Almanac

Schools - April 17, 2013

Menlo Park: Private school given eviction notice

by Renee Batti

While leaving open the possibility of allowing the German-American International School to remain on its leased campus for an additional year, the Menlo Park City School District board voted unanimously on April 9 to terminate the private school's lease in June 2014.

A standing-room-only crowd of mostly GAIS supporters restated arguments and suggested strategies for allowing the school to stay on the district-owned campus — the former O'Connor School site at 275 Elliot Drive in Menlo Park until June 2015, which would be one year before the original lease was due to expire. Without the extra year to find and prepare a new campus, the school would most likely have to close, they said.

But board members said that, with its ever-increasing student enrollment, the district must secure a site for a fifth campus to maintain the quality of its programs, small class sizes, and a close-knit school community.

Whether GAIS will be allowed to stay beyond its new eviction deadline of June 2014 may depend on the route the board chooses to plan and build a new school at the site, which now has only one building, about 60 years old, and several portable classrooms. Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's facility planning and construction manager, presented three options for preparing the site for a new school, and the board will be reviewing them in the coming weeks.

Should the board decide to merely improve existing facilities, the school could be used by the district beginning in the 2014-15 school year. The other two options were for an "aggressive," two-year project to renovate the campus; and a three-year project — an option that might open the door to extending GAIS's lease until June 2015, giving the school the time it says it needs to find a new home.

Board members said they felt compelled to make the decision to end the lease last night because the termination clause in the lease required them to give the school notice by April 10 if they wanted the campus vacated by June 2014.

Trustees Joan Lambert and Jeff Child said they favor a three-year project so that planning, design and operational decisions for the campus wouldn't be rushed. Trustee Laura Rich pushed for a two-year project. But all board members said they need more information about the three campus-preparation options before they decide which would best serve the needs of district students.

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