Ravenswood to lease out district office, closed school site | October 8, 2021 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - October 8, 2021

Ravenswood to lease out district office, closed school site

Funds needed to help increase teacher pay, staff says

by By Angela Swartz

The Ravenswood City School District will lease out its district office and an unused school site in Menlo Park to help bolster revenue to increase teacher pay and fund initiatives like early learning programs.

The district plans to select the lessee and negotiate terms by the end of December, the Board of Trustees said during a Sept. 9 meeting. The 110,000-square-foot building spaces where James Flood Magnet School used to operate, at 320 Sheridan Drive, are west of U.S. Highway 101 next to Flood Park and sits on an approximately 2.5-acre site. The district office is located on a 4-acre site at 2120 Euclid Ave. in East Palo Alto, and is about 176,000 square feet of building space.

"The district needs to be financially stable in the long term, and this is Ravenswood's only self-sufficient path towards competing financially with nearby affluent communities (like Menlo Park and Palo Alto)," district staff noted in a presentation. "We have historically always chosen community benefit by bringing in community partners. ... If we want to keep our adjusted budget in-line with other districts in the county, Ravenswood needs to have the highest per-pupil funding in the county and needs to develop sustainable and reliable revenue streams."

The district is in the early stages of exploring possible partners for both sites and officials don't yet have a formal estimate of how much they might be able to receive in ground lease revenue, said Chief Business Official Will Eger in an email last week.

This school year, the district expects to receive a record amount of overall funding through the stimulus, the shift into basic aid, and a record donation from the Ravenswood Education Foundation of over $6 million this school year compared to $3 million in the recent past, according to the district's 2021-22 budget. This puts it into the top third of districts in the county on the basis of per-pupil funding.

"Yet when we adjust for student need, even with this record funding, RCSD receives roughly the same amount per pupil as the typical district in the county," staffers note. "Without these one time funds, we will drop down to below county average in per-pupil funding."

By 2022, the district plans to move out of its office, which will be demolished. The district office is likely two or three times larger than what is currently needed, according to a January facilities update for the board.

This school year per-pupil expenditures (nearly $30,000 per student) are likely to be the "highest ever in Ravenswood history," Eger said during the meeting. The funds are being used to decrease class sizes, with an average of 17 students per class this school year.

The district plans to choose the highest responsible bidder. Officials noted it could be complex, as some bidders may include a high proposed ground lease and then negotiate down, add undesirable payment terms or propose an infeasible project.

Other district leases

The district makes a "significant amount of revenue" (about 6% of its budget) from leasing properties it owns in Menlo Park and East Palo Alto, such as the former site of Menlo Oaks School to Alto International, according to the presentation. It has nine formal leases bringing in about $2.7 million each year, the presentation said.

The Primary School is paying roughly $1.4 million this school year to lease the former Brentwood School site at 951 O'Connor St. in East Palo Alto, which the Ravenswood district closed in 2020. The lease agreement is 10 years long and rent increases by 2% each year, according to the facilities update.

All Five preschool leases a portion of the Belle Haven School property. The Silicon Valley International School rents the former Willows Oak School site for about $1.1 million yearly, according to the district.

In 2018, the district had considered building affordable housing for teachers on the Flood site, but the plan never came to fruition.

Email Staff Writer Angela Swartz at [email protected]

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