New two-story classroom buildings, gym, library on tap for Palo Alto students | August 2, 2013 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 2, 2013

New two-story classroom buildings, gym, library on tap for Palo Alto students

Most visible results of 2008 bond measure open their doors this month

by Chris Kenrick

When Palo Alto students go back to school Aug. 15, they'll occupy three brand-new, two-story classroom buildings, a new gym, a new library and dozens of other new facilities across town funded by a massive 2008 school-bond measure.

For some — notably students at Fairmeadow Elementary School and JLS and Jordan middle schools who have endured noise, dust, temporary classrooms and campus detours — the long construction process will be complete, or nearly so.

For others, particularly students at Duveneck Elementary School, which is embarking on three new classroom buildings, the disruptions have just begun. They're not expected to be done until next summer.

Nearly all the construction has been funded by a $378 million "Strong Schools" bond measure, approved in June 2008 by 77.5 percent of voters in the school district. The bond was aimed at modernizing old facilities and expanding capacity to meet growing enrollment.

The most visible results of the bond measure will come this month, though $177 million remains in the "Strong Schools" fund for future projects — including major ones such as a new elementary school and a high school performing-arts center.

"We've never brought this many different projects to fruition at the start of a school year before," said Bob Golton, the district's facilities and bond-program manager.

"I can't predict the future, but it's hard to imagine there'll ever be more."

In addition to a new gym, students at Gunn High School this month will take classes in a new, two-story building for math and English containing 28 classrooms and two labs clustered around an open courtyard.

At Palo Alto High School, a contractor dispute (see sidebar) has delayed the scheduled June 2013 opening of a new Media Arts Center and two-story math and social-studies building, but work continues despite the litigation, and contractors have told the district to plan for occupancy in December.

At both JLS and Fairmeadow, new, two-story classroom buildings will come on line.

Earlier completions under the bond measure include a new, two-story classroom building at Ohlone Elementary School, which opened in 2011, and a new aquatic center at Gunn, which opened in 2010.

The construction process at each campus began with staff-parent-student "site committees," who discussed priorities; architectural planning and review by the Division of State Architect in Sacramento, which by law must approve all public school facilities in a process that can take up to a year.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be emailed at


Posted by FM parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 2, 2013 at 8:13 pm

The situation at Fairmeadow and JLS is not looking good. The rate of progress over the past year on the new buildings has been painfully slow.

I am hopeful, but doubtful, that Fairmeadow will be ready to open on the 15th. For example, the kinder playground, at least what I think is supposed to be the kinder playground, is a hole in the ground next to a pile of asphalt rubble. What is PAUSD's plan here? let students show up and hope for the best?

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2013 at 9:10 am

Are there performance penalties in these contracts? Even with all the weekend and evening construction, it's doubtful Fairmeadow and JLS will be complete by the 15th.

Posted by Bad luck, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 3, 2013 at 2:22 pm

District leadership is having some bad luck in the past couple of years. This is just bad luck.

Posted by Chris Kenrick Palo Alto Weekly Staff Writer, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 3, 2013 at 3:32 pm

FM Parent and Anonymous,

The district says the new buildings at JLS and Fairmeadow will be ready for students to occupy by school opening. They said they'll be laying sod at the last minute and that some "site work," remains, including the Fairmeadow kindergarten play area and the play area by the child-care portable, which they said should be done by mid-September.

Posted by Another Fairmeadow parent, a resident of Fairmeadow School
on Aug 3, 2013 at 10:09 pm

Chris- I truly hope that what the district is stating is correct. Unfortunately, this is now the third time that they have promised a completion date- spring break, then end of May, now mid August. And I worry as to what falls under the label "site work!" There were weeks and weeks this past year with only a handful or workers on site.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Aug 3, 2013 at 10:53 pm

Bad luck, lol. Is that the new euphemism for greed and incompetence? Good one.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 4, 2013 at 12:10 am

The progress at Fairmeadow over the past year has been notable for how SLOW the work has progressed. The builder has had the summer and a vacant campus to finish the work, and as the weeks went by, it was clear that little seemed to be going on on campus. Now, it's crunch time, and the question is; what exactly does the district mean when it says "Fairmeadow will be ready for students to occupy by school opening". "Ready to occupy" could mean almost anything. Sup. Skelly, feel free to chime in any time.

Posted by nac, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 4, 2013 at 10:04 am

Does anyone know when the trailers at Joedan will be gone? They have been a real eyesore where there used to be a nice grass park.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 4, 2013 at 12:33 pm

nac, Yes. Per the urgency the school district applies to its vast array of building projects around the district, those should be gone in about 4-5 years.

For some perspective that may be helpful.. My first child went all four years at Gunn with entire campus in major construction zone. My second child went through entire three years JLS with campus in construction zone. My youngest child has been in construction zone at Fairmeadow for past 2 years, but note that there have been myriad sorts of construction at Fairmeadow throughout the 13 years since my FIRST child entered kindergarten there. including what they were calling B2B, then a new library building, then a new playgroud installation, and the latest rape of the campus with a massive two story building taking up over 50% of the play field.

Note - none of these were not minor constructions, at all these schools, those were projects that shut down entire lunch/brunch quads and all basketball blacktop at JLS - for the entire year, 50-60% of the grass field at Fairmeadow (for more than a year, going on two..., and massive construction in and around all parts of campus at Gunn,.

So, judging from experience, if there's one thing you can rest assured about - the school district has not a care in the world about the quality of the environment for the kids in your school this month, this year, or maybe even during their entire 12 year experience in this district. You are darn lucky if all you have is trailers taking up the grass.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I'm interested in learning your alternative solution to how PAUSD is supposed to update/remodel/expand their campuses.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2013 at 9:30 am

Is there any project or appt. in the Palo Alto Schools (or in all of Palo Alto for that matter) that doesn't generate total irrational outrage on these pages?

Can PA residents just accept and project as an improvement, instead of going ballistic?

Do you really hate all of the City leaders the day after you elect or appoint them?

Do you really expect to enjoy the benefits of Silicon Valley without any change whatsoever?

Do most of these thread writers really represent the city?

What kind of community have you become?

Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Ahh neighbor,
You must be relatively new to these forums. You must realize that the majority of posters are really a small fraction of the people in Palo Alto. I suspect there are just 50 or so people who do most of the posting using new names each time to suit the subject at hand. For the most part they seem to be right wingers and/or libertarians who are opposed to all government activities, government employees, and unions. Many are apparently racist, since whenever crime comes up, they can't wait until the race of the suspect (or their residence across the freeway - hint, hint) gets mentioned. I mostly watch and hope for someone with some sanity to pop up once in awhile.

Posted by Brian, a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 5, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I should have mentioned that this particular forum/thread has been pretty tame so far. Many comments are reasonable, and seem to be genuinely trying to determine what the problem really is with the Paly buildings and what can be done to avoid these problems in the future.

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community
on Aug 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm

Brian -- thanks for your comments. You really did make me feel better.

Posted by parent, a resident of JLS Middle School
on Aug 6, 2013 at 4:52 am

Last year the construction at JLS was ongoing during the school year, with little attention paid to how the children were impacted by the dust. My child often had black nasal mucous from breathing the dirt from construction dust. Concerns expressed to staff went along the lines of, no one else is having a problem/staff are not having a problem, so therefore you're the only one.

Multi-story construction, for schools, costs a lot more per square foot to build and maintain, and takes a lot longer to build. If there is an earthquake, they will take longer to put back in commission. Presumably, there are compensations like at Fairmeadow, in terms of leaving greater yard space, to make it worth it. Hopefully the work will be done in time for the kids to enjoy that space.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Crescent Park Dad - many reasonable people would have concluded that ALL these major constructions projects, are NOT MANAGEABLE or AUDITABLE by the small staff at PAUSD, ALL AT ONE TIME. Many prudent people, like regular working people with responsibilities who give a crap about managing their OWN money, who live within their means every day might say, lets do one project, manage it CAREFULLY, see that it gets done QUICKLY, and within BUDGET, and that our builders, contractors, and architects are not flakes and litigation happy crackpots, and then we'll move to the next MAJOR project. It might also reduce risk in getting the best and most honest work from our contractors and oversight professionals because they will be aware that a job done well, and done quickly, and within budget, will result in future projects.

My solution would have been for the arrogant PAUSD board to be a little less greedy, not bite off more than they could chew, and spend more time in closely guarding OUR (NOT THEIR) money.

Posted by Crescent Park Dad, a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 6, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Crescent Park Dad is a registered user.

I will grant you that PAUSD is understaffed and does not have the appropriate expertise to manage all of the projects. However going one campus at a time is a bit extreme and unrealistic. How many campuses? 17. On average, 2-3 years of construction at one at a time...over 45 years to do the work. I won't say any more than "why bother" if you want to take 45 years to,do upgrades that have been needed for many years before now.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2013 at 8:26 pm

So piss away our money then. good answer...
How about 2 at a time then?

And if they were doing them as I suggested they certainly would NOT be taking 2-3 years each, because they would have appropriate level of oversight and urgency.

Posted by Zakir, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Aug 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Wow, it's good to know that parents concerned with sending their kids to school in a construction zone have a minority opinion, are probably racist, right wing, anti-govt wakos. Thanks for the clarification Brian. Can't say for sure, but Neighbor sounds a lot like what the new PAUSD 'communications officer' might say to anyone who question the bumbling construction schedules PAUSD appears to have a lengthy history of bungling.

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