On April 4, trustees of the Menlo Park City School District voted to proceed to the design phase for Laurel and Encinal schools.
This includes building a teaching resource center on the Encinal campus that further compromises our largest campus use. It specifically forecloses converting Encinal to a grade 5-8 middle school and dumps more than 900 students into a new, two-story middle school at Hillview at twice the state student density standard, and more than 700 students into Oak Knoll, which must also be expanded by using a two-story classroom building.
Careful analysis in a study based on the district's own data favors a superior plan, offering all the measurable benefits claimed for the adopted plan with much less impact to the community. This study, comparing the adopted plan and the proposed alternative, can be found at: Web Link .
Unfortunately the district has adopted a plan that all but ignores its own data and long-range objectives, as well as the impact to the neighborhoods and the community.
A 50 percent increase in students and in traffic and parking congestion at Encinal and Hillview impacts everyone who resides near those schools or drives on Santa Cruz and Encinal avenues, and Middlefield Road.
Parents who think the adopted plan is going to improve their children's education should consider that an entire generation of students will have to attend three schools under construction conditions that reduce outside activity space in every school for two to three years. Staging and construction will virtually eliminate all playing fields at Hillview for that time.
When complete, the "new" facilities will be at capacity with no space for further growth. Scarce, well-patronized public tennis courts and preschool parks maintained by the city also will be eliminated in the process.
It is time for taxpayers to take a hard look at what is happening. The bond money we voted in is being committed to a bad plan glossing over its problems, repeating past short-sightedness and making poor use of the bond funds. None of these actions are in the interests of students, the community or the long-term interests of the district. Sadly, as the study report shows, none of this need be. Unfortunately, the board never consider a much better plan. The five-campus plan in the study report builds a new 400-plus student K-4 school at the 5.8-acre O'Connor campus in the Willows at a much lower cost than the two-story construction at three schools. The teaching resource center would be located at O'Connor, not at Encinal.
This new O'Connor facility allows Hillview and Encinal to revert to grade 5-8 middle schools by 2010, actually reducing the number of students below those presently at Oak Knoll, Hillview and Laurel, and reducing the planned population at Encinal. This realignment provides campuses closer to residences of 60 percent of projected students.
This plan leaves more of the bond money available for major improvements at all schools while providing lower student density per school, with more total capacity and flexibility for uncertainties in future enrollment.
Yet, the Board of Trustees never seriously considered a new O'Connor facility, even though the district's data shows that more than 200 elementary-grade students live in the Willows and Willow Road corridor alone. We want to know whose interests are served by continuing to ignore this option?
This was published as a guest opinion in the May 16, 2007, issue of the Almanac. Dave Montague is a management and engineering consultant and a 47-year resident of Menlo Park. He lives on Hillview Drive.