Community speaks up about new Hillview schoolAbout 200 parents, neighbors and others came to the Hillview Middle School multi-use building Jan. 30 to hear about options for expanding and upgrading the Hillview campus. About 30 raised questions and offered comments.
Jim Stone asked if the board had considered sinking the first floor of the proposed two-story classroom buildings to reduce the height impact on neighbors.
"How can you decide on a plan until you work out traffic (issues)?" asked a neighbor living on Politzer Drive.
Dan Finley suggested the board consider staggering the starting time for students to decrease traffic congestion.
"It's very clear, the new campus is the only solution," said parent Michael Stoner, urging the board to move forward. The plan maximizes the open space and has the least impact on the 14 homes that abut Hillview school and the seven homes next to the field.
"Kids may not need a new building — classrooms are classrooms," said Scott Kirkman, whose preference is to make additions to the existing buildings.
Ted Schlein, co-president of the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation, applauded the efforts of the board and previous boards to "get us to this point." He cited the community's passage of the $90.1 million bond measure last June as a commitment to high-quality schools. "Let's not waste this opportunity."
Carol Orton, former district trustee, reminded the audience that the first choice was finding a larger site for a new middle school, but none is available. "That's not an option," she said, urging the community to pick the best schematic design and work together to make it happen.
Parent Nancy Kessler was among the parents who spoke to the importance of keeping Hillview as the district's only middle school. "It's a well-oiled machine," she said, thanks to Principal Mike Moore, Vice Principal Joy Shmueli, and the staff.
Many asked the board how confident it is in the enrollment projections.
Trustee Laura Rich said the enrollment consultant's projections are being updated, but noted that some of the longer-term projections include numbers for kids whose parents haven't met yet.
Superintendent Ken Ranella pointed out that many new families move into the district because of the schools, and many have young children. Also, he noted, more students now remain in the district until they graduate from eighth grade. The district's "retention rate," he said, is now 99 percent.