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Year in review: High school district gets green light to expand capacity

 

The most significant development in 2014 for the Sequoia Union High School District occurred in June with the passage of Measure A.

By a 65 percent majority, voters authorized the district to borrow up to $265 million to add classrooms and other facilities to district high schools, and to build two small high schools. The new facilities are needed, district officials say, to prepare for a surge of students now in elementary and middle school.

The measure came before voters after more than a year of conversation in local school communities about projections of a 22 percent increase in high school enrollment district-wide by the 2020-21 school year. Local voices rose occasionally in 2013, mostly over district plans to revise a 30-year-old map that assigns home addresses to individual high schools. A particular focus was Menlo-Atherton High School, where projections show a 25 percent increase by 2020-21.

But the controversy seemed to fade in 2014 with acceptance by the M-A community of a significantly larger enrollment as the years go by. The district administration also promised to build of one of the two proposed new small high schools near M-A. (The district recently entered into a $3.4 million contract to buy a 2.1-acre industrial site on Jefferson Drive in Menlo Park near Belle Haven.) Each new high school will have a theme, such as technology or the arts.

In June, the high school board approved a new map, effectively ending three decades of forced busing for students from the Ravenswood City Elementary School District in East Palo Alto. Instead of having to catch early morning rides to Woodside, Carlmont or Sequoia high schools, all of these students are now assigned to M-A.

The new map is not official until the fall of 2015, but board policies allowed Ravenswood students first choice of attending M-A as of August 2014. The reassignment of some North Fair Oaks households away from M-A is expected to nullify the effect of an influx of Ravenswood students, district officials have said.

Two-story buildings

The near-term impact of Measure A at M-A came up during a recent board meeting when the architect overseeing the district's master plan presented a rendering of a two-story building to replace Building G. The building has eight classrooms on the first floor and 13 on the second, some with partitions. There's a courtyard and outdoor dining and shared small-project areas between classrooms.

Plans for Woodside High, where enrollment is expected to grow 19 percent by 2020-21, include a new two-story building with seven regular classrooms, a robotics lab and two science labs, and improvements to the student drop-off area on Alameda de las Pulgas.

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