The Pleasanton Unified School District is moving forward with plans to change its enrollment boundaries for elementary school sites after the Board of Trustees unanimously approved a strategy for the public review process last Thursday.
With a 2021-22 enrollment project study predicting short- and long-term enrollment imbalances at all grade levels, PUSD has focused recently on alleviating overcrowding in both the eastern and, particularly, northwest parts of the district, where the board canceled plans last year for a new school serving grades 4 and 5 on the Donlon Elementary site.
The so-called E-10 school was ultimately scrapped in November "as a result of the uncertain times of 2020, including the COVID-19 pandemic, revised demographic projections, and fiscal consideration" such as an additional $13 million in costs for the project, according to a staff presentation at Thursday's board meeting. The action also included setting aside $35 million in Measure I1 bonds for a future 10th elementary school.
"We had to put a hold on our original plans due to financial circumstances and our declining enrollment, quite frankly," Board President Joan Laursen said during discussion. "As those numbers change, then future plans can change again, and we feel we've been very conservative by setting aside the promised $35 million for a new school and saving that money to take care of the enrollment that we are going to anticipate still needing in five years or so."
Trustee Mark Miller said the board "really did have a goal of trying to keep our schools a little bit smaller," but "it really became apparent that the plan to build a new school right now is just not a good decision."
"Our overarching goal in this community was to have neighborhood schools, that was the main thing, and I believe this approach we have here is the best way to ensure neighborhood schools," Miller said.
Miller added that "it's going to expand Lydiksen beyond our goal," but said "it's a great time to do it since we have the construction ongoing right now, it's a practical solution for that."
"Yes, it's going to be a bigger school, but it's going to keep it a neighborhood school because a lot of the growth in students is on that side of the freeway over there," Miller said.
Laursen said she appreciated staff's proposal to form three different committees for input -- one comprising core district staff and consultants, another made up of parents, teachers and other community members, and a board facility subcommittee -- and implored parents to consider volunteering on the stakeholder committee "because the work we're going to do together over the next year on this issue, we want a quality product that meets the needs of our students and our families."
Trustee Kelly Mokashi said she "saw firsthand the potential of my children being transferred out because there is not space in our neighborhood school" when she first moved to Pleasanton. "I think that we just need to remember, as already stated, it's going to be an emotional process and that we need to be open for the options."
Mokashi said she also appreciated that "this is going to be a collaborative process with the city."
"We know that we don't have all the information of where the housing's going to be placed, so I like the time period for the plan," Mokashi added.
The committees are expected to be formed by fall and meet regularly, including hosting a series of town hall meetings during fall and winter. If things go according to schedule, the district would start phasing in the boundary adjustments for new students in fall 2022.