District may take back O'Connor site to address soaring enrollment
CORRECTION: This article misstated the Menlo Park City School District's enrollment projection, in 2009, for the 2014-15 school year. The projection was actually 2,847 students, according to Ahmad Sheikholeslami of the school district. Current enrollment is 2,791 students.
In a move described as a "precautionary step," the Menlo Park City School District has sent the tenant of its former O'Connor School site — the German American International School — notice that it may be forced to vacate the property before its lease expires.
The district sent the preliminary notice late last month to meet a termination-clause requirement in its lease with the German American school that permits it to break the lease before its June 2016 end.
Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said the notification would allow the district to take back the campus at 275 Elliot Drive in Menlo Park for the 2014-15 school year. But, he noted, the school board is waiting for an enrollment study to be completed before making any decisions about whether to reopen the campus as a district school, or whether to pursue other options now being examined to address the district's skyrocketing enrollment.
"We are on the margin of over-enrollment," Mr. Ghysels said in a recent newsletter. Since 2000, student enrollment has increased by about 40 percent, he told the Almanac.
Enrollment this year is 2,791, up 81 from the prior school year, he said.
Current enrollment at the district's four schools — Laurel and Encinal in Atherton, and Oak Knoll and Hillview Middle in Menlo Park — is far higher than projections the district was basing facilities decisions on in earlier years. In 2009, for example, when the school board was debating whether to renew the German American school's lease for another term, enrollment for 2014 was projected to reach a mere 2,150.
German American school officials could not be reached for comment. The school has leased the Elliot Drive site since 1991, and its 315 students occupy one building and several portables, according to the school's website.
Last March, it bid on a lease for the Las Lomitas School District's former Ladera School site. It was outbid by Woodland School, which has occupied the site since 1981.
In his newsletter, Mr. Ghysels said that an ad-hoc district committee has been "working closely with the city to rigorously analyze all available demographic and enrollment information" to try to ascertain future enrollment growth as much as possible.