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.