Issue date: August 25, 1999
More curriculum, construction challenges
Menlo Park City School District starts its school year on an upbeat note.
All students at Encinal School will be in completely renovated classrooms. Six revamped kindergarten rooms at Oak Knoll School will be ready Tuesday, August 31, when students start school. Laurel School -- the first of the district's four schools scheduled for bond-funded construction projects, is now a "new school," with its welcoming library-media center, updated multi-use room, and new or renovated classrooms for all its students.
Funds from the $22 million bond measure, approved by district voters in November 1995, are visibly at work in this K-8 school district. The construction scene shifted this summer to Hillview Middle School, where grading has been completed for all new construction, including a multi-use room along Santa Cruz Avenue and two science classrooms. Work is progressing at Oak Knoll on the library-media center, administration building and three classrooms.
For the second consecutive year, construction projects will be an ongoing part of school life, but the district's main focus will be curriculum. The district's reading program received another boost this year from David Packard Jr. through his Packard Humanities Institute. Funds will pay for two full-time reading coaches, Sue Lawrence and Bets McKnight, who will work with K-3 teachers at Oak Knoll, Laurel and Encinal. It also provides for ongoing training of teachers and additional materials from the "Open Court" collections for young scholars -- described as a "balanced reading program," with a strong phonics component, that focues on literature, writing and oral expression.
Superintendent Meredith Jones said research has shown that this model -- which includes having coaches in-house and on the spot to observe teachers, give feedback and give demonstration lessons -- has been a very effective way to help teachers grow and learn.
Technology has moved forward in the district, thanks to a terrific boost from the Computers for the Schools Initiative (COSI) led by parent Bud Colligan. COSI provided hardware, training and personnel. A new technology coordinator, Jim Bowlby, has been hired.
A major curriculum focus this year will be on math. Teachers and administrators will review the K-8 math program in relation to the new state curriculum standards, and adopt new textbooks, if needed, and supplemental material to be used in the 2000-01 school year.
Another big task for Menlo Park and other districts will be implementing the new state legislation on "promotion and retention" of students and on "peer assistance." The state mandate requires that districts provide "quality assistance" for students likely to be retained through help after school and in summer school. The state will reimburse the district at the rate of $2.53 per hour per student for this assistance.
School trustees are continuing to evaluate putting a parcel tax on the ballot, possibly in April, to make curriculum improvements and reduce class sizes in grades 4-8. The district's parcel tax is now $84.98.
Following is news on each of the district's four schools.
95 Edge Road
Nancy Hendry, principal
Small classes: With enrollment stabilizing at slightly over 400 students, Laurel will have 20 classes again this year. First- and second-graders will be in classes of 20 or fewer students as part of the state's class-size reduction program. Class size for the six kindergarten classes will be between 23 and 25 students. There will be seven first-grade classes and seven second grades.
Teachers: Two experienced teachers are joining the second-grade team: Jennifer Powers, who has taught second grade for two years in Southern California, and Cathleen O Connor, the sister of first-grade teacher Carrie Bacci.
Construction over! After living through ongoing construction and renovation projects for the past two years, Laurel teachers, students and families are enjoying their "new" school. Laurel was the first of the district's four schools to get the green light for its bond-funded building program. The new library-media center -- with light streaming through the large, arched window -- has been completed. All classrooms are either new or renovated. The multipurpose room has been updated, complete with kitchen. Each teacher has voice-mail and e-mail, thanks to upgrades in technology. The enlarged office area includes a teachers' workroom and storage. A few items remain on the "punch list," but the next project will be renovating the fields and landscaping the school grounds.
Back-to-school night: Parents will head back to school on Thursday, September 16, at 7 p.m. to meet their children's teachers and find out about the classroom programs.
"Quarter Gourmet": A popular tradition at Laurel, the first school-wide "Quarter Gourmet" will be on Friday, September 17, at 6 p.m. Families bring special dishes to share, pay a quarter for each serving and get to know each other.
1895 Oak Knoll Lane
Marilyn Franklin, principal
Enrollment stabilizes: Oak Knoll's enrollment is projected at 635 students, almost the same as last year.
Smaller classes: First- through third-graders are in classes of 20 or fewer students again this year because of the state's funding incentive for reducing class sizes. Kindergarten classes have about 22 to 23 students. Classes average about 25 students in fourth grade and 28 in fifth grade. There are five classes each scheduled for kindergarten through second grade, six at fourth grade and five classes at both fourth- and fifth-grade levels.
Teachers: Four experienced teachers are joining the Oak Knoll faculty. They are: Trish Stella, kindergarten; Denise Deauville, third grade; Sally Groff, fifth grade; and Jennifer McMahon, special day class.
Construction zone: Oak Knoll will be in the throes of construction this year as the bond-funded building program moves ahead full speed. The five renovated kindergarten classrooms will be ready when school opens. Projected completion date for the library-media center, three new classrooms, music room and administration wing is before Christmas. Further ahead is the phased renovation of all existing classrooms -- five at a time. The renovation should be completed in 2001.
Car pools, bike pools? Parents are encouraged to car pool to cut down on the amount of traffic around the school. The PTA is coordinating the car pool and bike-to-school efforts.
Back-to-school night: Parents will head back to school on Thursday, September 9, at 7 p.m. to meet their children's teachers and learn about the curriculum.
195 Encinal Ave.
Catherine Hauck, principal
More students: Enrollment is up at Encinal, with 20 more students than last year.
Classes: Class sizes are 20 or fewer in third grade, thanks to the state's class-size reduction program. Fourth- and fifth-grade classes average 27 students.
Teachers: Two experienced fifth-grade teachers were recruited. They are: Elizabeth Hawkins, who has taught in the Santa Clara Unified District, and Martha Rosenthal from the La Honda-Pescadero District.
Bond program update: All Encinal students will be in brand new classrooms this fall, renovated as part of the district's school bond measure. Work on the school library has been completed. The new technology lab, adjacent to the library, will be up and ready for opening day. Work on renovating the administration wing is underway and scheduled for completion in October.
Back-to-school night: Parents are invited to return to school on Thursday, September 9, from 7 to 8 p.m., to meet their children's teachers and learn more about school programs.
Family picnic: The traditional fall family picnic will be Friday, September 24, from 6 to 8 p.m. on the school's playfield and arbor area. It is sponsored by the Encinal PTA.
1100 Elder Ave.
Michael Moore, principal
More students: Enrollment is still growing at Hillview, which has gained about 25 more students, spread across the three grades. The sixth-grade class will be larger than the crop of eighth-graders who graduated last June. Core class sizes range from 25 to 28 students.
Teachers: Four new teachers have joined the faculty. They are: Linda Wythes, a former Hillview student, sixth grade; Michael Kaelin, seventh; Anna Jones, science; Sheila Sernovitz, teacher of the special day class at La Entrada. Jan Sauer returns to Hillview from Oak Knoll as the special education teacher.
Massive construction: Major construction is underway and expected to continue through the 2001-02 school year. The most extensive project will be construction of a multi-use building with a music room along Santa Cruz Avenue. Grading and installing base rock has been completed for all new construction. Foundations are in for the new science rooms. A trailer off Elder Avenue temporarily houses the school office. Work on the new teacher workroom (the former office) is progressing. After completing the new construction, renovation is planned for all existing classrooms and facilities as part of the district's bond program.
Camp Hillview: All incoming sixth-graders will participate in Camp Hillview, a three-day orientation program at school, designed and carried out by the Hillview staff. The camp, September 8-10, provides a common academic and social experience for the sixth-graders and includes an evening networking session for their parents. Eighth-graders serve as camp counselors. Supported by the PTA, Camp Hillview won a J. Russell Kent Award last May from the San Mateo County School Board Association as an outstanding program.
Back-to-school night: September 23 is the date for the annual back-to-school night for parents. It starts at 7 p.m.