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Guest Opinion: Where have all the first-graders gone?

Palo Alto school board member says drop in first-grade enrollment has big implications

Our first-graders are missing! Throughout the Bay Area, and especially on the Peninsula, enrollment of first-graders has dropped by 10-25% since 2010. From working-class school districts to affluent suburbs, we see a rapid and steady drop in young families and their children.

Palo Alto is no exception. Many think of Palo Alto as a magnet for young families with school-age children. But after decades of steady growth, Palo Alto Unified School District's first-grade enrollment has dropped by 19% since its peak in 2011; the drop in kindergartners is even greater. Overall, PAUSD elementary enrollment dropped 2% this year, its sixth consecutive year of decline. This trend nearly always means similar drops in later grades in a few years.

In fact, family formation all over the Bay Area is going the way of the Sony Walkman or the Palm Pilot. This has big implications for the future of our communities, including as we consider new housing.

Why is this happening?

The drop in young families isn't mysterious. Rising housing costs price out many in the family formation stage of life, when they have modest incomes but growing housing needs. Gentrification in working-class towns drives up prices and replaces low-cost units with newer, higher priced ones.

Demographic trends also play an important role. California has seen a dramatic drop in its birth rate since the Great Recession of 2008. Birth rates often drop during recessions, but this time they have not recovered and continue to fall. California's birth rate today is almost half that of 1990, and below even the level of the Great Depression in the 1930s.

Finally, more and more housing in family-friendly neighborhoods is occupied by seniors, the fastest growing demographic group on the Peninsula. State demographers expect this "gray tsunami" to grow to 29% of the Peninsula population over the next 20 years, which means their homes won't be available for younger families.

Source: California Dept. of Finance, Population Projections

What does it mean?

As Eve said to Adam as they left the Garden of Eden, "My dear, we live in a time of transition." These trends suggest Palo Alto, along with suburban towns all over the Peninsula, may be shifting to a paradigm different from that of the last 50 years.

We may be moving from communities built around families and schools to ones where they play a secondary role to companies and their employees.

What, if anything, should we do?

We could do nothing or even help it along: Many see these changes as inevitable, and not necessarily problematic. Some advocate building more "workforce housing," continuing expansion of large employers, and creation of larger senior facilities.

Others oppose most new housing; they worry that towns are "built out" and the roads can't handle more traffic. Ironically, both positions will lead to a significant change in our communities as the number of young families continues to decline.

There are alternatives. If we do build housing, we can influence our new neighbors by the kind of housing we try to create. By watching school-enrollment trends, we've learned a lot about what kind of housing and neighborhood situations attract families — and which do not.

The main features that make housing family-friendly aren't just bedrooms and square-footage; they're pricing and, most importantly, neighborhoods. Expensive apartments on busy streets, far from schools and parks, will not attract many young families looking to put down roots in a community.

Ideas to support family-friendly housing

Much of the housing debate focuses on "how many" (units) and "how much" (affordability). We should shift the focus to "who." If we want to remain a family-oriented community, we will need family-friendly housing.

Since the key to family-friendly housing is neighborhoods, one option is to stimulate housing in or near existing neighborhoods. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) and multi-family duplex to quadplex units already co-exist in many neighborhoods alongside single-family homes. These smaller-scale units preserve both the scale and character of a neighborhood, while opening up more room for families.

Another option is to create new family neighborhoods. In Palo Alto, areas like the Fry's site, downtown Palo Alto and the Stanford Research Park are being eyed for the creation of new or expanded neighborhoods. But there's a critical oversight: Schools aren't part of the planning process. The ultimate family neighborhood amenity is a neighborhood school. The community should insist that school districts, cities and developers work together to ensure new housing is near either new or existing schools.

What kind of neighbors do we want?

The debate over housing growth has centered on "more housing" versus "quality of life" (less housing). But there's another dimension: not just how many, but what kind of neighbors do we want. People — our neighbors — determine the character of a community. Today 17% of Santa Clara County residents are school-age children; in Palo Alto, that figure is 19%; San Francisco (like Manhattan) has just 9%.

The dramatic loss of young families — our missing first-graders — should grab our attention; it's a signal that our community is changing in a fundamental way. I like first-graders and all they represent, and I hope we will work to create communities that bring us more of them.

Todd Collins serves on the Palo Alto Board of Education. He can be emailed at todd@toddcollins.org.

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Comments

75 people like this
Posted by Sally
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:12 am

Although I appreciate a school-board member sharing thoughts about this demographic shift which, as he mentions, has been going on for some time, I hear more and more PAUSD parents wondering where the first grade CURRICULUM has gone. And the second grade, and the third...

If you point out how remedial and misaligned to student performance our elementary and middle school curricula and expectations are, the district pretends you're trying to hurt kids by advocating for the idea that they should get a sufficient and excellent education (wait for it!)... during the school day...

Believe me, the majority is quietly doing core academics at home. And believe me, we really really wish we didn't have to choose between shortening a playdate or having a Tuesday with no academic growth.


27 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:30 am

Young people are delaying having children until they are in their 30s and quite often having singletons. There is a lot of research as to why.

Women are encouraged to get established in their careers before having a child. Couples put travel and other priorities ahead of starting a family as children make many of these activities more difficult. Many are concerned about such things as climate change, politics, and similar reasons for not wanting to bring children into the world.

And there is my own particular major concern which is that young people are finding it difficult to meet a partner. Online dating is definitely one popular way to do it but there are so very many who are hesitating to do this. There are lonely people in their 20s who can't find anyone to date. There are others in their 20s who have not learned the social skills to have a relationship with another person in the real world as social media has taken over real people relationships. There are some fears too about what we used to call flirting now being called sexual assault. Someone asking for a date can be considered inappropriate behavior. Several large companies even have guidelines for what is appropriate and what is not when it comes to talking to a coworker about anything other than work related issues. This is all probably a consequence of the MeToo movement. Awkward young people without any social skills or experience of how to interact with peers are now turning into adults without partners.

These social phenomenons are now playing into the fact that our schools are noticing smaller classes entering our schools.


43 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:08 am

My advice is: don't over-react. Don't break something that can't be fixed later. Schools can downsize by closing off a classroom here or there. Don't close schools.

Regarding housing: family-friendly housing to me does mean "bedrooms and square-footage" as well as "pricing" "neighborhoods". Most young people will not have children of their own if they live in 256-square-foot micro-unit. Future parents would like to live in 1200 square foot 3BR-2.5BA homes like they grew up in. Pricing? Prices will go down if and when we we stop over-building office space right here and convert some office space to housing. Developers keep expecting to ride the wave of Manhattanization and upzone residential land to offices. That has to stop. Neighborhoods are being killed off both by traffic and overworked parents who don't have time to meet their neighbors. We can address traffic through commuter rail, but, I'm not sure what to do about the overwork-- their is nothing in it right now for businesses to actually be family-friendly. I see younger couples who move in to neighborhoods both working 50+ hour weeks month after month year after year. The neighborhood? Nobody has the time or energy.

Bottom line: the schools can't fix most of this. Please find ways to downsize without closing schools.


7 people like this
Posted by It's Not That Big A Deal
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:17 am

No big deal & a simple solution...just have combined 3rd-4th grade classes later down the road.

Not much difference between the two age groups & it will provide the younger students to get a 'heads-up' by learning alongside the older students.

It's been done before in PAUSD (1960s).


42 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:39 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

Didn't PAUSD scare us all into voting for the new school bonds to build more facilities and classrooms because there were too many students? Didn't they build out the high schools to hold an additional 30-40% more students? And now we are to believe that they're all going to disappear?

There are many things PAUSD can do to deal with changing enrollments, that's part of their job. They are not going to solve the social-economic factors that affect those enrollments.


13 people like this
Posted by ares
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:48 am


"The community should insist that school districts, cities and developers work together to ensure new housing is near either new or existing schools."

I think this is a good idea. Palo Alto places a high value on education so why not make this a stated goal; something probably everyone can agree on in the housing and growth debates.



27 people like this
Posted by Pied Piper
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 4, 2019 at 10:55 am

Pied Piper is a registered user.

Wonder what game the teacher's union will play given this trend. Hmmm...


11 people like this
Posted by Gale Johnson
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:01 am

Gale Johnson is a registered user.

@It's Not That Big A Deal
I experienced that, having gone to a one room country school, Pleasant Ridge, in Montana in the early 40's. Grades 1 thru 8 in one room. I remember listening to the teacher while she was instructing students a grade or two ahead of me and I basically tuned in and learned what they were being taught. When I started going to the school (El-High) in the town of Power in the 5th grade I had already learned all that was being taught there,


3 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:04 am

Posted by Pied Piper, a resident of Gunn High School

>> Wonder what game the teacher's union will play given this trend. Hmmm...

A statewide trend implies that teachers will have a difficult time moving to different districts. They will hang on to the jobs they have. Less flexibility, fewer new, young teachers. Elementary school education is not likely to be a growing occupation in California. So, the unions will encourage teachers to hang on to the jobs they have, even if they are burned out. Oh, well.


9 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:05 am

Samuel L. is a registered user.

[Post removed.]


46 people like this
Posted by Plan comprehensively.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:10 am

Plan comprehensively. is a registered user.

Todd Collins is trying to build a case for dumping housing on the Cubberley campus, the LAST large major plot of publicly owned land in the City proper. Building housing on the Cubberley campus is foolish. Anyone who has watched PAUSD demographics over time has seen enrollment numbers go up and down in huge waves that are impossible to predict.

Preserve this important site (Cubberley) for community service and school capacity growth. We will need it because we are building higher density housing everywhere else, especially south Palo Alto where Cubberley is. Higher density housing relies more heavily on community services and schools because smaller apartments do not have space to recreate and share space comfortably. People of all ages need room for recreation and public education. The more housing we build (especially smaller space housing), the more demand will be generated for these kinds of facilities.

For once, PAUSD and City of Palo Alto, do the thoughtful and prudent thing. Preserve Cubberley for its intended use--public school and public community center. This is our LAST publicly-owned large piece of land that can be used this way. Do NOT squander the intelligent land investment of our predecessors to meet a short-term housing quota--only to find that you will then have no place for new residents to recreate and learn.

For once, plan comprehensively for the long term, as our predecessors did.


33 people like this
Posted by counting down the years
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:34 am

Meanwhile the high schools are bursting at the seams.

The bubble cohorts - Class of 2021 and 2023 - are host to 500+ students per grade at Gunn pushing that school over 2000 students and all that comes with a massive public high school.


16 people like this
Posted by counting down the years
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2019 at 11:42 am

It can be tough to plan for these cycles, especially during a period when adding more office space has been the primary policy coming out of City Hall for years.

I'd be interested in seeing whether other cities and school districts up and down the peninsula are facing similar figures. Housing prices are way up everywhere. Is this a regional shift or are families skipping less family friendly Palo Alto and PAUSD in favor of neighboring towns and districts?


32 people like this
Posted by Word gets around (just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 12:02 pm

Hmmm. Local homeschooling and homeschool charters have been growing so fast, they are taking students as fast as they are able to hire qualified teachers and have waiting lists. All of those people live in these areas.

It's hard not to notice that a disproportionate number of the independent learning high school students are boys, especially 2e boys, and a disproportionate number of the younger students are gifted and special needs. Our own Bay Area-wide homeschool community has quite a few families who were quite literally pushed out of PAUSD by horrible untrustworthy even retaliatory treatment of parents and their special needs or 2e children. These are families with lots of energy and collaborative spirit who could have contributed to helping PAUSD grow inexpensive programs to support gifted, 2e, and special needs children, that could have helped hugely with the mental health of many students and also helped improve the district's reputation.

When you destroy the reputation of a place for due reasons, the repercussions take time to build after the reasons exist, and the reputation takes a lot longer to restore after the reasons are fixed, there is a lag. It's just stunning how a district leader could ignore the loss of district reputation because of the suicides and high depression rates, and their propensity for blaming parents for everything.

You cannot account for loss of enrollment with such a willful blind spot to the decade + of district mismanagement and unwillingness to overcome unprofessional, CYA, even persecutory/retaliatory culture among administrators, and unwillingness to develop a collaborative model, coupled with (not unrelated) an overly rigid middle and high school instructional model for the sake of checking the ranking boxes no matter who gets hurt (especially 2e, creative, and special needs).

Word gets around.

The fact is, LA Times just did an article about how CA is in fact growing, it's just richer people who don't need the public schools or don't yet have children. And so long as development here follows the "Cuckoo Bird" growth model to push out anyone who was here in favor of the insatiable corporate demands, this area is going to lose families who were previously willing to sacrifice to put down roots here for the schools.


23 people like this
Posted by Word gets around (Just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 12:04 pm

@counting,
Just this year, MV bought the Kohl's site to put up a school campus by 2024....


40 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 4, 2019 at 12:21 pm

Todd Collins is trying to make a case for retaining PAUSD teachers' jobs even though enrollment is declining and the same headcount won't be needed, but the property tax and parcel tax and PIE dollars will still be there --- so apparently in his view and the teacher's union's view it would be a shame not to keep employing them. His suggestion seems to be to import children by us financing and building 'affordable' housing on our dime in our community and probably devote this housing to the same set of public employees, and maybe city employees, most of whom surprisingly make more in salary than the average tech worker, let alone factoring in benefits and pensions.

Would we finance housing for the average tech worker?

Instead, with extra dollars due to declining enrollment and reduced need for teacher headcount, PAUSD could spend and redeploy dollars in areas where it is failing --- only 24.6% of special education students graduate meeting a-g requirements, further, for the whole student body, less than 68% overall graduate meeting a-g requirements, and ---- PAUSD could also focus on actually, properly educating minority children and others with learning deficits rather than labeling them as disabled --- as we see that PAUSD is being cited AGAIN for disproportionate representation of minorities in special education. Of course actually servicing existing students appropriately would be welcome. And, if there are unfunded pension liabilities, PAUSD could fund those and get rid of looming problems. These are just a few ideas of what PAUSD could do with dollars that no longer need to be spent on already employed teachers who may no longer be needed due to declining enrollment without changing the character of our community. Times change, enrollment ebbs and flows, employment is not guaranteed.


29 people like this
Posted by Don't do anything extra
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 4, 2019 at 12:38 pm

Two faced Todd strikes again! Advocating to keep a full employment program for teachers who will no longer be needed, on our dime, but couching it in language that seems to say something entirely different. Maybe focus on making sure PAUSD is actually educating and serving its students, instead of devoting all your time to making the teacher's union fat and happy.


12 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:15 pm

Todd Collins is a registered user.

Thank you for all the interesting comments.

To answer a couple questions, almost all districts in our region and our state have declining enrollment. The few that are growing are those rapidly adding housing (Mountain View Whisman is one). Palo Alto's rate of decline is in line with most other districts. Los Altos K-8 district actually declined almost 4% last year (by 157 students Web Link), though they are planning a new campus on San Antonio Road, as someone mentioned.

My main message here isn't about Cubberley or teacher jobs, but to encourage those responsible for planning and land-use to consider policies for family-friendly housing vs. other types. At least since the 1950s, Palo Alto has been a family-centric community with public schools as one of its core institutions. I think many of us take that for granted, but it could change in response to changing housing policies, among other things.

The schools of course will adapt to whatever comes - housing policy is not the purview of the school district. But I hope those who are responsible keep in mind that family housing almost always means ready access to parks, quiet(er) streets, and especially schools, and encourage housing that can go where families want to live.


24 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:35 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Todd Collins
If the state, in general is seeing decking enrollment, then this could be a general decline in children during this time. The opposite of the Baby Boom. Have you looked at the national trend? It could simply be people are having fewer babies. All the overpopulation/the Earth is going to end is changing people's outlook.

PAUSD or CPA housing policies want fix that.

Of course if you add housing, you'll add students. Wasn't that your complaint about Stanford? So you're worried about too many students from Stanford, but also declining student population. Yes I know, you just want Stanford to pay for their students.

But if Stanford adds another 1500 students and then the city builds housing to add more students, won't that overflow the schools?

What's wrong with letting the population grow and shrink organically?

And saying "I like first graders" comes off as a bit creepy.


20 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:37 pm

Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park, 11 minutes ago

>> To answer a couple questions, almost all districts in our region and our state have declining enrollment.

>> My main message here isn't about Cubberley or teacher jobs, but to encourage those responsible for planning and land-use to consider policies for family-friendly housing vs. other types.

Thank you for posting here. I really appreciate your responding in this manner. As a long-time community resident, I have to say that "Cubberley" is still an issue, though. I thought way back then that closing Cubberley was a mistake, and, I still think so. We could have had three medium-sized HSs instead of two oversized ones all this time. Bigger has definitely not been better. Many of the perceived problems at Gunn and Paly would likely have been less severe if there were three smaller schools. Not to mention the reduced traffic vehicle-miles from the Middlefield side to the poorly-located Gunn site. I still think that schools could be realigned to reduce traffic, and, I really wish that PAUSD would take family traffic patterns into consideration.

>> The schools of course will adapt to whatever comes - housing policy is not the purview of the school district. But I hope those who are responsible keep in mind that family housing almost always means ready access to parks, quiet(er) streets, and especially schools, and encourage housing that can go where families want to live.

I hope that this is not an argument in favor of PAUSD disposing of the Cubberley site for the sake of Developer dreams. Once the site is gone, the public will never get it back for public uses.


30 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around (just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:51 pm

No, if you add housing, you won't necessarily add students anymore, because this region has become so awful for families.

Got the following msg from a colleague w/small kids in Canada recently:
"..you should fly up here for strategic planning. You could find a flight out of SJ and when you land, EVERYTHING, literally EVERYTHING is easier up here. I live 20 min drive from the airport (max), we have a big house with lots of room to stay, I can more easily drive around, your dollar is worth like a gazillion dollars here, and on and on it goes. (Though pretty much everything else is more expensive including food). Travelling around in any large city in the US is just a nightmare, especially in California. Your infrastructure is just horrendous compared to us- I can’t believe how long it takes to get around down there."

The densification and its ugly consequences are making people not want to live here when they have a family to raise. Building microunits will only make this better for the small fraction of people who want to raise families in gridlocked microunits (and usually they change their minds when it goes from principle to practice).

Solve the problem of too many people wanting to work here. Convert office space to housing. Stop trying to Manhattanize the Bay Area and focus resources on cities like Stockton and Modesto that have affordable housing but could use investments for desirable civic assets (see recent story about trying to bring a good college there).


2 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:55 pm

Todd Collins is a registered user.

@Samuel L - yes, as the article mentions, California overall has seen a sharply lower birth rate for over 10 years now. There are fewer children in the state than there have been in the past.

My thoughts about housing are in the context of state, county, and city policies to encourage more housing. It's part the City's recent Comprehensive Plan. So if our policy is to promote housing, I'd prefer housing that accommodates families.

On Stanford, of course, you answered your own question. The challenge with the housing proposed under the Stanford GUP isn't that it would bring more PAUSD students, but that it would be largely tax-exempt - up to 1500 new students, no new funding. Presumably housing built by others will pay property taxes like everyone else.


22 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around (just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 1:56 pm

If Palo Alto Unified stopped being such control freaks about secondary education, and developed some form of independent education program, it would cost nothing and would improve the reputation overnight.

Of course, this would have to come with sincere people and trustworthy behavior, including on the school board. Things like figuring over and over again that turnover absolves you of dealing with unlawful and harmful things that happened under your watch won't cut it.

Word gets around.


29 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around (Just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 2:02 pm

See High Taxes Be Damned, the Rich Keep Moving to CA
Web Link

When you overdevelop and density a place, and rich people take over, it makes life much worse for people at the bottom and ordinary people, who are moving out of CA. The development has accelerated this phenomenon, doing MORE of it will only make things worse, not better.

Dare to make this a nice COLLEGE TOWN again, with good schools that provide a wordlclass education that doesn't drive kids to kill themselves or push otherwise enthusiastic supportive parents to bitterness, and you will see enrollments go up regardless of what the economy or nearby towns are doing.


14 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 2:26 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

If there are fewer children now, then why the need to build more housing? By the time the supply meets the current demand, the demand will have dropped.

Agreed that students need schools. But, where in this city is there not a school close by? Where can housing be built where there isn't a school at least as close as the current situation?

Here's a link with a map of school boundaries:
Web Link


12 people like this
Posted by Parent and Alum
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Oct 4, 2019 at 3:13 pm

I think I'll wait to see where the third graders have gone. It's really important to remember that the bubble classes of 2022 and 2023 didn't start in Kindergarten. They started in 3rd grade when those classes had an extra 60 kids move into the district. It's an age when parents start to realize that their schools aren't cutting it and they've built up some equity somewhere else and can afford Palo Alto.
Let's not jump the gun on declining enrollment just yet. Remember the roller coaster.


19 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Todd Collins
Residents of new housing will pay property taxes, that is true. However will their taxes cover the cost of building a new school? Definitely not. That will fall into the taxpayers to fund the bonds and the assessments and anything else the district can squeeze out of us.


37 people like this
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 3:19 pm

Todd, shouldn't you be more concerned about the fact that Greene doesn't prepare students for Paly? Let me enlighten you.

My two college students had 3-5 hours of homework in 6-7th grade (2007-2010), yes insane! The teachers piled on 3 quizzes every week for one, and projects in addition to homework in another. 4 hours of homework for a 6th grade student! My daughter was depressed and wanted to die but the counselor would not let her change teachers, I spoke with the counselor. There was no time after school for anything but homework! Sure, she squished in her sport, but that made it all the more stressful for her. I continually told her, "Middle school grades don't count for college, just go to sleep" but she wanted to do well in school. And she was only getting 6-7 hours of sleep in middle school!

On the other extreme, my Paly son had virtually no homework at Greene, meaning about 15 minutes at most, and he was in accelerated math and world language. His teachers seemed good but they all said they didn't believe in homework. He never brought an English paper home so now his writing skills are terrible. Paly and Greene English teachers are too lazy to correct papers so they don't assign them or they use peer grading (as if). And now, he struggles with time management because he wasn't properly trained to do homework at Greene. I heard that it's been virtually no homework for years at Greene.

Two extremes? Can't the School Board make a happy medium? It's supposed to be 10 minutes for every grade level, meaning at least 1 hour for 6th graders. This would be more appropriate.


17 people like this
Posted by smarter than a 2nd grader?
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Oct 4, 2019 at 3:54 pm

"Where have all the first-graders gone?"

Duh.... obviously, they've gone on to 2nd grade.

;-)


6 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 4:42 pm

As I said in my earlier comment above, the fact that the birth rate is going down is due to many factors and some of those are worrying.

The fact that many school districts are losing students should be addressed, but to anyone thinking that housing/jobs inbalance or that this is a Palo Alto issue makes no sense if this is a region/state/national problem.

The fact that the number of children living in California is going down is a social issue and as I said above, some of those factors are worrying. The one child rule in China has ended, but Chinese families still seem to be very small even those who now live here, is another part of the trend.

The fact that millennials as a generation may not want children as a population trend will make a big difference starting in 25 years time lower numbers of college grads are entering the work force will cause a continual trend of lower tax income, SS payments, etc.


33 people like this
Posted by Dishonesty
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 4, 2019 at 4:56 pm

@Todd Collins - you're a shill, shill, shill for the teachers'union. Promote housing to generate kids to justify their continued jobs, all at our expense. No thanks.


21 people like this
Posted by Dishonesty
a resident of Downtown North
on Oct 4, 2019 at 5:07 pm

@Samuel L. What a good point. Yes, weren't you bashing Stanford for sending maybe 275 students to PAUSD over 18 years, and then pushing, side by side w the county, to force more housing on Stanford, which will generate yet more students, but now you want even more housing, supposedly "near" schools and family friendly areas. Isn't that why everyone bought here in the first place? Parks, libraries, nearby schools. Your arguments answering Samuel L. make no sense, probably b c you are actually surreptitiously pushing for teacher housing using our public resources, and push for other housing to house similar folks who are not low income, unlike low income seniors and disabled folks, who are the truly needy.


30 people like this
Posted by Private schools
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 4, 2019 at 6:10 pm

We recently had a block party in our neighborhood, including over 100 people and probably 30+ school-age children. Of those kids, I believe 6 went to the local public schools. ALL of the rest went to private schools: Nueva, Synergy, St. Joseph's, Mid-Pen, St. Francis, Menlo, Sacred Heart, and a couple even went to a charter school. People used to move into Palo Alto for the schools, apparently not anymore.


4 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 4, 2019 at 7:13 pm

Todd Collins is a registered user.

In terms of how private and homeschooling contribute to enrollment change, we don't have good data, since the state doesn't track their enrollment. I have heard people mention this possibility over the years.

The only available estimate I know of is the American Community Survey, which is a nationwide sample done annually by the Census Bureau. They ask about private school attendance. Over the last 8 years (2009-2017), Palo Alto has moved from 13% private to 12% (you can access the data here: Web Link ). Palo Alto's 12% compares to 22% in Los Altos and 18% in Menlo Park.

@Parent and Alum, I agree, there was a surge in 3rd graders in 2010 and 2011. But there was also a surge in K, first, and second grades those years as well (e.g., K enrollment went from 875 in 2009 to 949 in 2010!). The most convincing explanation I've seen was that new housing came online (such as Alto Real), which tends to bring young families. Stanford also increased its on campus graduate student housing (Munger), which may have opened up rental housing in Palo Alto for families. The Great Recession may have played a role, as many other districts were cutting staff at that time and Palo Alto was not.


6 people like this
Posted by Family-friendly housing sites
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:06 pm

Family-friendly housing sites is a registered user.

If we want to build family-friendly housing in our city, I think it needs to be dense so it is more affordable, and it needs to be near transit so we don't create a traffic nightmare. Where can we build dense, transit-friendly housing that is also family-friendly? I think Fry's, the Stanford Research Park, and downtown are all great options. They are close enough to parks and schools, and they are suitable for higher density. Family-friendly cannot continue to mean more cars, more sprawl, and more single-family homes, though that is the tradition here.


4 people like this
Posted by Single family homeowner
a resident of Southgate
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:41 pm

@ family-friendly whatever - btw, single family homes are the most family friendly type of housing. Now we see your end game, you and Todd Collins, to get rid of single family homes and neighborhoods. For your own personal gain, no doubt. And for the teachers' union and other public employees' peronal gain? And at our expense, no doubt. No. No way.


8 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:46 pm

Amidst this, I think I read about need for “senior housing.”
Well, some of us staying in our single family homes with yards despite being empty nesters are NOT seniors! We are middle-aged. There is no way I’ll move into senior housing of any variety for decades. We’re not retired.

I would LIKE a change - to move to an attractive condo or house. Housing choices are so limited and costs so high, it doesn’t currently make financial sense for us to move. We live close to an excellent PA public school. It would be optimum if a family with school aged children lived in our house. We don’t personally need to be near top rated schools. But - taxes, fees are SO high that we can’t move even to partially downsize.

Property taxes are very high here, too. No, we’re nowhere near qualifying for senior exemption on school portion of property tax payments. What a bind.

I think a LOT more housing and variety of housing needs to be built in the region soon. Oh, I will absolutely not downsize to a “micro unit.” I’d like a large, high quality condo/townhouse reasonably near here. We have two cars that need to be parked, too.


6 people like this
Posted by Family-friendly housing sites
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2019 at 8:58 pm

Family-friendly housing sites is a registered user.

To the person who suggested I have an evil agenda with Todd. I don't, I don't even know the guy.

Also, I live in a single family home. I like it, especially the yard.

But I don't like living in an area only of super-wealthy people. I want economic diversity. So I want more affordable housing.

I also don't like living in a place overrun with cars. And traffic will only get worse with the more frequent trains. So I prefer transit-friendly housing.

I don't have an agenda. I am going for quality of life, which for me means economic diversity and less traffic.

YMMV. But no evil agenda here.


10 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:10 pm

Cubberley is an outstanding, central, high value location. It used to be a public high school. Exactly what is done with it deserves engagement of all Palo Altans.
Watch out, those who are busy or naive or not following local government. Please learn and understand so you can give your input.
I strongly oppose building new high density housing there and renting on taxpayer subsidized basis to any select group. This is patently unfair and creates an unnecessary bureaucracy to “manage” it. Who chooses who qualifies? What if they change jobs (no longer work in Palo Alto, no longer work for this city, school district, etc.) Why should I support a selected class in this way? Fundamentally, an incorrect and illogical approach.
That is not the answer.
I admit the ongoing challenge of housing shortages, much less affordability.
I disagree with letting certain San Francisco politicians who currently run our state from Sacramento (our state legislature) pass the raft of damaging “housing” bills (some to be brought up in January, be advised!!) that benefit big builders, grant near total zoning control to these select politicians, and strip local jurisdictions of sensible zoning oversight.
The answer is not to destroy single family housing.
If we end up looking like places with poor zoning control, (Houston?), you can’t go back. Even if your costlynsolar panels are shadowed by the large building now next to your single family home, that’s too bad. Underparking agreements benefit big builders/developers while destroying quality of life of existing residents.
Please look into the opinions of our local CA representatives that our local media has ferreted out. You need to know and state your opinion.
I want encouragement to build on obvious areas that will benefit from redevelopment , along major transit, outlying areas.
Mid range homes would be opened up to more families if my prior post is acted on: MUCH more housing of ALL types, creating flexibility and mobility. And: reduce capital gains taxes, transfer taxes,etc.
Truly regional transit would help a lot to move thousands of residents quickly from all over San Jose, a huge, flat under-utilized city on up to jobs on the peninsula. I am not optimistic owing to acknowledged incompetence of VTA and the lobbying of SVLG against us north Santa Clara County residents who are cash cows for the county and big business interests, but who do not receive congruent benefits/ improvements.


28 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:16 pm

@ Anonymous - agree about Cubberley. No to teacher housing. No recruitment issues. No certificated jobs available in June when recruiting. Now declining enrollment, which means less jobs will be available. Cubberley is a public resource to be preserved for public use, not for special interest use.


10 people like this
Posted by Family-friendly housing sites
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:33 pm

Family-friendly housing sites is a registered user.

I agree that Cubberley is not a good site. It is not particularly transit-friendly and that location is not suitable for high-density. San Antonio would be though imo. And Fry's, downtown, and Stanford Research Park.

BTW, in case it's not clear, I am disagreeing with Todd, who implies that Fry's, downtown, and SRP are not good places because they aren't near schools and parks. My point is he is neglecting the need for density and for transit, which is what makes those good sites.


32 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around (just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:34 pm

"I think it needs to be dense so it is more affordable"

No correlation there in this area, hasn't been for a long time, especially since builders release new stuff gradually to keep from minor market distortions/keep all their properties on a staggered schedule of leases being up to keep prices high. No evidence that building more density in places like Manhattan or Hong Kong ever resulted in affordability despite lots of talk holding out the carrot there, too.

Building that brings in more and more rich people is what is making things expensive. Density makes the land more valuable to developers; densifying is what is making things more expensive and displacing ordinary residents.

If you really want things to be more affordable, get the state to invest in some mid-sized communities so that they are more desirable. When people (including me) move there and this place becomes less of a black hole, then prices will stabilize. The evidence is that densifying job centers only makes costs RISE. The only way to make things affordable is to get people to want to leave, to go where the housing is affordable, and fewer people demanding to be here.

MIT economist David Autor points out that these denser and denser tech economies are turning out to be a really bad deal for people in the middle and low income. Even he points out that a better choice is investing in middle-sized cities so that jobs are attracted there. Suddenly, the affordable housing is real, not just a ploy to make a few already rich developers yet more money by destroying this region.

The Weekly did a story on who is living in campers on the street, and you're just ignoring that there are people who live far away so they can have the single-family homes and they won't move here for a microunit, they'lll just live in the unit and return to their real house on the weekend like they already are. Poor people want reasonable quality of life, too. Stop destroying the quality of life here, stop mismanaging the school district (like stop treating parents and special needs kids like the enemy), and people will come back. It could take time, though. P


18 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around (just like What Goes Around)
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 4, 2019 at 9:39 pm

A lower birth rate wouldn't affect a highly ranked sought after district for a long time. Plus, if PAUSD wanted students, it could get them by interdistrict transfer from other districts and get their state money. If it was a homeschool program, the district would make money and not have to pay for additional facilities.

PAUSD burned its reputation to do that easily, though. It's not exactly regarded as trustworthy or easy to work with, open, transparent, or innovative.


13 people like this
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2019 at 8:15 am

PAUSD is a "basic aid" district, so most of the funding/budget relies on the property tax base and does not vary on enrollment/number of students. This is different than revenue limited school districts, where the state provides more of funding based on the number of students.

Since enrollment is dropping, the "promises" from the school parcel tax, such as lower student - teacher ratio, mental health services, enrichment courses should be implemented, since the budget will be the same, but with less students.

And I believe the parcel tax which passed in 2015 and is set to expire 2021. I would think the school district should no longer need the parcel tax, or if they do it should be reduced.


17 people like this
Posted by Property Tax equality
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 8:55 am

Prop 13 needs to be repealed. This will bring more families into Palo Alto. All homeowners in a neighborhood should contribute equally to city and state services.. And with standard property tax rates, empty-nesters would have more freedom to move to a different home in their neighborhoods (eg 1 story home or smaller home) or move to another neighborhood that they might prefer. And there are now financial instruments (eg reverse mortgages) that would allow low income seniors to stay in their homes if they want. My family and I have benefitted from Prop 13, but I would vote it down in a second. It is ruining communities and schools in CA. No other state has such a damaging law in place.


4 people like this
Posted by Scott
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 5, 2019 at 10:59 am

It's bonkers to suggest that the way to get more kids in school is to build low density. I live in a 75-unit development on a plot that could support maybe 10 SFHs. I promise we have far more kids living on this land than in any 10 nearby detached homes.

We might have fewer kids on a per-unit basis, but we also might not! A lot of those nearby homes have older couples who bought them back when normal families could afford to live in SFHs in PA.

If you want more kids in school, build more new units. The idea that families will only move into a detached stick-built is only sustainable by imagining that everyone else shares your exact preferences in housing. They don't! I, personally, vastly prefer my quarterly HOA meetings to dealing with yardwork.


21 people like this
Posted by PAUSD K8 parent
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:17 am

The drop in the number of younger students is a state-wide pattern:
For example, drop in public 3rd grade enrollment between 2015 and 2018 are:
CA 9% (from 488,520 to 445,018)
Santa Clara county 12% (from 22,197 to 19,476)
Palo Alto 13% (from 984 to 856)

Web Link

So the drop at Palo Alto enrollment is not as significant when considering these general patterns. It is interesting, but is not a specific concern to Palo Alto in particular.

What IS very relavant to many of us parents is the quality of our K8 programs. Data shows that we are doing worse across major student cohorts than neighboring districts! Our students, especially those that do not extensively supplement the weak K8 program, go to high school much less proficient and prepared than students in Los Altos and Menlo Park:

Web Link


The article mentions adding housing units that will allow for more young families to settle in. But with our program the way it is, PAUSD can not in good faith recruit less-resourced students because in that, they are dooming them for discouragement and failure. The data shows that even our middle cohort of students from affluent and educated families do worse in statistically significant way! The PAUSD narrow and limited program results in a very large fraction of students having their primary learning after school (simply to get to where students at neighboring districts get during their school day). Many others rely on expensive tutors when inadequately prepared students start to struggle.

My suggestions and hope is that our board members, that were elected to serve our students, focus more attention on the effectiveness of our K8 program. This can only be done by putting incentives in place for the district (that has its own agenda, biases, and priorities) through meaningful metrics and provide some oversight on the district methodology.


3 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:48 am

> For once, plan comprehensively for the long term, as our predecessors did.

There is little evidence that our “predecessors” planned comprehensively for the reality that the growth of the Silicon Valley. This is no more true than the scandalously poor planning of road transportation in the Santa Clara county and the Bay Area in general. No one in the ‘40s and ‘50s foresaw what was going to happen after the mid-70s.

It makes little sense to realistically believe that any plans will have much value other than in 10-year windows. Beyond that—there are simply no tools to provide meaningful predictions.


3 people like this
Posted by Todd Collins
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:54 am

Todd Collins is a registered user.

Thanks again for all the great comments (even the harsh ones - I send some to my dad, he gets a kick out of them).

Someone asked where in Palo Alto is not well served by elementary schools. Keep in mind that the last elementary school built in Palo Alto was Nixon almost 50 years ago, so any area that didn't have housing before 1970 probably isn't well served. Obvious places are the Sand Hill Road area, outer San Antonio Road, many parts of the Research Park, and the Frys site - all areas were housing has been built or is being discussed. If we add housing outside of established neighborhoods, there almost certainly will not be schools and parks there. In the past, we always built new schools to serve new neighborhoods - but we can only do that if the planning process includes schools.

On high density housing, I'm not opposed - it's a question of what and where. There is high-density housing in our area with almost no students (Treehouse, 800 High St., new San Antonio apartments in Los Altos) and others with lots (801 Alma). That's the main point of the article - there are factors that make things more or less family-friendly (neighborhood amenities being one of the most important), and we should focus on that as we discuss housing. The point isn't to "fill the schools" - it's to maintain a common center of interest in our community.

Thanks again for reading and commenting.


20 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2019 at 11:56 am

I have already commented twice on the reasons why people are not having children and the birth rate is falling so won't mention that here.

However, why do we want more children in our schools? The elementary schools when they were originally designed were for about 350 children. The playing field space, the car parking for staff, the size of the multi purpose rooms, were designed with a school population of 350 children. Since then of course the schools have been increased to sometimes more than 600 children. That is almost double the number of children in a space that was not designed for it. The problem with building more classrooms and bigger libraries, MP rooms, etc. is that ultimately the amount of space per child to run around at lunch time, or for PE is much smaller. It means that there is the need to stagger lunch times, or various other things to accommodate the larger number of children. It means that school assemblies have to be outside and when it comes to things like music concerts, the parents are squashed in without enough seats and the Fire Department would have a fit if they could see just how many people are in a room that is designed for such a small number of children performing and their parents.

Going to the middle school and high schools, the numbers of children arriving and leaving make for a traffic mess. See what happens at Paly on Churchill when a train comes and the gates come down, or the lights go red on Alma. Traffic on Arastradero/Charleston is a mess, particularly near Gunn and also at Hoover since being a magnet school not as many of the students come from neighboring streets by foot.

Once again at these schools, all assemblies have to be outside, graduation ceremonies take hours, parking for staff, etc. are all impacted by the size of the schools. Do we really want 1000 students in middle schools and 2300 in high schools.

Reducing class sizes has been a priority but there has been no priority to reducing the size of the schools. Becoming anonymous in schools where the principal, office staff, even the janitors do not know every student by name is a big problem. We have vaping in bathrooms in high schools, we have students who at the beginning of each year start classes where they have never been in a class with anyone in the classroom before, and so many other reasons why a child can feel lonely surrounded by so many people.

I welcome the idea of smaller schools. I think it is a much better environment for our children to thrive.


1 person likes this
Posted by Stephen
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2019 at 2:33 pm

Mr Collins: Thanks for raising this issue. Something that I think would be of interest to many is to re-cap the history of school closures and subsequent sales/leasing of the school sites. As best I can tell (thanks Wikipedia) these include 6 elementary school sites: Crescent Park, DeAnza, Lytton, Ortega, Ross Road, and Mayfield. There are also several sites that are currently leased to private schools, notably Fremont Hills that could be useful if Stanford were to contribute a substantial increment of students as a result of the new GUP.


14 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2019 at 3:21 pm

> My family and I have benefitted from Prop 13, but I
> would vote it down in a second

Zillow shows the median house price in August at about $2.8M, down from about $3M a couple months earlier.

If Prop.13 were to be rescinded, then there is no way to guess what the new State tax rate might be, but certainly it will not be lower than the current 1% and most likely higher. Local taxes would shoot this rate up to over 2% undoubtedly.

Using the lower 1% rate—a house occupied by retirees (seniors) would likely be reassessed at market value—making the yearly taxes at a base amount of $28,000 to $30,000 before the numerous tax add-ons are included.

Wonder how many people, over 65 and now living on a fixed income, are prepared to pay $30+K a year in property taxes? For that matter, how many low income “young families” are prepared to do the same?


16 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 3:52 pm

As others have pointed out, Palo Alto's decline is for the most part explained by a California-wide trend toward fewer young children. There isn't much we can do to affect this locally.

More generally I question the assumption that something is wrong if we aren't constantly growing. Why exactly is growth important? As a parent with kids in PAUSD what I care about is the quality of the schools. We moved here because the schools are good, not because they're full.


15 people like this
Posted by BlarryG
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 5, 2019 at 3:56 pm

We live in "the new Athens", a place that has transformed humanity via rising technology. No one exactly planned this or could have even imagined it. It has brought with it unbelievable wealth, global striding corporations some located every few blocks, a super rarefied work force and enourmous growth pressures.

What you will NEVER get again are quaint, quiet, uncrowded neighborhoods separated by orchards that I grew up in. This isn't because of some conspiracy, it's because of all the above and unexpected forces that converged here and totally normal human reactions to such a rare event. We should just get over it and plan for it.

My wife grew up in a private home but her family had to downsize to an apartment in elementry school. A disaster for her parents, but for her, it was the best thing ever. She suddenly had multiple friends within a minute's walk. A pool etc. She had a tribe who flitted around each others apartments, and went to the same school. We should go for more density but design it well. Families will indeed live there and, it won't be cheap, but it will be relatively cheaper to give young families and new people drawn to the tech and wealth to give it a try here. I may be wrong about this, but you might be wrong too. It's an opinion in the face of huge movements of the economy and society.

Similarly, I don't know Todd Collins, but some commentors here seem to assume he's an evil conspirator for the teachers union, or developers. I guessing he's just a guy who has considered opinions looking from the role he's in. Now, he may be right or wrong and one can argue, but maybe leave out the implicaiton or accusation that he's got some nefarious intent.


7 people like this
Posted by Jill
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2019 at 4:12 pm

@Jack

The point isn't that school enrollment is going down. It's that WHILE that is happening, they are ALSO adding lots of new housing (or trying to). If the new housing also doesn't have families, then it will become a town where most people don't care as much about families and schools. And that will be a pretty different town than it is now, more like a city than a suburb.

People croak about how great it is to add "workforce" housing or "micro-units" - well, those are residents who won't have kids, may not vote for school bonds and taxes, and will have a different take on what's important in the community. That may all be fine with you, it may not, but once it becomes that community, that's what it is and you can't change it back.

What "we can do about it locally" is encourage housing for families, not just "workers." High-rises on busy streets at market prices (driven down San Antonio lately? Seen the plan for El Camino and Page Mill?) won't do it; medium density on neighborhood streets might.


5 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2019 at 5:01 pm

Fremont Hills should be returned as a public elementary school. I oppose leasing out valuable school sites to private schools, not all of which are even non-profit. Community resources include our wide range of great public school sites.


Like this comment
Posted by maguro_01
a resident of Mountain View
on Oct 5, 2019 at 5:20 pm

@Samuel_L

Your link proved to be an ultra-Right wacko attack on AOC. They thought it was funny and political, the people there thought it was mental illness.

Web Link

It's so nuts that Fox apparently felt it necessary to run ahead of the story.


13 people like this
Posted by YP
a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 6:16 pm

YP is a registered user.

Hey all I care about is my house is worth a lot of money and after living here 20 years I'm about to pull the rip cord to get out of this dysfunctional liberal utopia.


10 people like this
Posted by Jane
a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 5, 2019 at 6:31 pm

My husband and I sent our kids to Escondido grammar school. It was a neighborhood school back then. However, it got transformed into a boutique school, focusing on Spanish Immersion. Today, kids living in College Terrace are NOT guaranteed priority into Escondido. They may be shipped all over town for 'racial and social balance', which is what we were told by the principal. If schools are not convenient and guaranteed to kids in a given neighborhood, then why bother creating neighborhoods? Why bother having kids in Palo Alto?


10 people like this
Posted by Samuel L.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 5, 2019 at 6:41 pm

Samuel L. is a registered user.

@Todd Collins
You give four areas where there are not schools to serve the residents. Two of them, however, are on Stanford land (Sand Hill and the Research Park). The other two actually have former school sites (Ventura and Greendell) near them. Greendell could easily be opened as a school site with little financial impact as it already serves school children in the Young 5's/TK programs.

I believe the city owns Ventura, or leases from PAUSD.

As for Stanford Research Park, where is the closest neighborhood to this area? Looking at a map, I can't see where the students would come from to attend that school that are not already served by Nixon, Barron Park or Briones.

That leaves Sand Hill Road as the only area not served by a neighborhood school. All of those students would be Stanford affiliated.

That still begs the question, where in the city is there not a school? Are you supporting building housing simply to keep up enrollment figures? What is wrong with decreasing enrollment? Neighborhoods are not going to disappear.


19 people like this
Posted by Independent
a resident of Esther Clark Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 7:04 pm

@Samuel L. I agree. Todd Collins seems in search of a problem that doesn't exist.

Declining enrollment is not a problem, except for teachers who want to retain their jobs. And for a teacher's union that wants the dues to keep flowing.


So Todd Collins, their tool w a hidden agenda, proposes building housing to help keep up enrollment. To make sure our tax dollars keep flowing into certain pockets.

No thanks.


8 people like this
Posted by Wishful thinking
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Oct 5, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Prop. 13 is one of the best measures to keep a lid on taxes, to keep rapacious public employee unions from bankrupting not only states and cities, but also households. Check out Illinois, New York State, Rhode Island and Connecticut to see how out of control spending on public employee salaries and pensions are crippling public finances, and trickle down to impoverish residents, those who haven't yet moved out of state.


Like this comment
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 5, 2019 at 8:54 pm

Forced vaccination.


11 people like this
Posted by PA Female Resident
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Oct 5, 2019 at 9:00 pm

We have a 1st grader, and I know most families I met when she was a baby who lived in Palo Alto have since moved to San Carlos, Redwood City, Seattle & abroad.


24 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2019 at 8:33 am

@Scott,
"A lot of those nearby homes have older couples who bought them back when normal families could afford to live in SFHs in PA.
When was that, Scott? The only person I know who was able to afford to buy a how on a normal salary is almost 100, because they moved into newly opened unincorporated areas and paid with funds for veterans' housing (i.e., served in WWII as part of the cost of getting that housing).

In our mothers' club, the average age of moms having a first child is almost 40 years old. It can take that long to claw one's way through substandard housing and work up to something substandard in a reasonable school district. My spouse has lived in the Bay Area for over 40 years and it has NEVER been easy during that time. There have been blips when it was easiER, like after the '89 earthquake and the recession at the same time. But even during recessions, it has not been easy, and incomes and job stability tend to lower then, too.

This has been a high-demand area for a really long time, and there has never been a time when it was "affordable". Developers found a way to hold out the dream of what the housing economy looks like in areas of less demand, in order to continue doing things that make this area LESS affordable. It's too late to do density right here, things have already been developed too densely, especially in SF. The infrastructure is not infinitely elastic. There is a U-curve here to the costs/benefits of density, and we are way on the far side of damaging.

It really is time, as the research of MIT economist David Autor suggests, to stop feeding the density black hole and consider investments in smaller and middle-sized communities, for a better distribution of people and job centers. That's really the only way to create real affordability. There is also a U-shaped curve when it comes to environmental impacts, and we are also on the damaging side of that, too, creating concrete jungles, losing daylight plane, creating heat islands, having to bring resources from further and further away, having to ship our waste further and further away. In the meantime, the dense building actually encourages growth of the kind that hurts opportunities for less-skilled workers who are needed for the "care and feeding" of the tech industry influx.

Lastly, the issue Collins brings up chews just a little bit on the edges of the bigger issue: the tech industry and big companies are rolling roughshod over the lives, time, family lives, productivity, opportunities, finances, health, and diversity of civic life of existing residents who have sacrificed over many decades to put down roots here -- to take over for their own interests. Government can be a part of the solution, but that have to realize, unlike @Scott, that this is not 1945 anymore. If Government invests in creating the desirability factors -- centers of education and research, civic amenities, public works and safety -- people and jobs will go to those places, too. There are places that WANT the growth. We should invest in them.


21 people like this
Posted by Word gets Around
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2019 at 8:36 am

I'm looking at some of the large developments that went online with the promise that they would bring down costs. They have stayed partially empty for relatively long periods of time because the owners let things on the market in a staggered way in order to never create a situation where there are a lot of vacancies in the future, never create a local distortion in the market that lowers prices. Even if prices were lowered, they would not be affordable. Nevertheless, they don't even want to see prices drop that much. The few units available at BMR are not really affordable.

Meanwhile, in Palo Alto, it has actually been stronger zoning that has protected existing ordinary-income residents from displacements.


22 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 6, 2019 at 8:44 am

The School District was not created to serve the needs of employees to remain employed.

The City was not created to provide jobs and job security for its employees.

Yet that is what these entities now revolve around, rather than providing the public services to citizens that they were created for.

Todd Collins is aiding and abetting that.


22 people like this
Posted by PAUSD K8 parent
a resident of Professorville
on Oct 6, 2019 at 10:26 am

Todd, with respect to private/public patterns:

I looked at the data you pointed us to on private/public school enrollment at Palo Alto, Los Altos, and Menlo Park. But from a different perspective of understanding WHEN the decision to "go private" is made.

Web Link

Here is what this data shows for 2017 (% of students in private school, broken down by grade levels)

G1-G4, G5-G8, G9-G12
Palo Alto: 7%, 12%, 11%
Los Altos: 19%, 18%, 22$
Menlo Park: 11%, 9%, 22%


Interpretation:

-- We can see that (as you said) in total, more families in Los Altos and Menlo/Atherton districts do private than in Palo Alto. The breakdown shows that many more make this decision early on.

But what is puzzling is that Palo Alto seems to lose a much larger fraction of their students in the TRANSITION from elementary to middle schools: This transition nearly DOUBLES the number of students going private in Palo Alto and there are no such change is seen in Menlo and Los Altos.

We can also see that more in Menlo choose private in HS, so clearly staying public for middle school it is not a family resources issue for them but rather a CHOICE (explained by Menlo/Atherton HS being weaker than PA schools).

So many more of the students that attended public schools for elementary in Menlo Park/Los Altos chose to remain in public middle school than in Palo Alto. Why is this vote of unconfidence in our middle schools?

Data shows that Menlo Park and Los Altos have much more effective middle school programs. In particular, their Middle School graduates are much more more proficient in math going into High School than Palo Alto middle school graduates of same demographics. From experience and anecdotes, it seems that the approach at those middle schools is more student-centric and caring than say at Greene.

My suggestion to our board members is that instead of promoting building more housing units they can focus on improving our middle school programs so that our students wellness and academics is at the level provided at neighboring districts. This certainly can be done! we have more educated families and spend more per student! Moreover, this is the work we elected our board to do!

And improving our middle school programs will also have the desirable side effect of increased enrollment by more Palo Alto residents choosing to stay in public middle schools! We can gain back the 5% of current Palo Alto residents going to private middle schools.


13 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2019 at 11:23 am

>> We may be moving from communities built around families and schools to ones where they play a secondary role to companies and their employees.

It is worse than that. HP used to co-locate in university towns because HP employees liked the kind of amenities that university towns had, and, HP was always looking for university-grad talent. So, some of these towns were a kind of semi-company-town.

Today's companies won't even make that level of commitment. Why get married if you can have the benefits without the costs? Today's companies want to hire from a giant no-commitment almost frictionless labor pool. Company and employee have zero commitment to each other.

Cities don't have to play along with this short-term thinking, which is doomed to boom-and-bust. Cities can just continue to build communities around families and schools. Long-term thinking didn't hurt the Peninsula cities of previous generations, but, short-term thinking is destroying our quality of life now. Don't play along.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2019 at 1:26 pm

I asked above why smaller schools is viewed as being a bad thing rather than a good thing, which I think it is. Nobody seemed to address this so I will give more thoughts which have occurred to me.

In a smaller school population we could not only have smaller classes, but also have the space to do things to enhance education. Take elementary schools for example, with a spare classroom or two we could do something along the lines of the 6th grade wheel, making either electives or specialized classes for small groups of students across the grade level. With all the discussion lately about math, we could have accelerated math classes in one room and smaller group for those students who are struggling. This could be done throughout the grade level and the students would still be in the main group for other classes. We might be able to do classes for foreign languages in middle schools, or for those with advanced reading/writing skills to be grouped together. This could prove to be an innovative opportunity to improve the quality of education.


8 people like this
Posted by Resident 2
a resident of Community Center
on Oct 6, 2019 at 3:49 pm

@resident, who said smaller schools were a bad thing? The article doesn't say that shrinking enrollment is bad. It says declining enrollment + more non-family housing = a different kind of community, with fewer families.

The district has already dropped over 1000 elementary students the last few years, so there's already plenty of space in the elementary schools. The constraint on programs isn't classroom space, it's paying for teachers.


5 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 6, 2019 at 5:54 pm

resident 2

I agree except that we still get the same amount of money regardless of how many students we have. With fewer students we just get more choices how to spend the money, at least that's how I read it. With fewer students we can have the same number of smaller classes and we can choose to use some classrooms for specialized groups and these could be part time teachers if such a thing exists.

My point really is that with fewer students we get more options how to educate them and more space in which to do it.


26 people like this
Posted by pa
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2019 at 8:51 pm

If you rely only on the school, you will be in the lowest lanes. If you are special ed, you will be directed into the lowest lanes, even if your placement scores place you in the top lane. The school spends many an IEP meeting repeating their pre-determined scripts (and bring in ringers - extra people that don't know your child and you may never see again) to also repeat the same script to use up the time and try to wear you down, TO ACCEPT THE LOWEST lanes because it will be less stressful for your child. Well, it WOULD NOT BE if they ACTUALLY provided appropriate supports. Given, they don't get the right support for their disability, they still fail the lowest lane.

Classes are still too large. My child is special needs and has NEVER had a co-teacher or an aide that is familiar with the disability. All actions cause more harm and eventually the child stopped going to school. PAUSD has provided no alternative because they extort a release from all violations before they will offer a placement, even though , the law states they are required to provide a free and appropriate education. They provide nada! I guess they are too busy worrying about losing their jobs with declining population. They are too dense to understand they are driving people away.

Austin is a legal monger tripling legal expenses and action against families. Promise is vacuous. The only thing that will fix things is to take out the entire corrupt lazy bunch who should not have any authority over children. They should be charged with child abuse.

There's a saying that the hurricane is the best thing that ever happened to New Orleans School District, we need something of the same magnitude in order to truly start fresh.

The school board members are so slick and only into money and their brand, they doctor the ratings, purge on-line websites often of bad reviews, manipulate all the complaint logs and student documents, and frankly do not care about kids because they don't even know which IEP students have stopped going to school or what happens to them after they pass them without teaching them.


37 people like this
Posted by pa
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 6, 2019 at 9:49 pm

Gravy-train of benefits should not be funded by taxpayer money until the corruption, illegal activity stops and failing programs are fixed.

-Teacher's automatic pay raises
-tenure after 2 years
-ZERO ACCOUNTABILITY and Zero metrics. Fogging a mirror counts. Warehousing students counts. Giving students a C, just to kick the fact they weren't taught down the road is common practice
-Don't implement IEPs - this is the norm
-Don't follow-up with students who are struggling until they have failed completely and then there is not much that can be done so its useless attention at this point. The school has no solution for this except to dumb you down and lower your expectations of yourself.
-They don't stop bullying even as it is verbal and physical in class
-They lie in court and falsify documents, as they are told to do by pausd lawyers
-Add to 1/2 billion dollar pension deficit
-Work 9 months only
-Work 7.5hrs on average
-Union prevents teachers from helping students at lunchtime
-Union only allows teachers to help students for 15 minutes after school (or teachers using this as an excuse not to help students afterschool)
-Not enough chairs in the high school during tutorial and you have to be aggressive to get your 2 minutes, otherwise no access to get your questions answered and use your time effectively.
-Union says teachers do not need to respond to student questions before 48 hours, doesn't matter if its on an IEP to address daily or if the assignment is due in 48 hours after assigned.

And now housing paid for? Really? There is so much data that PAUSD is not delivering quality education. It is all supplemented. Any student solely relying on the school to learn the content is doing poorly and this affects how they see themselves which has significant consequences as they are forming their image of themselves in the world, which we have seen can drive kids to their death. There's a lot of pent up rage in students who are marginalized. No one is doing anything about that or even talking about it.

How about housing and any other perks go off the table until they have 3 years without litigation against students, No OCR or CDE investigations and equity achieved, including full diplomas for learning disabilities and equal graduation rates.

If they squawk, then they have hired the wrong people, because this is what the law requires. Anything less is discrimination and immoral. This district is becoming a lawless cesspool of inequity and greed.


10 people like this
Posted by Overtaxed
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2019 at 9:57 pm

What a classic comment: “with standard property tax rates, empty-nesters would have more freedom.” So, raising taxes on senior citizens would give them more freedom? No, it would just bankrupt them and force them to move. Someone desperately needs a economics class! Now the education problems are very clear!


2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 7, 2019 at 10:04 pm

Ignorance is bliss.


7 people like this
Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 7, 2019 at 10:51 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

Any one who reads the PAW on a regular basis keeps running into problems with the PAUSD. Not sure if it is specific to this city but no way to judge, but do know that many parents are sending their children to private schools that have smaller classrooms and very specific classes they teach. Some have religious background. If any parent is perceiving some type of problem they will put their children in a more protective environment.
My son ran into problems with the "open school" and then ended up in a more typical school environment. Too many variations on approaches here. A new parent is not always able to figure out what the educational slant is of any one of the schools. I wish I knew more when my son was going to school here.


8 people like this
Posted by Stating the obvious
a resident of Menlo Park
on Oct 8, 2019 at 5:15 pm

Does anyone remember the good ole days of 2010 to 2013 when the avg 3 bedroom in PA sold for $1.1 to 1.2M ?
Now those same homes are going for 2.5-3 million, way beyond what even most educated families can afford. The people that can afford it have no kids or send them to private school.

We are clearly in another housing bubble driven by excess demand at the very top. Most of the rest of the country has not had the same escalation. Yes, PA will always cost more than less desirable places, but it's gone from extremely expensive to true insanity. Again, just a few years ago, one could buy something in PA for just over million.

Now annual incomes over 500K or stock grants of 2-3million are necessary to buy. Hardly any "normal" affluent families can even swing that.

Web Link


3 people like this
Posted by Stating the obvious, part 2
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 8, 2019 at 5:34 pm

Stating the obvious, part 2 is a registered user.

It's not only that, but the few that can at least attempt to afford it then move in, are pretty stressed for $ and time and ..., and can get upset if the schools don't match their high expectations. So it's not only that the schools are emptying, but the parents that remain can be very stressed and/or have unreasonable expectations. It's a tough environment, not only for families but also for schools.


Like this comment
Posted by Sienna
a resident of another community
on Oct 8, 2019 at 9:59 pm

Palo Alto's dilemma is just a microcosm of a much larger problem, almost completely being ignored by most people. The problem being what is referred to as a "demographic winter", where birth rates are low and seniors are living longer. China has dug itself into quite a hole already as the declining population means there will soon not be enough workers to support the aging population, a problem that is rapidly hitting the rest of the world. The people who think the world is overpopulated are not looking at the economic realities of the modern world.


2 people like this
Posted by ABC
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Oct 8, 2019 at 10:21 pm

I read an article here a few months ago that PAUSD class sizes were increasing and there were more kids per teacher. If that is so and now class sizes have decreased, isn't that back to normal? There are also condo buildings coming up. 120 condos on San Antonio Rd. should fill up plenty spots in schools near there. Aren't there other condo buildings along El Camino?


2 people like this
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2019 at 10:09 am

Posted by Sienna, a resident of another community

>> Palo Alto's dilemma is just a microcosm of a much larger problem, almost completely being ignored by most people. The problem being what is referred to as a "demographic winter", [...] The people who think the world is overpopulated are not looking at the economic realities of the modern world.

Consider that both views could be correct. That is: there will be large social challenges if, for example, a very aged population ends up with a low "labor force participation"or "workforce participation" rate/fraction/ratio.

But, consider this. Right now, the US is and has been in the 60's for a while. Dropping down into the 50's seems scary. OTOH, for decades it was in the 50's, before large numbers of women were in the official workforce (there being plenty of work to do at home). And, in some ways, it was a golden era economically in terms of growth, unemployment, housing costs, etc. Any change will cause new challenges, but, the end-state might not be that bad: Web Link

Consider also that we could have serious overpopulation AND will have challenges associated with an ageing population. We need to address those challenges, because, we -can't- keep growing the population forever.


23 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:28 pm

It really doesn't matter what the birth rate anywhere is because if this is a desirable district, people will find a way to come here as they used to.

Stop kidding yourselves, Board/Amins. The suicides, the reputation for persecuting families, being a$$holes (or supporting admins who are at the expense of kids) and pushing families you don't like out, not serving students with special needs, not serving gifted or 2e students, not being able to collaborate with families, not supporting creativity, arbitrarily creating winners and losers in the math program instead of supporting every child (including making up for the district's weaknesses that contribute to uneven opportunities), nastily blaming parents when things go wrong, requiring crushing homework to get not even the greatest education so that students cannot spend their learning and family time more effectively, treating kids as if their time is at entirely the disposal of the district *24*/*7* rather than mainly during school hours, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on facilities while retaining so many shockingly musty/dilapidated buildings for such a rich district (I personally know over a half dozen families who left because of their kids' allergies), not knowing how to apologize and take responsibility when you do something wrong -- it all affects the willingness of people to come to the district for the schools.

To that latter point, forget the fact that the district actively tried to repel attempts over the years to improve the environmental health and indoor air quality, if PAUSD developed a reputation for having the healthiest facilities in the county (actual, not a lie as PAUSD is prone to doing), people would sacrifice to come here. If PAUSD had a reputation for being a collaborative place where the administrators and teachers were collaborative with families and innovative about solving problems, yet more people would sacrifice to come here.
If PAUSD had a reputation for supporting creative, gifted students (rather than putting them through the current gauntlet), even more people would sacrifice to come here.

The birth rate would matter if all schools were the same and people didn't make quality decisions in terms of where to move. It was inevitable that there is a lag between the bad behavior and word getting around so that PAUSD is no longer as highly sought after.

Make no mistake, your beliefs that somehow (yet again) turnover solves all problems and doing nothing to change the culture and rectify real damage to families, has far more to do with the reason that *PAUSD* has fewer first-graders. People can read, and word gets around. CYA never works forever, the $t builds up under the rug and eventually hits the fan.


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Posted by Staying Young Through Kids
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 9, 2019 at 1:46 pm

Staying Young Through Kids is a registered user.

Check out this interesting article from The Atlantic titled "The Future of the City is Childless" It's written about NYC, but it's equally applicable to the entire Peninsula from SF to SJ. It's a perspective that supports (or perhaps influenced) Trustee Collins' accurate assessment and well meaning suggestions in his piece.

Web Link


7 people like this
Posted by Thank you, Todd
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 9, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Thanks, Todd, for your service on the school board and for your willingness to engage with the community. It takes a brave and rugged individual to do both. I appreciate your bringing up this issue and starting a community conversation.

It's a shame that vitriolic critics view it as an opportunity to spew their off-topic bile.

I also appreciate those commentors who are able to civilly engage in a thoughtful discusion.


26 people like this
Posted by Thank you, Todd
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 9, 2019 at 3:13 pm

Within the topic of "family-friendliness", I had a depressing conversation with my teenager about "What is there to do around here?"

He and his friends wanted to have fun on Friday nights after they got done with their summer jobs - limited money, too young to drink (and didn't want to), limited geographic radius, and home by 11p curfew. They were good kids looking for "clean fun".

Even though we brainstormed together about possibilities, there really wasn't much we came up with. In his less than two decade life living here, the bowling alleys have gone, the laser tag has gone, the cheap movie has gone, the mini-golf and go-carting has gone. (I applaud Winter Lodge ice skating for still hanging in there!)
All of these are additional sacrifices to the high-office-growth real eastate monster.

It's really a boring place to be a teenager. And fast becoming a less fun place to raise a young family.
No wonder they just retreat to video games (plus drinking and vaping, if they aren't opposed).



2 people like this
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Oct 9, 2019 at 5:06 pm

^ "clean fun" -- you left out the decline in local Square Dance clubs. Web Link


26 people like this
Posted by Class action
a resident of another community
on Oct 10, 2019 at 1:29 am

Todd Collins is two-faced and cannot be trusted. His word his word nothing. Instead of filing a complaint or going to the press about a number of serious violations against special needs children in the schools by teachers administrators, I gave Mr. Collins written evidence about a pattern of illegal activity. Instead of Fulfilling his responsibility about making the best decisions for the students as a PAUSD school board member and acting in the best interest of the students, after he gave me his word to help, He Protected PA USD staff and teachers while they engaged in manufacturing a paper trail to CYA the PAUSD, while thrusting the districts lawyers against families and myself.

A warning to the general public if you have a problem complaining to the PAUSD, logging a UCP complaint will only give the District information to use for CYA. I doubt you will see justice. You have to complain outside of the district, ideally the Federal Office of civil rights. This is happening much more than you can imagine.


22 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:48 am

For those in the administration who observe the High Holy Days, here’s a fantastic article on How to Say You’re Sorry, which includes some examples of bad apologies, too.

Web Link
“...Judaism is a religion that’s all about how you act, not what you think. I don’t care if you’re not sorry in your heart; you still have to say it…"

"The mechanics of good apologies aren’t difficult. The 12th-century sage Maimonides said that true repentance requires humility, remorse, forbearance , and reparation. Not much has changed since then. Basically, you have to take ownership of the offense, even if it makes you uncomfortable.”

"Maimonides said that if your first apology isn’t accepted, you have to try twice more. If after that the person won’t forgive you, you’re free to stop trying.”

"Finally, you have to make reparations.”

One of the BAD apology examples that especially applies to our district (although we should probably put apology in quotes because I don’t think it’s really intended as such):
"“Let’s move forward.” Ban this phrase from your apologies. It’s code for “Let’s forget this ever happened.” You have no right to make that request; the person you wronged gets to decide it’s time to move on.”

"Bad apologies are cagey, ungenerous, grudging attempts to avoid taking full responsibility for whatever you’re putatively apologizing for. Good apologies are about stepping up.”

And isn’t “stepping up” and being “upstanders” something the district purports to want to teach? Teach by example, Todd, Sharon, Don, Melissa, Shounak, Jennifer, Ken

When you atone for what you have done wrong, good word gets around, too. Read that article.


21 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:51 am

"Maimonides said that if your first apology isn’t accepted, you have to try twice more. If after that the person won’t forgive you, you’re free to stop trying.”


Dear Admins: Once will be enough, if it's a good apology (see the article).


8 people like this
Posted by Word gets around...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:54 am

@class action,
Have you filed your complaint?


12 people like this
Posted by Word gets around...
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 9:57 am

[Post removed.]


10 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 10:59 am

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 1:03 pm

[Post removed.]


12 people like this
Posted by young families are leaving, the sensible ones anyway
a resident of another community
on Oct 12, 2019 at 1:07 pm

I know of several young families who are leaving for other states. Why on earth would anyone stay in a congested overpriced area like Silicon Valley. There are fabulous places to live all over the country and many have tech hubs with major firms. If I was 30 years younger with kids in school I would not stay here. Needless to say the exception are the very wealthy, a very small minority. There is life outside of the San Francisco Bay Area.


7 people like this
Posted by Word gets around....
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 12, 2019 at 8:15 pm

[Post removed.]


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