Dozens of educators and parents of students from Don Callejon School appeared at the Santa Clara Unified School District’s (SCUSD) Board meeting on Feb. 8 to protest the addition of more portable classrooms to the school that already has limited space.
One by one, Don Callejon staff recounted examples of how students have been impacted by the overcrowding and limited space, from students not being able to eat lunch because of the long lines at the cafeteria, to an improbable incident where two boys took their fight to the restroom because there was no space to fight in the outdoors recreation area.
Board Members listened silently as stories were told. Since Don Callejon was not an item on the agenda for that week, no action was taken in response. However, the SCUSD Board said there was another side to the story that was not mentioned at the meeting.
In June 2017, the SCUSD Board voted to take action to address overcrowding at Don Callejon. Although enrollment in Don Callejon had been declining over the past several years, it was anticipated to increase again, particularly in the 6th grade where enrollment was projected to increase from 132 students to 178.
The increased enrollment, in addition to changes in California law that now require class sizes to be smaller, created a need to have more classrooms to serve the same numbers of students.
Three options were considered last summer: to assign students to other middle schools; to increase class sizes by one to two students; or to place additional temporary portables on campus. Not wanting to displace their students farther away from their homes, in Aug. 2017, the Board approved placement of two portable classroom buildings and one portable restroom building as well as repurposing the computer in lab to a classroom. The computer lab will be replaced with a mobile lab of laptops.
The School Board heard and considered concerns from the Don Callejon community, some against displacing middle school students and some against adding additional portables, before making a final decision to make room for all incoming students. The additional portables are interim solutions until the opening of the elementary and middle schools at the Agnews site in Fall 2020. By that time, school boundaries will have been redrawn, assigning some students to the Agnews sites, and the portables will be removed.
Don Callejon currently serves students of two different school attendance areas. One is for elementary school (k-5), and the other for middle school (6-8). Some students attend Don Callejon for k-8 grades while some attend Mayne Elementary School further north and transition to Don Callejon for middle school.
Several times during the Feb. 8 Board meeting, Don Callejon protesters compared the limited size in acreage of their school with Buchser, Peterson, and Cabrillo middle schools to show their disadvantage. However, that is a misleading claim, SCUSD’s public information officer Jennifer Dericco said.
Two of the other district middle schools were built on old high school campuses, where large playing fields and sports facilities were the norm. The facilities at Don Callejon, however, were built in compliance with educational codes and campus acreage. Don Callejon is the only middle school serving residents north of highway 101.
Enrollments at the four district middle schools are comparably similar. As of Feb. 16, total enrollment at Don Callejon is 947, while enrollment at Buchser is 972. Peterson has 928 students while Cabrillo’s enrollment is 885.
The portables will be placed on two of the six basketball courts near the multipurpose room. To compensate for the reduced recreation space, Don Callejon will be opening up the multipurpose room during lunch to offer physical recreation indoors, such as basketball, volleyball and badminton. The portables are scheduled for installation over the April 2018 break.
SCUSD holds Board meeting on Thursdays twice per month. The next Board meeting will take place on March 8. At this time, meetings are not broadcasted or recorded. Agendas and meeting minutes online are at www.santaclarausd.org. However, the Board is exploring ways to broadcast meetings if they can ensure compliance with all laws and policies, including digital accessibility, closed captioning, and transcription of any video or audio footage that will be streamed or archived online.