Portola Valley School District officials came away from a Feb. 6 school board study session on their facilities master plan, and a possible bond measure that might help pay for its projects, with one very clear message: Board members have a lot of work ahead and a very short amount of time to do it.
That's because four of the five school board members are new and not very familiar with the facilities plan, but there's an early August deadline to get a bond measure on the November ballot.
If that deadline isn't met, board members were told at the meeting, the earliest a bond measure could appear on the ballot is 2020.
Brent McClure of Cody Anderson Wasney Architects (known as CAW) and Amanda Moss from the political consulting firm Clifford Moss presented an overview of the facilities master plan the district has been working on for more than a year. They also provided the board with information to help it decide the size of a bond measure the district might put on the ballot.
But board members expressed interest in revisiting parts of the master plan, including the question of whether the district might be better off with one kindergarten through eighth-grade school rather than the current two-school configuration. Board members also said they might want to consider setting aside land that could one day be teacher housing.
An ambitious work plan
At a regular board meeting on Feb. 7, board members agreed to an ambitious work program that includes weekly meetings of a subcommittee made up of board members Jeff Klugman and Mike Maffia, Superintendent Eric Hartwig, and the district's architects and campaign consultants.
Every two weeks, that group will also meet with a representative of the town of Portola Valley, the principals of the district's two schools, school parent and Portola Valley Schools Foundation board member Tricia Christensen, and the district's chief business official, Connie Ngo.
The district also wants to have several community meetings this month that could include the Portola Valley Ranch homeowners' association and gatherings at the Sequoias retirement facility and the Town Center.
By the board's March 7 meeting, the subcommittee is scheduled to present some firm recommendations about whether the district should consolidate onto one campus or include teacher housing in the master plan.
Foundation may help
At the Feb. 7 regular meeting, Tricia Christensen, who has represented the Portola Valley Schools Foundation during the facilities master plan work, said the foundation "probably would do a private fundraising campaign and a capital campaign" to help pay for some of the district's desired projects, as well as help campaign for the bond.
Two community members spoke at the study session. Former school board member Judith Mendelsohn told the board, "I'm really concerned about the scope of your plans."
"This is really a big deal to take on," she said.
Corinne Moesta, a district parent, said the board should "find those projects that really make a difference in our kids' learning."
"We don't want to have buildings falling down, but we don't need the restrooms to be beautiful," she said.
Board member Mike Maffia asked the board to consider what could be eliminated from the facilities plan. Perhaps the existing multi-use space could be expanded to have a regulation-size gym and a performance space, instead of building a separate performing arts building, he said.
Mr. Maffia said he believes if the district educates the community about what a bond would pay for, voters would approve the bond.
Other district's bond spending
The consultant's presentation listed some of the bonds that have been issued by local school districts and how much spending per student they represent. The Almanac used state data found on ed-data.org to make a more comprehensive examination and found districts' per-student bond spending varies widely.
In the Menlo Park City School District, three bond measures totaling $136.1 million have been approved by voters since 1995. With current enrollment of 2,972 students, the bond spending is $45,794 per student.
In the Woodside School District, three bonds totaling $30.7 million have been passed since 1999. With 407 current students, the spending is $75,430 per student.
In the Las Lomitas Elementary School District, where the board is considering putting a $70 million bond measure on the June ballot, three bond measures totaling $84 million have been passed since 1999. With 1,353 current students, current bond spending is at $62,084 per student.
The approval of a new $70 million bond would bring the spending up to $113,821 per student.
In the Portola Valley School District, $23 million in two bonds have been approved since 1998. With 604 current students, spending is now $38,079 per student. If an additional $70 million bond were passed, the spending would be $153,974 per student.
If Portola Valley district voters approve a smaller bond measure of $40 million, the spending would be $104,304 per student.
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