A new high school -- as well as a comprehensive community center -- at Cubberley are possible if the Palo Alto school district and city governments work toward a common vision, a community advisory committee says.
In its long-awaited report, the Cubberley Community Advisory Committee urges the city and school district to develop a joint-use "master plan" over the next seven years with the potential to accommodate community-use needs as well as the possibility of a third public high school in Palo Alto.
The committee will present its findings to a joint study session of the City Council and the Board of Education this Thursday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Cubberley Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road.
The committee penciled in the cost of a new high school -- which it said should come with an agreement for joint use -- at $100 million to $150 million, possibly to be financed through a school district general obligation bond in 2024.
The school district has been vague as to when or whether it will need Cubberley for K-12 use. But citing recent enrollment growth the district says it may need part or all of the 35-acre campus in the next 10 or 20 years.
Though unanimous on most questions, the committee was split on whether the city should renew its lease of Cubberley from the school district for five years or for 10 years.
"The arguments for a shorter (five-year) lease typically revolved around the need to create pressure to get the long-term planning done in a timely manner...It was felt that a shorter lease would have the effect of 'putting the collective feet of the city and school district in the fire,'" the committee said.
The group said it is premature to include any financing for a long-term plan for Cubberley in a 2014 ballot measure contemplated by the city.
The 28-member committee, co-chaired by former mayor Mike Cobb and former school board president Mandy Lowell, worked over a nine-month period to generate a lengthy, multi-volume report. Committee members included other former council members and school board members as well as a range of community activists.
Besides Cobb and Lowell, advisory committee members were Ken Allen, Jerry August, Susan Bailey, Bern Beecham, Michael Bein, Lessa Bouchard, Brian Carilli, Damian Cono, Tom Crystal, Penny Ellson, Sheri Furman, Jennifer Hetterly, Claire Kirner, John Markevitch, Pam Radin, Diane Reklis, William Robinson, Rachel Samoff, Jim Schmidt, Tracy Stevens, Greg Tanaka, Susie Thom, Tom Vician, Lanie Wheeler, Jean Wilcox and Anne Wilson.
Each of four subcommittees -- on school needs, community needs, facilities and finance -- generated detailed reports, which are included in the full committee's final report.
The committee studied public joint-use project in a number of other communities and concluded such an arrangement would be the best solution for Palo Alto.
It recommended that any development be scheduled in phases to preserve public use of at least part of the site through the process.
The advisory committee stressed a sense of urgency on joint, long-term plans for Cubberley, whose nearly 60-year-old buildings are in need of replacement or significant upgrades.
"Kicking the can down the road" (by renewing the lease with no long-term plan) is clearly not a solution," the committee concluded.
"In fact it could have the consequence of eliminating possible solutions and exacerbating the existing problems."