News


School board votes to move ahead with new school on Donlon site

$61.25 million project will create two separate schools on same parcel

The PUSD board approved a new school on the Donlon property for fourth- and fifth-graders (left side) Tuesday night, with the existing building converted into a K-3 school. (Image courtesy of PUSD)

The Pleasanton Unified school board voted unanimously to move forward with building a second campus on the Donlon Elementary School property Tuesday night at the end of a nearly three-hour-long facilities workshop.

The long-planned meeting on how to address increasing enrollment and capacity issues in northern Pleasanton was well-attended by the community. Trustees chose the staff recommendation out of three options presented, which all involved Donlon, located in the Val Vista neighborhood, and its eastern neighbor Hart Middle School.

"I think we've come up with something," Board President Valerie Arkin said. "There is available land on Donlon. Donlon is our school that has that parcel of land large enough to build the two schools. I don't think it's ideal at all, but I think it really could work and it could work as two schools."

The new school on the Donlon property will be designated for fourth- and fifth-grade students, while the existing campus will be converted into a TK-3 school. Additionally, any capacity expansion planning work at Hart will be put on hold until middle school science lab improvements have started.

The split-school Donlon option is expected to cost the district about $61.25 million.

District staff looked into various possible solutions over the past few months, including adjusting school boundaries, building a new elementary school, implementing a K-8 school configuration and increasing school capacities. And while earlier possibilities considered involved other PUSD sites as well, the narrowed-down options presented Tuesday revolved around Donlon and Hart, the elementary and middle schools with the greatest number of student overflows, respectively.

This year, as of Dec. 3, 124 Donlon students and 29 Hart students were overflowed -- meaning that there were too many children in a given grade, leading to some students being sent to another campus, not their neighborhood school. Last year, Donlon saw an overflow of 99, up from only 14 in 2016-17.

Hart, in contrast, saw 29 students overflowed this year, the first time in several years that any district middle school has seen overflow.

Students moved to another school, however, can vary by age -- one elementary may have an excessive number of fourth-graders but a shortage of second-grade students, for example.

"When we think about the boundaries, the unfortunate thing is by grade level, it's not equal," said Ed Diolazo, assistant superintendent of student support services. "They're not equal buckets in our first-grade level, second-grade level, third-grade level, at the high school. We have bubbles ... for lack of a better word. Some of our grade levels are just bigger than others."

Class size reduction in recent years, he said, also has led to overflow.

Aside from the fact voters approved a new elementary school as part of the Measure I1 facilities bond in 2016, enrollment projections indicate that a new school or two may be necessary in coming years.

Demographers predict that by the time the city of Pleasanton reaches maturity (when all potential residential units are "built out") there will be 7,927 elementary students enrolled in PUSD. Based on the district's 700-student campus size limit, at that point in time, there would need to be a total of 11 elementary schools -- two more than currently exist.

Besides the new fourth- and fifth-grade school option, staff also presented the possibilities of creating K-8 schools at Donlon and Hart, along with expanding the capacity of Donlon to forge a larger K-5 school.

The K-8 configuration would necessarily involve both campuses, due to the student population each would require, with a projected enrollment of 1,200 students at Donlon and 1,500 at Hart.

However, the price-tag of this option came out to an estimated $97.45 million -- not a feasible amount, according to Superintendent David Haglund.

"Once we knew that the K-8 model was not a feasible solution, it broke the plan, so to speak, so we didn't have to do both (schools)," he said. "We could do one without the other."

The larger K-5 school, with an estimated enrollment of 1,200, would be the cheapest option at around $45.39 million. But the large size of such a school would go against board direction to maintain 700-student capacity limits.

The third option that will now move forward currently has the new school situated along the Denker Drive edge of the campus, fronted by a 118-car parking lot. Additional proposed traffic mitigation would also place a new 64-car parking lot and additional drop-off zone at the northeast corner along Dorman Road.

The $61.25 million project cost includes $54.53 million from Measure I1 funds to construct the new school, $380,000 to convert the existing Donlon building into a TK-3 and $6.34 million for additional traffic mitigation. Ongoing expenditures for administrative and operational costs, said deputy superintendent of business services Micaela Ochoa, would have to come from the general fund as opposed to dollars from the Measure I1 facilities bond.

Considerations on increasing Hart's capacity will be placed on hold until middle school science lab improvements have begun.

After the presentation's conclusion, Board Vice President Steve Maher asked why enrollment boundary adjustments were not on the table any more, a question echoed later by community members as well.

"Because enrollment is a moving target ... it can change every year," Diolazo said. "And so when we look at boundary adjustments today, and into the future, it really will not address the projected long-term growth of the district."

Twelve community members spoke during the public comments period of the meeting, largely to express traffic and safety concerns, discontent with outreach in advance of the workshop and a general sense that the Val Vista neighborhood was bearing the brunt of the enrollment influx.

"Our neighborhoods, all three of those neighborhoods -- the high-density housing, Valley Trails, Val Vista -- we are the most affordable neighborhoods across Pleasanton, and that's why families are flocking there, because they want the schools but it's what they can afford," Cynthia Sandhu said. "And it's not fair that now they're not getting the school that they deserve. That we're having to suffer the burden of adding more and more and more to us."

Several felt that the mailer sent out by the district last week on Friday wasn't adequate notice, and traffic safety featured as a prominent concern as well, with parents expounding upon the existing dangers, and inability of their children to walk to school.

"Our neighborhood is a small neighborhood, these roads are 50 years old," Andra Rogers said. "They are not huge roads. They are not meant to have as many kids as we have now, much less 400 more kids."

However, city of Pleasanton officials had conducted traffic and circulation studies beforehand, and cited circulation as the reason they also were supportive of the TK-3/4-5 recommendation, among PUSD's other options.

"From the standpoint of offering the best circulation option for student drop-off and pick-up, as well as most efficient circulation alternative for the surrounding neighborhood, the City is most supportive of the TK-3 and 4-5 option," City Manager Nelson Fialho wrote in a statement.

He added, "This configuration separates Donlon into two schools which disperses the traffic impact between Dorman Road and Payne Road/Denker Drive. The existing south parking lots and loading and queueing lane will remain. Two new parking lots with loading/unloading lanes are proposed which will improve traffic circulation."

Before taking a final vote, trustees amended their motion to include some of the ideas put forward by community members during public comments, to ensure that conversations surrounding additional crossing guards, police presence and buses be discussed as work continues.

"A lot of the uncertainty and fear about the loss of the community that you currently enjoy at Donlon, I think can be addressed in the programmatic design phases," Trustee Joan Laursen said.

Now that the option has been settled upon, staff are expected to return to the board in January with a financing plan for the project. Construction is anticipated to begin during the 2020-21 school year and conclude in the 2022-23 year.

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Comments

10 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 19, 2018 at 8:58 am

Jack is a registered user.

"Because enrollment is a moving target ... it can change every year," Diolazo said...
What?
More houses = More people = More children = More students = Need for more school capacity.


4 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 19, 2018 at 9:27 am

How can the school district justify paying for a new school and new administration, but won't pay for physical therapists for special needs kids?


10 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 19, 2018 at 10:06 am

Member- Because bond funds were raised for a new school and not special needs services.

I am disappointed in the allocation of those funds in this plan, this isn't a new school - its nicer portables.


3 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 19, 2018 at 10:18 am

"I think we've come up with something," Board President Valerie Arkin said. "There is available land on Donlon. Donlon is our school that has that parcel of land large enough to build the two schools. I don't think it's ideal at all, but I think it really could work and it could work as two schools."

.....yuh think?! You absolutely came up with "something". The cheapest option was the one the community wanted (along with new district lines - an unfortunate but understood requirement) was beat out by this more costly (someone explain that to me please) and most different/unique suggestion.

Follow the money people - this isn't right.

Deport them (just for you Doug)


12 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 19, 2018 at 11:49 am

BobB is a registered user.

@Jack -- There are also families aging in place whose no longer have school children.

I think this solution looks pretty good.


13 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 19, 2018 at 12:05 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

A few things:

The most expensive plan is, in part, more because of the $6.5MM the city wants for traffic mitigation. We are still paying* for the $4MM the city wanted for traffic mitigation to straighten Vineyard because of Neal; a school that won’t be built. $6.5MM is 10% of the cost of this plan. Let the district build a school and the City can pay for mitigation. They share responsibility for adding housing without services to support it. (Originally the district used Certificates of Participation to pay the $4MM, but those were never paid off and were rolled into the current bond.)

The $61MM plan makes it possible to stall and try to pass another bond. They only have $34MM from the current bond.

The district now echoes what demographers have said for years, we will need yet another elementary school as the city continues to grow. I wonder if they will actually plan for that—or the middle schools and high schools.

I was not able to attend and hope this meeting was video taped.


8 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 19, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Easy vote for me on the next bond - absolutely not.
We should place a ballot measure to return the current back to taxpayers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Livermore Parent
a resident of Livermore
on Dec 19, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Why not rent out one of Livermore's empty schools?
We could use the money with Livermore Superintendent Kelly Bowers $410,433.71 Total Pay and benefits for 2017.


10 people like this
Posted by 20 year Val Vista Resident
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 19, 2018 at 4:59 pm

Our roads are falling apart, the city will not even address the crumbling sidewalks, unpainted crosswalks, road cracks that will not be fixed, and they want to stuff more children in our neighborhood. This is progress? We also have all the kids learning to drive due to the close proximity to the DMV. The city should have built a school in Valley Trails, but were too greedy and let housing to be built at the old church site. We need to wake up and stop this last minute panicking and think this over.


4 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 19, 2018 at 5:26 pm

@Jack Really liking your math, it’s right on the money obviously the PUSD and the city planners did poorly on their basic math problems in school! The school board is finally getting the ball rolling after that school bond was passed 2 years ago and how much have those costs gone up in those 2 years?? IMO big mistake putting that school on the Donlon property, it’s a temporary “bandaid” to appease the taxpayers and squeeze us for more money.


13 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 19, 2018 at 5:40 pm

Where is Matt Sullivan and his Pleasanton Citizens for responsible growth committee? Oh, no gas station to protect against, no issue.


4 people like this
Posted by Member
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 19, 2018 at 7:51 pm

I'm not sure why there was a meeting if they knew this was going to be approved. Traffic is horrible already. It takes forever to get out of the tract because of the lights. Your decision will make it so much worse. Very disappointed. Can't believe this is happening. Stop building!!


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Donlon Elementary School
on Dec 19, 2018 at 10:05 pm

Donlon traffic is horrible and the school does nothing, not even acknowledge the existence of the problem. 400 new cars each morning and afternoon is unfathomable.

Without a traffic plan like staggered starts with extended yard duty to lessen the traffic this plan is ridiculous.

Why don't they sell the extra Donlon land and use the money to buy land elsewhere and adhere to the 700 limit?


6 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 19, 2018 at 10:24 pm

Jack is a registered user.

@BobB
And after you're done aging in place?
There's a funeral, a for sale sign, and four more students in our schools...
It's the circle of life!
As long as the city keeps adding bedrooms, the school district needs to keep adding classrooms...


5 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Dec 20, 2018 at 9:46 am

20 year Val Vista Resident,
Neighbors in your own neighborhood sold out the kids in Val Vista demanding that the school site become houses. They got what they demanded, those houses will bring more students, the school site is gone forever, forcing this decision.


8 people like this
Posted by Frank
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Dec 20, 2018 at 6:39 pm

Correction:
Neighbors in Valley Trails neighborhood sold out the kids in Valley Trails.The school site is houses, those houses will bring more students, the school site is gone forever.


2 people like this
Posted by Retiree
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 20, 2018 at 9:17 pm

It seems to me that all the legwork was done and decided in advance, and then a "workshop" was scheduled to create "optics." This was jammed down the citizens' throats, plain and simple.

We can anticipate the day when the current influx of students will be out of high school and Pleasanton will have idle facilities that cost us millions.


9 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 21, 2018 at 10:55 pm

Pleasanton Patch writes that the Donlon site is 18 acres and it wasn’t that long ago that the PUSD said they wouldn’t build on that Valley Trails site because it was only 9 acres and they required 10 acres minimum, so maybe using their math wouldn’t 18 acres is too small for 2 schools? What a cluster that neighborhood is going to be, where are those Costco haters now when you really need them to fight against something really important?


11 people like this
Posted by Calling this a "New" school is absurd
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2018 at 12:49 am

I would not classify adding more classrooms on an existing school site a "new" school. Adding more 4th and 5th grade classrooms on a current school site is simply adding more classrooms. It is not a new school. I do not think they can use bond money for this because as I recall, the bond measure called for a new school.

Do you really think the new classrooms for 4th and 5th graders on the existing Donlon site will have their own multipurpose room, their own cafeteria, their own library, their own principal and administrators when another multipurpose room and library and administrative staff and cafeteria is a few steps away ? No. Because the PUSD is not really building a new school.

This is another example of them again lying to the voters.

And whoever heard of an individual school that just has 4th and 5th graders? This is ridiculous.


2 people like this
Posted by Robert Adam
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2018 at 9:53 am

Population growth is a fact of life.


2 people like this
Posted by Me Too
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 24, 2018 at 11:17 am

DonMoore - "teachers cannot provide the necessary service to help students to deal with a lot of assignments."

What are you trying to say? That teachers should spend their own money to help the students? Perhaps the school district should provide those services but there is not enough money and the community has spoken several times by voting no on parcel taz and bond measures (yes, the most recnt bond did pass but that money is for infrastructure not educational services).

And by the way - the city authorities have no control over the schools and vice versa. PUSD funding is not from the city.



1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Dec 25, 2018 at 8:51 am

Grumpy is a registered user.

@Calling this a new school is absurd,

Uh oh. You might be right. It's unlikely they will design a whole new school, and someone could sue to stop them and win. This happens all the time, like when 237 was going to be built as a freeway through Hayward to Fremont and it got stopped because the bond definition was "along Mission Blvd" and Caltrans bought land a few hundred yards up the hill from Mission Blvd. Words matter.


4 people like this
Posted by James
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 25, 2018 at 4:36 pm

I've lived here for 43 years and the city has never done anything for the Val Vista neighborhood. Our sidewalks are dangerous, the streets are a joke, we need speed humps to stop the speeders, They took our neighborhood park and made it into a community park just to please the soccer heads. Enough...no more. Ya, there is a lawsuit coming...bet on it PUSD. it aint over till its over. You all screamed about Costco and the traffic...well this is worse. We are going to organise


6 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Dec 25, 2018 at 7:30 pm

"They took our neighborhood park and made it into a community park"

......It wasn't a community park before?


3 people like this
Posted by JC
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Dec 26, 2018 at 8:45 am

Goodness, people. I think this site has the ability to produce great dialogue, but so often it deteriorates into a giant b@$ch session. It wouldn't matter what the district did, people would be complaining about it here.

Here's my understanding: They passed a bond promising, among other things that they seem to be delivering on (Lydikson rebuild, tech upgrades, A/C units, science labs at middle schools, replacing portables at high schools with real buildings) a new elementary school. The cost of construction skyrocketed after the bond was passed, making it impossible both purchase land and build a school on it, so they started looking at land they already own. I think it will be a new, separate school, and it'll actually be really nice for parents who have siblings at each, in the same way our family enjoyed the proximity of Hearst to PMS. There are things I think would have been good ideas, like why not make the new school grades 4-6, alleviating overcrowding at Hart? However, I recognize that I'm not in a position to know all of the variables in the decision.


Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 26, 2018 at 9:18 am

@James - PUSD and the city are not the same entity. Please do your homework.


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

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