Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 15, 2011

Space shortages possible at Addison, Palo Verde

Forty-one prospective kindergartners on wait lists for their neighborhood schools

by Chris Kenrick

Families of 41 prospective kindergartners who live in Palo Alto's Addison and Palo Verde elementary school areas have been told there is no guaranteed space at the neighborhood schools for their children this fall.

The news came following a lottery held last week for prospective kindergartners at the two schools necessitated after more children signed up at the two campuses than there are currently available spots.

It's possible that most or all of the children will clear the wait lists by the time school begins Aug. 23. Many families change plans or move their children to district "choice" programs such as Hoover and Ohlone schools, resulting in space freeing up for neighborhood children waiting for spots at oversubscribed campuses, school officials have said.

The numbers of "overflowed" children were 31 for Addison and 10 for Palo Verde.

Wait-listed Addison parents said they were told that up to 20 "overflowed" children in previous years ultimately got a spot at the school.

Kindergartners who do not clear the wait list for their neighborhood schools are typically assigned to another campus nearby. In the case of Addison, that likely would be Walter Hays.

Wait-listed parents described their situation as disappointing and inconvenient as they scrambled to make tentative plans for their kids to go elsewhere.

Overflows have occurred regularly in recent years as the school district has seen steady and sometimes unexpected bursts in enrollment.

Demographers who consult for the school district have said last fall's kindergarten and first-grade enrollment numbers were "surprisingly high," far exceeding previously reliable predictors such as data on local birth records and housing turnover.

Unless those growth rates slow down in the next few years, district officials have said they will prepare for growth at the high end of demographic projections.

Growth has been particularly strong in the elementary grades and in the southern part of town.

School district Superintendent Kevin Skelly said last month that by May or June he would recommend placement of up to 30 new elementary classrooms to be built in the next five years.

Those would be in addition to the 10 new classrooms already under construction or in the pipeline at Ohlone and Duveneck elementary schools. The classrooms will be built with funds from a $378 million facilities bond to modernize and boost capacity of campuses district-wide backed by 77.5 percent of voters in 2008.

One factor certain to slow enrollment growth, at least temporarily, is a new "kindergarten readiness" law, to be phased in starting in fall of 2012. The new law requiring that children turn 5 by Sept. 1 rather than Dec. 2 of the year they start kindergarten will reduce the size of incoming kindergarten classes for three years. Those reductions will continue to be felt for the next 13 years as the smaller cohorts work their way through the system.

Palo Alto's district-wide enrollment, at 12,024 last September, has been on a steady upward trajectory since a post-Baby Boom low in 1989.

At its historic high in 1968 when Palo Alto had three comprehensive high schools and more than 20 elementary schools enrollment was 15,575. Currently the district operates two high schools, three middle schools and 12 elementary campuses.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Concerned about5 neighborhood schools, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:35 am

If the district would revise attendance boudnaries and consider adjusting their commitment to exanding choice programs--perhaps give the newly built space at Ohlone to the neighborhood for a neighborhood school option (Yes. there is precedent for neighborhood school and choice programs coexisting at a single site--see Escondido), we might not have to overflow kids from their neighborhood schools. The Palo Verde attendance boundary extends to the Ohlone neighborhood because the Ohlone and Mandarin Immersion choice programs occupy the site that used to be their neighborhood school.

Sounds to me like demand for choice programs is being CREATED by forcing kids out of their neighborhood sites. This is not consistent with PAUSD stated goals to support neighborhood schools. Really, the growing "demand for choice programs" probably is not due to the philosophy or educational approach of these programs, it's fed by worry of parents who are concerned they may be kicked out of their neighborhood school. They want certainty of placement.

If you look at the district site maps and treat every school as a neighborhood school, most students probably could be accomodated at a neighborhood school instead of being carted around in cars.

Please take a serious look at attendance boundaries and include choice programs in this study. Every site should have to be included in the problem-solving process related to enrollment growth. Choice programs should not get special treatment any more. They were created when the district was losing families and closing schools due to enrollment reduction. We are faced with a completely different problem set today. We need to consider the needs of all PAUSD families in all schools.


Posted by parent, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:43 am

"Growth has been particularly strong in the elementary grades and in the southern part of town".

What did the city expect with all the high density housing that has been built in the southern part of Palo Alto? Rest assured that these properties are inhabited by families with school age children, not young single professionals, elderly or couples who do not want children.

Who did the city think was going to buy/rent these properties?
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out more housing units=more children in our schools.


Posted by Neighbor, a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

Now that the JCC has left Greendell, they can use the empty classrooms for overflow from Palo Verde, Hoover and Fairmeadow.

If the Young Fives program is moved into empty rooms at Cubberley, the whole of Greendell could be reopened as an elementary school.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Crescent Park
on Apr 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

There should be a better prioritizing system for the selection of students in neighborhood schools. We have a large number of students who come into the district as renters and do not pay taxes to support the schools. If you can prove you own a home in a school district, you should be guaranteed a position in your local school. If you rent, you should be placed in a lottery.


Posted by bea, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

Renters pay taxes to support the schools in the form of the rent that they pay to the property owner. Rent is extraordinarily high in Palo Alto because the taxes are extraordinarily high.


Posted by S'uppose, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I understand Palo Verde being impacted because of all the new condo and townhouse development in the southern part of Palo Alto, but can anyone explain the surge in Addison Elementary School?


Posted by resident, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:13 pm

The School Board tried to expand Garland to add So. PA, and Ohlone in So. PA is expanding. Grendale School at Cubberly has been considered as optional school space in the future. Perhaps the School District will hire a consulting firm that provides accurate growth counts in the future. The pausd school district has a hande on it- perhaps the PA Weekly should interview the PAUSD. PAUSD has excellent and accomodating plan and it's of interest to our community. Perhaps the pausd school district will begin with correct numbers and follow thru with their planning beside our city planners. Urge them to begin the changes for school growth now.


Posted by faceplant, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 12, 2011 at 12:46 pm

And the city plans to approve more housing for 101 Lytton!


Posted by Enough, a resident of Menlo Park
on Apr 12, 2011 at 1:26 pm

"bea" - The following comment of yours is just pain wrong: "Rent is extraordinarily high in Palo Alto because the taxes are extraordinarily high."

Get real. Rent is high in Palo Alto because DEMAND is high.

Housing developers are laughing their way to the bank, as they profit from that demand at the expense of EVERYONE who lives in or near Palo Alto. Disgusting.


Posted by Erin Mershon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Only 5% of the student population is coming from new housing. 95% is from older housing that is turning over. Every house that turns over is replaced by a family with young children. Last year the district was caught off guard with their enrollment projections mainly due to the high number of rental properties that they couldn't predict for. This year the enrollment projections are expected to be very high. Don't be surprised to see increasing class sizes again in the North and South. There's no other way to fit all of the kids in.

Concerned - I agree with you that demand for Ohlone is being created by the overflow situation and the bulk of that overflow is in the South. When 60% of the students at a school come from the neighborhood, you have to start looking at it as a neighborhood school. It's time for the district to move MI out and make room for either more Ohlone or some neighborhood kids.

The first thing the school board needs to do is take back the lease on Garland. 2 years ago Dana Tom sat 30 feet away from me at the board meeting and said he hoped he wasn't making a mistake by voting to extend the lease on Garland, nullify all of the hard work the architects and community members had done on the planned reopening for the 2011-12 school year. Guess what Dana? You, Camille, Melissa, and Barbara all made a mistake! It's time to fix it.


Posted by Lois, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm

What is happening now is that many of the seniors who benefited from Prop 13, which was passed in 1978, decided to stay in their homes during retirement. These seniors are now sadly dying and their heirs are selling their once occupied homes, and new young families are moving in.

This is both good and bad. The homes are selling for huge prices and the new home owners are paying much bigger property taxes that are no longer protected by Prop 13, which means more money for the City and more money for the School District.

The bad news is these new young families have children to fill our schools.


Posted by PA Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm

Addison has the downtown area so perhaps it's families who are living in apartments/condos?

Palo Verde has too large of an area to cover. Ohlone or Hoover should be relocated and become neighborhood schools.

Ohlone or Hoover should use Greendell for their location. Greendell is a good location for a commuter school with easy access for cars.

Stratford should not be reopened if the majority of students will be from South Palo Alto. There will be too many cars clogging up Louis Rd. and it will be dangerous for Jordan students who are walking/biking.


Posted by Vianica, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 12, 2011 at 8:18 pm

The overflow number at Palo Verde is slightly less this year. Last year it was 13 and my child was at 11. He managed to get in the day before school started, thanks to one parent "remembering" to tell the school that their son was going to go to a private school. I think most kids got in too. To their credit, the staff at PV is very nice and responsive.
I dont know what impact the new cut-off dates will have on enrollment starting next year but either way, the recent overflow situation in elementary school is going to spill over to congestion in middle and high school when these kids are ready to transition from elementary school. Perhaps PAUSD and the board should consider opening up a middle/high school or is that too long term to be thinking about now?

Vianica


Posted by overflowed, a resident of Palo Verde School
on Apr 12, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Thanks, Vianica. Your comment gives us hope as we are towards the bottom of the PV waitlist this year, and it has been stressful and frustrating. We live mere blocks from Ohlone (and value their philosophy), and we were not picked for that lottery, and then found out that we were overflowed from Palo Verde. So currently, we aren't slated to attend either of the two schools that are close to our home. So we wait...

I'm curious to know how you handled the kindergarten transition process. Did you take your child to the PV incoming kindergarten events or did you go to events at the other school you were slated for or both? What about taking your child to the play ground and such to familiarize them with the environment. What did you tell your child when they asked about kindergarten?

I do wonder if in these overflow situations, if the schools might consider taking volunteers to opt for other schools with space before doing the reverse lottery. It seems some families might actually want to choose/transfer to another school, maybe they live on the edge of the boundary and another school might be closer, maybe they'd want their child close to their work, or have friends at another school. You never know, but it seems possible and might be an approach worth considering rather than randomly drawing and overflowing families who are really want the space.


Posted by Dave, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Faceplant,

We'll get more new housing in south PA if the city passes a re-zoning proposal by SummerHill Homes (on behalf of A&D Protocol Transportations Inc) to build high-density homes in place of the pre-school daycare sitting on 2.65 acres on the frontage road of San Antonio, a block west of Middlefield Road.


Posted by Palo Verde, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:09 pm

Welcome to Barron Park, the worst place on earth when it comes to bullying and low scores on Standard Tests. This is the school where the students are sent when there is no place for them at their neighborhood schools.


Posted by PA Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 12, 2011 at 10:55 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Vianica, a resident of Palo Verde
on Apr 13, 2011 at 5:41 am

Overflowed: I did not take my kid to palo verde although he did attend the summer school there. He was assigned Barron park. I went to the open house or kinder meet they have in may and met other parents from palo verde. We kept each other in the loop about the movement on the wait list. The wait list started to really move only the week before school started so don't worry if you don't hear anything during the summer. If you take your kid to ramos, Mitchell or any of the local parks in the palo verde neighborhood in the summer you meet quite a few parents with incoming Kindergarten kids.

About telling my kid, I took him to Barron park and told him we were on a wait list and till we found a spot he would have to go there. When the staff came back in aug, they moved us to fair meadow when a spot opened up there. I took him there as well and told him the same thing. It is more stressful for us than for them I guess:)

Vianica

Vianica


Posted by PA Native, a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Apr 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

Palo Verde is correct. But Barron Park's principal is retiring this June. Hopefully, the next principal can improve the morale at Barron Park.


Posted by Another unhappy Barron Park Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 13, 2011 at 11:54 am

Pan
I agree with you, hopefully the new principal will shape up Barron park. PAUSD needed this change. I just hope they do not hire Magadalena otherwise things will be the same, no improvement will happen.


Posted by Lois, a resident of South of Midtown
on Apr 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

To all those who keep crying out for another elementary school to be opened; it won't happen until all the present elementary schools are full.

Unfortunately, every year since Barron Park reopened it is never full so the School District will continue to put their overflow into that that school.

Every year the School District finds out what we already know and that is there simply are not enough students in the neighborhood to fill both Yuanna Briones and Baron Park, that's why Creekside (now Baron Park) was closed in the first place.


Posted by Joe, a resident of Barron Park
on Apr 14, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Barron Park has more than enough children to fill both Juana Briones AND Barron Park elementary schools. People outside of Barron Park blame its low enrollment on school boundaries, or not enough families with elementary school age children live within the boundaries but that is not the issue. Everyone who lives in Barron Park and feeds into the school know that the school has problems. The low enrollment is because many families (the ones who can afford it) choose to either send their children to private schools or go for one of the 'choice' schools instead of dreaded Barron Park. Let's hope they hire a good principal because Barron Park has the potential to be a good school.


Posted by Erin Mershon, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Apr 14, 2011 at 2:33 pm

Lois - The present schools in the North and South are already over-capacity. They are supposed to be 20 students per class from K-5th grade and the current school board has increased class sizes in order to squeeze more kids into neighborhood schools. Walter Hays should be at 480 students but is around 540. Duveneck and Addison are hovering over 500 as well. Increasing class size is a nice way to save money, but last time I looked at the budget the school district had a nice chunk in reserves. Saving for a snowy day as opposed to a rainy one, I suppose.

A fifth strand of classes has been mentioned for Hays. Let's just plop more portables down on our campuses and squeeze more kids onto already crowded school sites. My child loves getting trampled at recess!


Posted by abitoftruth, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 15, 2011 at 9:51 am

IF PAUSD didn't allow people who do not have a lease or own a house by the end date of first priority, it would help the ones who are the REAL property owners. In other words, all one has to do is provide a lease that is effective by the first day of school and those, too, can be put into priority 1 registration. How can that be fair to those who pay taxes (and rent) from Jan-August? Shouldn't those people have priority over someone who is not paying any rent/taxes from Jan/Feb to August? Why should those "newbies" be able to be on a Choice School list? I can see where LOTS of changes need to be made. Let those who are not "playing fair" be the ones on the wait list, not the ones who have been living here prior to Priority 1 registration!


Posted by palo alto mom, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Apr 15, 2011 at 1:38 pm

I believe priority registration is only people who register by Feb 1st or so (the date seems to vary slightly from year to year). After that date, you are no longer priority. It makes sense to me that you need to be a current resident to register at all - not a potential resident still looking for a home...

Addison has had an overflow problem for years, partly because of the housing where the old PAMF Clinic was. Demographers severely underestimated the number of kids per household.

As the budget crisis gets worse, people will continue to move to Palo Alto for the schools. That, coupled with a ridiculous amount of new housing that for some reason, is assumed will not house children, equals overcrowded schools.

We should be using Greendell as a real school (not for adult schools, preschools, etc.) We should also be charging more for developers - and perhaps asking some to donate land for a future school site (something commonly done in many parts of the country).


Posted by Sylvia Sanders, a resident of Gunn High School
on Apr 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm

As a parent of a Gunn student, and a teacher at Barron Park Elementary, I am continually surprised and saddened by the vitriolic and uninformed comments about Barron Park. Let me assure you that Barron Park is not "the worst place on earth when it comes to bullying and low scores on Standardized tests." Our teachers are subject to the same standards as the teachers at the other Palo Alto Elementary schools, and many have taught at other schools (Nixon, Ohlone, Briones, Hoover, for example). We receive the same professional development as the teachers at the other sites, as well. All Palo Alto Elementary Schools use the same basic curricular materials: FOSS for science, Everyday Math, core literature. Just like teachers at other sites, we teachers bring our special interests and specialized knowledge in science, pharmacy, puppetry, dancing, world cultures and languages, fishing, cricket, and rugby, to name a few, to further enrich our students' educations. As part of a rich curricular program, our students take field trips to enhance learning in their content areas (Hidden Villa, Stanford Lively Arts, Oakland Airport, Intel Museum, Foothills Park, City Hall...). We all have our students read and write in a wide variety of genres.

There is no data to support the claim that bullying is a more severe problem at Barron Park than at the other elementary schools. At Barron Park we recognize that any bullying is too much, so we have instituted procedures and policies to counteract it.

I hope the readers of Palo Alto Online are savvy enough to distinguish opinion from fact, and hyperbole from reality. I hope the contributors to Palo Alto Online will think carefully before posting: Do I have evidence for what I am writing? Are my comments unnecessarily inflammatory? Would I post my comment under my real name?

Thanks for reading,
Sylvia Sanders, Ph.D.
Gunn Parent
Barron Park teacher


Posted by Palo Verde, a resident of Midtown
on Apr 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm

If the school is so good why so many bullying incidents happen there, they are to many to mention here, and why do parents pull their kids out, or go and observe and right away see that the place is not good for their kids. I know families who pull out their kids from Barron Park, and others who in order to avoid B.P. went for the Spanish Immersion or private school. At this point the district is getting tuft on letting them get our of Barron Park, otherwise this school will have zero students, or very few (the ones who ignore the problems). [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


Posted by Poetdoc2009@gmail.com, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Although my severely autistic son went to Barron Park for k-5, and the teachers in the last years were awesome, there was a "see no evil hear no evil speak no evil"/"don't ask, don't tell" attitude at Barron Park Elementary. There was one particular secretary upnfront who made our entire time there a living hell. The principal was sweet, but just completely ineffective. I was happy to see that they incorporated the tenets of the book " You Can't Say You Can't Play" into every kindergarten classroom, which may have been directly in response to the bullying problem there.

I can say that our experience when our son was in the first few years was overall horrendous because the aides were little or completely untrained and were under the belief that my son "was trying to manipulate them" and " we better keep him under constant suspicion because he just wants to press our buttons." He has severe autism and was all of 6 years old, relatively nonverbal. He had no " hidden agenda". One particular aide should have been forbidden from ever working with children, and I saw her physically restrain too many kids who would have benefitted from an actually trained teachers aide rather than an overgrown teenager who obviously had issues with Borderline Personality Disorder.

What happened when I reported all of this? I was told that "well she really does try but gets frustrated" and I needed to be happy they were trying at all. The special Ed superintendent who was soon promoted to general student services director, C.Z. Had many many many teachers quit under her from sheer frustration that CZ would ignore most problems and cut. Down services on student IEP's as a punishment if a parent began to question her.

Thank God she retired but unfortunately we have had not much better responses from our interactions with the new special Ed superintendent. So far she and a minion called an iIEP for them to attend and for us to not know about..... Thank god the teacher called us and figured it out... And I came up to sign that I was there.... Much to the new special Ed superintendent's surprise.

I have two typically developing daughters in elementary school now, and would just not want my kids to attend Barron Park. I think it could be a great school, but they really do need to "question authority"..... Rather they simply cower to it. I don't know the solution, just some of the problems.


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