| Apparently the plans to renovate Oak Knoll School in Menlo Park aren't as detrimental as neighbors initially thought.
About 200 people -- many of them neighbors of the school -- attended the April 25 Menlo Park City School District board meeting, where district officials presented a new plan for renovating the K-5 campus.
The school board isn't scheduled to choose a final design until its May 16 meeting, but all board members supported building a two-story multi-purpose building at the north end of the school, and a large playing field on the southern portion of the campus.
Construction is scheduled for June 2008 to December 2010, said Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's facility planner. The renovations will cost about $11.7 million, and will be funded by the $91 million school bond measure that was approved by voters last June.
The 8.9-acre triangular campus is bordered by Oak Knoll Lane, Oak Avenue and Vine Street, and neighbors of all three streets and the surrounding area -- whether their unease focused on the loss of field space, the size of the proposed multi-use building, or increased traffic -- expressed major concerns regarding the renovation when initial plans were presented March 19.
Although some neighbors said they still had some concerns, most people applauded efforts by the district to add playground space for kindergarteners, surround a new parking lot with foliage, and minimize traffic impacts.
"I think [district officials] have done an excellent job listening to neighbors," said Ann Stoner, who has two children at Oak Knoll, and lives about a half mile from the school. "Let's not waste anymore of our money and our time -- we need to move forward."
Residents of Vine Street, most of which live in unincorporated Menlo Park and whose children are not in the Menlo Park City School District, stressed the need to keep traffic off their street, but recognized the district's efforts to accommodate children.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Vine Street resident Gari Merendino, after the meeting. "The plans the district is looking at seem to work pretty well, but we're not letting our guard down just yet."
After the initial plans were slammed by neighbors in March, school board members were relived to hear that some of the concerns have subsided.
"We got some heat at the last meeting, but at the end of the day it makes us better," said Deborah Fitz.
Board President Terry Thygesen said the meeting was "very productive" and the new revised site plans are good from a "safety, security and supervision standpoint."
Board members Fitz, Thygesen, Jeff Child and Laura Rich favored building an 81,000-square-foot playing field on the southern portion of the campus, but Bruce Ives said the district should consider building a 72,000-square-foot playing field, and maintaining more field space on the northern end of the school.
Final board decisions on the field space layout and other issues are scheduled for the May 16 meeting.
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