Next month is the deadline for Santa Clara Unified to decide the grade configuration of the new 60-acre Agnews K-12 campus in North San Jose. The purchase of the state-owned land was completed in 2014 and SCUSD plans to start construction this year with an anticipated opening date in 2019.
In January, the SCUSD board had a study session on the new campus; including discussions of grade configurations – K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 or K-8 and 9-12 – attendance boundaries, likely enrollment and the impacts on other district schools. SCUSD aims to have all students living on the Northside attend schools in that area, so that no students are traveling across 101 to school.
Currently there are four elementary schools north of 101 – Callejon, Hughes, Mayne and Montague. The only middle school is Callejon, which is a K-8 school. There are no high schools. Of about 2,500 students attending elementary Northside elementary schools, only about 400 can attend Callejon middle school. The remainder attend Buchser, Cabrillo or Peterson middle schools. Enrollment from that area is expected to grow by 1,200 by 2023.
At the January meeting, the district’s director of bond projects Larry Adams, discussed the three grade configuration alternatives. But before Adams could explain the three alternatives, Trustee Christopher Stampolis interrupted.
“I wonder if we have any consensus that Callejon is not a K-8 school. It’s a K-5 and a 6-8 school that are at the same site. From what I see here, what we’d be doing here is actually creating a K-8 school at Callejon with the same cohort moving all the way through.
“Just as we’re having this discussion here tonight, I wonder if we can try to frame it in terms of – it doesn’t sound like there’s any proposal in your packet that the students who would attend the K-8 portion of whatever this becomes would be one chunk that would be all together K-5,” he continued.
“Then there’s a huge influx that would come in starting at 6 and go through… In terms of the way the kids would interact and the parents would interact, what’s on official paper from the Department of Ed is one thing, but realistically are you talking about a K-5 cohort, 6-12 cohort of human beings interacting?”
“I’m not really making those assumptions,” replied Adams.
“So could you, in terms of the numbers that are there,” Stampolis went on, “those students that you’re seeing coming in from middle school – because it looks like a similar number between 6 and 12 – would those be the same kids starting 6th grade where you’ve got 220, and then moving along the way … that get to stay through 12th grade.”
“Yes,” answered Adams.
Stampolis started on another question about cohorts, when Trustee Michelle Ryan said, “Can we finish the presentation before we have questions?” It was one thing to answer a brief question, but it was another allow lengthy digressions when there was still “a lot of the presentation left.”
Adams presented three alternatives:
- Keeping Callejon K-8 for the Rivermark attendance area only, and students from the remaining elementary schools attend the new middle school (3 new schools)
- Converting Callejon to a K-5 school, and having all Northside students attend the new middle school (3 new schools)
- Convert all Northside elementary schools to K-8 (2 new schools, plus major renovations and additions at Hughes, Mayne and Montague)
To convert the elementary schools to K-8 would cost about $80 million, Adams said. Between $20 and $25 million for Hughes and Montague, and Mayne would have to be completely rebuilt.
“Could you explain what these numbers mean?” asked Stampolis.
“The core question is whether we’re going forward with two schools or three schools on that [Agnews] campus,” said Trustee Jim Canova. “The cost of building three structures is more than building two structures.”
But exactly defining the cost differential at this stage would be difficult, said Adams. Even if there were three completely separate schools on the Agnews site, a lot of questions remained to be answered. Could the three share facilities like the cafeteria? Could all three be in a single facility?
“What we should be concerned about is, what is the best educational model,” said Trustee Andy Ratermann. And that had to come from Education Service Asst. Superintendent Kathy Canaval and the teachers.
Ryan said that while she preferred the K-8 model, “your research indicates that K-8 at all of those schools isn’t feasible.”
Stampolis then proposed that PTA dynamics be one of the considerations for school organization. “I’d like to encourage you to discuss … parent involvement,” he said. “When you have a PTA … you have a group of parents who bond …It just doesn’t work to give over their power to 75 percent of the people who are coming in.”
Elementary school teacher Michael Hickey said that based on his experience, he didn’t’ endorse the K-8 model. “I don’t think it’s the best for kids.” However, the people at Don Callejon were the ones who could tell the board whether K-8 schools were effective, he said, noting that he had been a student teacher in Mexico City on a K-12 campus that was three schools, so there were examples of that model to study.
As the clock was reaching 11 p.m., the board finally got to hear Education Services’ recommendation, which turned out to be for three schools because the high school and middle school would be prepared to serve students coming from all five elementary schools. Stampolis then asked Adams if the site plan considered a K-6 and 7-12 arrangement.
The Board directed Educational Services to further investigate the two school and three school alternatives, and report back to the Board about which one they believed worked best for students.
You can find information about Agnews school plans at tinyurl.com/gq2eboo, or by going to SantaClaraUSD.org and searching on “Agnews East.”