Bold plan to rebuild Hillview Middle School
• Board favors
The school board of the Menlo Park City School District favors a radical approach to building a new Hillview Middle School campus that accommodates an expected 40 percent increase in enrollment over the next six years.
The plan: build all-new facilities — including three wings of two-story classroom buildings — on what is now the playing field, and then tear down all of the existing facilities, except the multi-use building. The space where classrooms are located now would become a four-acre playing field and hard-court area.
"The community will get the most value for the money spent on new construction rather than additional modernization of the 50-year-old buildings," said board president Terry Thygesen.
"The analysis of options showed us that building a new two-story facility would be the best approach to addressing all the issues such as field and open space, traffic and parking," Ms. Thygesen said.
The result will be more efficient use of land, a bigger field area, and more parking spaces, board members said.
This option, however, means tearing down facilities that were built or modernized with money from a $22 million bond measure, approved by voters in 1995 to update the district's four campuses. Taxpayers will continue to pay off the bonds long after the facilities are gone.
However, only about $6.2 million of that bond revenue was spent on modernizing Hillview structures and building two science classrooms and the multi-use building. And about $3.8 million of that was for the multi-use building, which will remain.
Rebuilding the Hillview campus on its 9.5-acre site is expected to cost around $40 million, and will be paid for from the $91 million bond measure approved by 70 percent of the voters last June.
Building a new school on the current playing field emerged as the favored option of the school board after a four-hour community meeting Jan. 30 in the Hillview multi-use building.
About 200 parents, neighbors and others attended the meeting. A petition signed by 80 neighbors of the school was presented to the board. It raised concerns about "serious consequences" from increased traffic and parking tied to sharply higher enrollment. Enrollment projections show a growth from 659 students now to 913 in seven years.
The board directed the district's design team to do additional work on the favored option — including more study of traffic congestion, parking and safety issues — before the board's March 6 meeting, when trustees may make a decision about the design of the new campus.
The proposed two-story campus would maximize available space and provide higher-quality facilities for the education of middle-school children well into the 21st century, said board member Bruce Ives.
The drop-off, pick-up area would be moved from Elder Avenue to the back of the campus, lessening the impact of cars lining up along Santa Cruz Avenue. The number of parking spaces would increase from 55 to 121.
The playfield and hard-court area — for physical education classes, sports and recreation — would expand from 2.7 acres to 4.0 acres.
This option also provides 80-foot buffers from the building to the property lines. "Tinker Park," the tot lot along Santa Cruz Avenue, and the tennis courts are not part of the current plan, but the district will try to find space on the campus to relocate Tinker Park.
Hillview, because it's limited to a 9.5-acre site and is close to a residential neighborhood and busy Santa Cruz Avenue, is the biggest challenge facing board members as they develop a master plan for expanding the district's four schools to cope with projected enrollment growth.
The board decided that building the new Hillview on the playfield — and continuing to house students on the existing campus during construction — is more desirable and cost-effective than adding facilities to existing buildings. This option avoids the estimated $4 million cost of bringing 57 portable buildings on campus to provide interim classrooms and offices during construction.
Trustee Laura Rich, also a member of the district's facility committee, said the favored option "makes the most sense" because it has the least impact on students and maximizes the open space, providing a clustering of buildings with courtyards where students can gather, and more field area.
Superintendent Ken Ranella said he will meet with Principal Mike Moore and the Hillview staff to discuss the favored option. He also asked district architect Erwin Lee to address some of the issues such as traffic congestion and safety concerns brought up at the community meeting.
The superintendent said he would look further at the option of demolishing the existing Hillview buildings and then developing a new Hillview on the razed site — the option that involves moving portable buildings on the existing playfield and developing an interim campus to be used during construction.
Architectural renderings of the favored option and information about projected costs, phasing construction and timelines will be presented at the community meeting on March 6.
To send comments, suggestions and/or questions about facility development at Hillview Middle School, send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org. Your e-mail will go to all five board members and the superintendent. Trustees also welcome phone calls. For more information, go to the district's Web site — www.mpcsd.org — and click on "Facility Development." Hillview will be the focus of the board's meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 6, at Hillview School, 1100 Elder Ave. in Menlo Park.