Santa Clara Unified School District staff presented a very early look at ideas and plans for the new Laurelwood Elementary School campus. At the Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, Dec. 9 many shared concerns about some of the plans, namely the idea to add an alternative high school to the area where Patrick Henry currently is.
Peterson Laurelwood Masterplan
Michal Healy, Director of Facility Development and Planning, and Mark Schiel, Chief Business Official, presented an early look at the Peterson Laurelwood project. They discussed what they are hearing at community meetings and their vision for the project, highlighting the farm and nature center. The goal is to have a completed campus by the 2026 school year.
The only parts of the plan that are currently bond funded by Measure BB are the new Laurelwood Elementary School and the Peterson Middle School fields. Other projects that need future funding include Peterson improvements, parking and dropoff improvements, nature center improvements, farm enhancements, tennis courts, etc.
At the end of the presentation there was a slide about “Masterplan Opportunities for Peterson / Patrick Henry Site” which included community gathering spaces and even districtwide collaborative spaces, but also mentioned the possibility of adding an alternative high school. It’s unclear if they mean to move New Valley High School to the site or offer another program.
Board Clerk Bonnie Lieberman said she’s hearing how concerned the community is about the possible alternative high school. Parents who called into the meeting were not happy and said they felt blindsided about the sudden mention of adding an alternative high school. They cited traffic and safety concerns, especially considering the recent firearm incident at New Valley.
Many Board Members and community members said they understood that New Valley needs new and better facilities, but that the Laurelwood site might not be the best fit. Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp said staff will prepare information about solutions for New Valley once the school’s redesign is ready.
Cabrillo Music Room
At their last meeting, Board Member Andy Ratermann and the Board voted to have an agenda item regarding the Cabrillo Middle School’s lack of a music room.
Ratermann was not happy that the item was “buried in the agenda” and asked that a dedicated agenda item come back to them so the community can know about it and properly participate.
Until then, Schiel shared part of the facilities report that had three options for a music room solution. He noted that the Measure BB bond money cannot be used to create a music space.
The first idea is to reconfigure a larger space on the Cabrillo campus. The idea is that the library would be a suitable size but there are challenges with that space as well. Also, the estimated cost would be $600,000 and would take about a year to be complete. The second option would be to bring a portable, but the District doesn’t currently own one that would be appropriate so they would have to go through the process to have it made and set up. This would cost about $2 million and would take about 2 years. Lastly, they could build a permanent building which would cost $6 million and take about 4 years.
Schiel said that it would be nice to consider that, if they were going to build something permanent, they should also consider a permanent solution that would also replace the current portables.
Dr. Kemp emphasized that the District should be investing more into their Master Plan so that way they can make sure all the schools have equitable facilities. Schiel said they are starting the Master Plan process. Additionally, Dr. Kemp did share that the District is in the process of negotiating a joint-use facility through the City of Santa Clara but couldn’t share more details.
“The kids at Cabrillo know that their facilities are subpar compared to other schools,” said Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild, whose daughter is in the music program. She said there is dignity with knowing your facilities are up to par with your peers.
Interim Budget Report
Schiel presented an update on the budget. A concern is the Unsecured Roll. Schiel said they knew property tax revenue was going decrease but it was a much bigger drop than they expected.
He was concerned about areas including the future of declining enrollment, property tax appeals and inflation. He was also particularly concerned about, based on current assumptions, the District’s projected ongoing deficit spending through 2025-2026 which will reduce reserves.
It was finally time to decide. For their new By-Trustee Area Election System, the Board approved map 2A with a 6-1 vote. Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan voted ‘no.’ She had shared at previous meetings that she was uncomfortable that the map had a higher population variance compared to the other maps.
The sequencing passed unanimously. Some of the areas will be up for election in 2022 and the rest will be up for election in 2024.
Now, this gets presented to the County for approval.
The Board voted to keep the same leadership. Jodi Muirhead will remain President, Vickie Fairchild will be Vice President and Bonnie Lieberman will be Board Clerk. They all served one year and were eligible for another. Dr. Ryan voted ‘no’ on Muirhead and Fairchild.
They approved the Superintendent as Secretary of the Board of Trustees as well as the 2022 Board Meeting Calendar.
The Board approved former Assistant Superintendent Kevin Keegan as the Interim Principal at Pomeroy Elementary School. They also approved hiring Jean Burrell as the Administrative Secretary in the Superintendent’s Office and Sharon Freeman as the new Vice-Principal at Santa Clara High School.
The Board meets next in the New Year on Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022, at 6:30 p.m.