Superintendent calls for new elementary school

Crowded elementary schools sparks talk

Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) Superintendent Max McGee has called for a committee to work on the 13th elementary school. The decision has come after delays that have lasted for years and the majority of the school board supports McGee’s recommendation for the new school.

The board currently does not know where the new elementary school will be located, but the two possibilities are both owned by the district.

According to board member Barb Mitchell, one possibility would be a location near Jordan Middle School, while the other would be located next to Cubberly Community Center.

This decision is a result of many of the elementary schools reporting an overflow of students. If the growth continues, PAUSD will have to send more students to schools farther away from their homes in order to maintain smaller class sizes, as well as using portables and using classrooms at nearly-full middle schools.

“I’ll tell you my experience in looking at this data: I do think it’s time we address this,” McGee said.

The district’s enrollment this year has increased to a total of 12,532. Although elementary school enrollment decreased by 131 students, many elementary schools are over crowded, with some surpassing 500 students — higher than many educators feel is the appropriate school size. Middle school enrollment is expected to continue to rise in the next two years and then dwindle. Palo Alto middle schools have had an increase of only 165 students this past year, although many school board members say that all three middle schools are over capacity.

“PAUSD’s middle school student enrollment has grown by over 600 students in the past 10 years,” Mitchell said. “Jordan and JLS are particularly large, with over 1,100 students each.”

The rough estimates for the cost of the new elementary school would be $30 million and $35 million.

New school facilities or building renovations are paid for with bond funds approved by PAUSD voters, while operating costs, such as staffing and instructional materials, are paid for with PAUSD’s general funds,” Mitchell said.

McGee called to reconvene a study committee from before or create a new advisory team to plan the proposed elementary school as well as a possible fourth middle school.

All of the School Board members except for Camille Townsend ex- pressed a similar urgency in completing the task.

McGee said he is planning the application process and contacting former committee members between now and the next board meeting on Oct. 7 to make sure the advisory team is formed as quickly as possible.