we need to address the issue.’" Yes, we understand the urgency. We don’t need more studies or just to adjust boundaries or a K-8 configuration that creates more issues* or increasing capacities within existing schools**.

*If Hart (now over capacity itself) is used, where do Hart’s other elementary feeder schools send their rising sixth graders?

**The Board committed to elementary schools of 700. Why is staff still pushing against this board vote? Isn’t the board standing firmly by that commitment? Adding classrooms to existing campuses means we will add many more teachers, rather than shifting existing teachers and students to a new campus (lowering enrollment at current campuses). Enlarging current campuses also ignores the demographer’s report that we need two new elementary schools, not just one.

The board set aside $1 million of bond funds to study and prepare for a new elementary school. It has already been a year of study. It is so clear, and has been, that we need a new elementary school. Why don’t we work on that?

Apologies for the length, but this is so important for Pleasanton's children.

23 people like this
Posted by Patriot
a resident of Birdland
on Aug 15, 2018 at 10:01 am

Urgent, but no action!? What does it take to provide a new school for our students? The library burns down, we keep them in deteriorating trailers,we stuff them in overcrowded classrooms, change their principals and teachers regularly! Well they do have new computers! But no new classrooms! End the studies , surveys, conversations and build !

8 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Aug 15, 2018 at 10:32 am

Jack is a registered user.

But that's why we didn't build the Neal School... because enrollment projections said the number of students was dropping... Please use common sense over experts! Experts are being paid by someone to produce a predetermined answer...

14 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

The numbers never dropped. We just added portables to mask the need and now it’s s crisis.

32 people like this
Posted by sueme
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2018 at 11:25 am

How is it possible that we are slapping up HD housing all over Pleasanton and no one foresaw the need for additional infrastructure and schools? Then, along comes the first day of school and everyone is "shocked"? Really?

4 people like this
Posted by Jason
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Aug 15, 2018 at 11:41 am

And in the meantime Alisal will continue to be the "overflow" school in the District. For sure need another school to be built.

10 people like this
Posted by SHale99
a resident of San Ramon
on Aug 15, 2018 at 1:13 pm

SHale99 is a registered user.

Big reason we didn't buy in Pleasanton (or Dublin) overcrowded schools with no plan to deal. Ooops. Kinda a stinker for new famlies looking at Pleasanton; when they get to schools they look elsewhere (yeah I know, more than a few like that).

15 people like this
Posted by Tammyrun
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2018 at 1:34 pm

740 Freshman this year at Amador. 5 fifth grade classes and 3rd grade classes at Hearst and Vintage Hills now has 5 first thru third grade classes. But let's not build a new school. Unreal

1 person likes this
Posted by Jtjh
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 16, 2018 at 5:03 am

Follow the money.
What's the cheapest option?
Boundary changes, probably.

I predict boundary changes.

9 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 16, 2018 at 6:44 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Nothing brings out parents like boundary changes. It’s very unpopular and unlikely the governance team wants to face that challenge.

1 person likes this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Foothill High School
on Aug 16, 2018 at 7:24 am

There are kids in my neighborhood that walk, bike just over one quarter mile to just under three quarter mile to Foothill and or Lydiksen.

There are kids in this same neighborhood, their parents drive their kids to the same schools. One mile is less than ten minute walk. Why not all those students within one mile of their school just walk or bike?

6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:30 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Here is another area of concern from the Mercury News: Web Link The state is making it difficult to understand how well districts are performing their job in educating students, where money is going, and whether we have achievement and attendance gaps. With overcrowded schools and students possibly distracted and/or tired from being driven to a different school, how do we know the impact to student success year over/after year?

4 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 8:42 am

BobB is a registered user.

Boundary changes does seem like the way to go, and the most likely to happen. No need for new tax money.

14 people like this
Posted by Frustrated parent
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 16, 2018 at 9:34 am

This dysfunctional school board and the superintendent are waiting for the entire town to come together to make a harmonious decision. Ridiculous! As we all know in pleasanton, no one ever agrees! Can they just make a decision and move forward. If they can't, stop running for school board. We need decision makers not more feel good folks.

7 people like this
Posted by Hansen Curious
a resident of Del Prado
on Aug 16, 2018 at 2:52 pm

Hansen Curious is a registered user.

Harvest Park is so crowded, there are not enough tables for all students to sit and eat lunch forcing some, my children included, to either stand to eat or sit on the asphalt. They are not even allowed to go out and sit on the grass fields for their 30 minute lunch break.

I foresee tired and cranky children who simply want to sit at a table and enjoy their lunch and short break fighting for table space. I'm sure the answer will be to then break the students into two lunch shirts of 15 minutes each to give everyone access to a table.

4 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 16, 2018 at 3:43 pm

Sandy Piderit is a registered user.

I certainly hope they buy more lunch tables for Harvest Park! That's an easy solution. We may need to do the same thing at Amador given the size of the freshman class.

I always understood the problem with the Neal school site to be that it is NOT in the northwest of Pleasanton, where the enrollment growth has been and will continue to occur. Thus, locating a new school there would require much more significant shifts in attendance boundaries than locating a school in the northwest (for example, next to Hart middle).

And Jason, Alisal is one of many schools that absorb overflow students -- not at all the only one.

2 people like this
Posted by Sandy Piderit
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Aug 16, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Sandy Piderit is a registered user.

FYI, anyone looking for the details about projected enrollment growth can find the latest demographer's report prepared for PUSD on item 12.1 of the board of trustees agenda for March 13, 2018, at this link:
Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 16, 2018 at 5:14 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Hi Sandy, Neal lost any chance of being built after the lawsuits with Signature. So much bad history there, as you know. So now Neal is a more than an attractive asset the district should sell or swap for where we need an elementary school. More tables at any/all schools would be nice, but it doesn’t change the fact that sites are overcrowded and students are paying the price for inaction by the district governance team. I hope you appreciate $1MM of bond funds were set aside to “study” this issue. It’s been a year. We are still at least four, and more like five or six, years from having a key to open the doors on a new structure. That is years more of students who will get bandaids like some new lunch tables and maybe some more portables. Time to get off the dime. Our community’s children deserve better.

4 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of another community
on Aug 17, 2018 at 5:50 am

Again. By defining the problem as "overcrowding", the only solution is to buy more land (new school site). Overcrowding is students per acre. Math.

If the problem was "capacity", then you could entertain these other options.

Kathleen is correct. Overcrowding is a known issue to limit student performance.

Solve the problem.

16 people like this
Posted by ConcernedParent
a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Aug 17, 2018 at 9:47 am

This school education in Pleasanton high schools has been pathetic over the past couple of years. Incompetent teachers, ill-qualified principals and superintendents not aligned with the student interests. Teacher(s) at Amador - like the Math teacher - have stopped teaching much in the classrooms, and have started offering tutoring services on weeknights/weekends. Principals collude with the teachers to create such unhealthy environment for students. It's not surprise that the nearby high schools have started to thrive better. PUSD has lots of money, but the greed has taken over this whole lot with salary increases, bonuses, transfers etc. The new ill-qualified HR director Williams making 300K/yr?! There should be an overhaul of the current PUSD staff before any good can come out of the system.

4 people like this
Posted by BukLau
a resident of Avila
on Aug 17, 2018 at 12:58 pm

I thought the democrats wanted OPEN BORDERS.

Or are you realizing that a border with limited immigration is the common sense solution??

16 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2018 at 1:37 pm

BobB is a registered user.

What does this have to do with open borders?

6 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 17, 2018 at 7:00 pm

In response to Michael Austin, we drive our kids to school for their safety. My daughter was 5 years old when a 21 year old young woman was abducted from Val Vista at Page and Singletree. I drove my daughter to school till she could drive herself. Please don’t criticize those who worry. Doing the best we can in a dangerous world.

12 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 17, 2018 at 7:13 pm

Did not criticize.
Made a comment regarding motor vehicle transportation of children to nearby schools.

If the Pleasanton property tax payers had knowledge of the numbers of children that do not live in the PUSD district, that attend PUSD schools, there would be a major uproar.

The numbers of children living out of the PUSD district that attend PUSD schools, I estimate exceed 200 students.

5 people like this
Posted by Ann
a resident of Val Vista
on Aug 17, 2018 at 7:20 pm

Michael Austin, I believe you asked why parents were driving kids to same schools others walking to.....

I believe your response is a new topic to which I agree. Many students using Pleasanton relative’s addresses to attend in Pleasanton. That is fact.

7 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 17, 2018 at 7:22 pm

My estimate is conservative.
The number may well be 400 students.

4 people like this
Posted by AC
a resident of Lund Ranch II
on Aug 17, 2018 at 10:37 pm

What proof do you have of students from out of district attending school in Pleasanton? There are very strict proof of residency checks before every school year. If anything, the growth in the number of students is probably due to all the high density housing being built in Pleasanton and the youth movement in Pleasanton (lots of old timers houses’ going on sale). This has nothing to do with open borders it has everything to do with high density housing.

14 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 18, 2018 at 8:40 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I have data from the district about inter-district transfers (students who request a seat in our schools) that was in response to a public information request. In 2012 it was 275 students; 2013, 284; 2014, 300; 2015, 253; 2016, 358; and 2017, 217. The students come from Alameda, Brentwood, Byron, Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Hayward, Lammersville, Livermore, Mountain House, New Haven, Oakland, Patterson, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, San Ramon, Sunnyvale, and Tracy and touch every single grade. PUSD students that transferred out of our district are: 2012-13, 37; 2013-14, 36; 2014-15, 31; 2015-16, 26; 2016-17, 20 to Castro Valley, Dublin, Fremont, Livermore, Monte Vista, Mountain House, San Lorenzo, San Ramon, and Sunol. What the spreadsheets did not break out is how many may be transfers for special needs or for children of teachers. I have no quarrel with either of those transfer reasons—one is need; the other is a fair compensation to our teachers. The flaw is we don’t know, and this information continues to not be provided to the board so they see the whole picture.

The problem, again, is if there are outside transfer students taking a seat, a new family can move across the street from a school and be sent across town to a different school because there is no space in their neighborhood school.

12 people like this
Posted by sueme
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 18, 2018 at 11:24 am

Dear Concerned,

Well stated. You are absolutely correct about the quality of administration and instruction. The turn over in administration in the past 10 years should be a red flag to the School Board and the people of this city that something is seriously wrong. Combine that with teachers not teaching (especially in the area of math) and there should be an uproar. Unfortunately, the administrations defend the teachers with "no transfer", "no teacher request" policies and the kids pay the price. Or, the parents who can, pay the price for tutors.

Instead of dealing with the issues, our School Board and District rearrange the academic calendar and cut class time for grades 1-3 and high schoolers. Huh? Their actions conjure up a picture of Nero fiddling.

Like this comment
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Aug 19, 2018 at 5:02 pm


According to the data provided by Kathleen, the previous six years there were 1687 out of PUSD district students attending PUSD schools. That is an average of 280 plus students every year of out of PUSD district students attending PUSD schools.

Where as PUSD district students living in PUSD district attended schools outside of PUSD district totaled 150 students over the same six year period or 25 students year.

For every one student in the PUSD distric attending out of PUSD district schools, there is 11 plus out of district students atending PUSD schools.

5 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 19, 2018 at 7:30 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Michael, apologies if the data quoted wasn’t clear. Those numbers are each year’s total. In other words, a student is counted once each year. The years are not to be totaled.

4 people like this
Posted by Norbert
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Aug 21, 2018 at 9:59 am

Clearly the most important thing to do is absolutely nothing, and as soon as possible! Now let’s go to lunch on the taxpayers.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Workday committed to growing in Pleasanton
By Tim Hunt | 5 comments | 1,249 views

"You Gotta Have Balls [to do counseling] . . .
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 626 views


Nominations due by Sept. 16

Pleasanton Weekly and are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form