Menlo Park district nearly ready to start building new school

School will be built on the O'Connor site in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park

While approval of plans for a new third- to fifth-grade school in the Menlo Park City School District are running a few months behind schedule, district officials say they think they can finish construction by September 2016 if the demolition of existing buildings starts by May 15.

Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's chief business officer, told the district's governing board at a meeting on Feb. 10 that if the district begins work on parts of the project that don't need state approval -- demolition, site clearing and other preparations -- as soon as it can, the project should be back on track to be completed by September 2016.

The district now expects state approval of its plans by late May, Mr. Sheikholeslami said.

Mr. Sheikholeslami showed the board drawings of the proposed new school, which will be built on the district's O'Connor site, 275 Elliott Drive, between O'Connor Street and Oak Court, in the Willows neighborhood of Menlo Park. Plans have been slightly altered from the original vision for the school, in part to make sure the project stays on budget. The changes are mostly in features such as stucco replacing stone and fewer windows.

Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said the district is ready to begin informing parents about the plan for transitioning students into the new school. Students now attend Laurel School from kindergarten to third grade and then go to Encinal for fourth and fifth grades.

Starting in September 2015, instead of moving all of Laurel's fourth-graders to Encinal, 71 of the students (out of 116 current third-graders) will stay at Laurel for fourth grade and the remainder will go to Encinal. Superintendent Ghysels said he planned to ask parents to choose which school they prefer for their students by Feb. 13.

The fourth-graders who stay at Laurel will move to the new school when it opens, while those who go to Encinal will remain there for fifth grade, he said. The new Upper Laurel School will open with six classes of third-graders, five classes of fourth-graders and three classes of fifth-graders, he said.

The district will balance the numbers of students who remain at Laurel next year and who go on to Encinal by giving consideration to families with siblings at either school (older siblings at Encinal or younger siblings at Laurel) and neighborhoods (attempting to keep neighborhood clusters in the same schools) while keeping the Spanish immersion class together at one school. If the numbers still do not work out, a lottery will be used, the superintendent said.

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Posted by Dagwood
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 11, 2015 at 12:40 pm

The design changes are short-sighted. As a taxpayer supportive of our schools I disagree with this penny- pinching which will affect students, teachers, staff and parents for decades to come, through their direct experience with school surroundings. The school district is expected to uphold high standards of civic architecture.

"The changes are mostly in features such as stucco replacing stone and fewer windows."

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Posted by member
a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on Feb 11, 2015 at 7:28 pm

Can the Almanac publish the plans for Las Lomitas and La Entrada?
The school district purchased an Atherton house to demolish and expand Las Lomitas School. New construction planned is planned for La Entrada, but that information hasn't been shared with the public. The Almanac would be an ideal means to publish those plans. Thanks.

3 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Feb 11, 2015 at 10:31 pm

How about rebuilding Belle Haven

Like this comment
Posted by Neigbor
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Feb 12, 2015 at 6:13 pm

Really? Only a tiny window per classroom? Spend the money. The whole point of tearing down a functioning school was to provide state of the art classrooms. Is that a dark box with artificial light? What's the cost of lighting the dark rooms? (and yes, I know lights get left on all day anyway, but that is another problem)

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