Facilities at Santa Clara Unified School District are getting some attention thanks to Measure BB funds. At the Board of Trustees special meeting on Tuesday, May 3, they discussed plans for Briarwood, Bracher, Westwood, and Laurelwood elementary schools.
Elementary Schools’ Draft Master Plans
Briarwood, Bracher and Westwood elementary schools are due for some TLC. Director of Facility Development and Planning Michal Healy and her team have been meeting with the schools’ communities to make sure they’re building a campus that meets their needs.
At Bracher, the two proposed options aim to solve the main concerns of the community including parking and traffic, space constraints in the multipurpose rooms and administration, removing portables, more restrooms, and more ideas from the community. Both options are similar, but, for example, the library in Option 1 has it to the south while Option 2 has it at the front of the school.
At Briarwood, they are similarly concerned about parking and drop-off but also want to beautify the front of campus, utilize administration and the multipurpose room, and add more shade to name a few from their wish list. Facilities want to elongate the drop-off lane as well as create an early childhood cluster. Option 1 would modernize the multipurpose room and build a new kitchen. Option 2 repurposes the current multipurpose room into a library and then creates a new one with a kitchen. In addition, the community said they wanted separate play areas for upper and lower grades. Maria Madrigal from LPA Architects said they’re already addressing this.
Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild wanted to know more about the fencing in the area to separate what is school property and what is the park. Healy said they plan on installing fencing and a gate, but the neighbors will still be able to access the park.
The Westwood community was worried about parking and drop-off because of the adjacency to Saratoga Avenue. They also want to update Westwood’s aesthetics and utilize the beautiful trees that already exist on campus. The flow of the campus needs work and they want bigger administration and student support spaces. Healy and her team were thinking of extending the parking and drop-off to hopefully rework the flow of drop-off. In Option 1, they propose a two-story building for classrooms. In Option 2, they create a new library and STEM space to the south. The options also have different locations for the multipurpose rooms. They are already hearing feedback that the community wants to see a combination of Options 1 and 2 with their favorite bits from each plan.
These plans are in constant motion after more feedback comes in. They will work on costs and prioritization and bring this back to the Board.
Master Plan Schedule
On a similar note, Healy asked the Board to consider slowing down facilities planning a bit to make sure they have the best plans in place for the Briarwood, Bracher and Westwood communities.
There are some big decisions they have to make. One is Early Education. Healy asked if the Board favors Early Education being disbursed throughout the District at every site or having it condensed to two or more larger sites?
Another decision is about Special Education. What kind of quantity and type of special education facilities do the sites need to be equipped for? Will there be more integration at all sites or just some? There are considerations like sensory play areas, more bathrooms, changing areas, bigger classrooms, etc.
When it comes to elementary school planning, they need more discussions. What facilities do they want on every campus? What would an outdoor learning space look like?
With these and other decisions still needing more feedback from school communities, Healy asked the Board if they should power ahead or slow down and adjust their course? Slowing down wouldn’t impact projects that still could be done like security upgrades.
“We would have some of these discussions over the next six months and then we would have to a conclusion and pick back up these Master Plans,” said Healy. “Once those decisions have been made, we’ll be able to really get in and make the Master Plan more meaningful for these campuses and figure out how to move forward with the projects that are in Measure BB.”
The Board agreed to delay a bit to adjust the course.
How big should the new Laurelwood Elementary School at the Patrick Henry site be? It feels like the Board and community have talked about this more times than they can remember, but with declining enrollment and other schools also needing Measure BB funds, Healy asked the question again.
Healy presented updated data with more information, but the Laurelwood community dismissed it. Saying that birth rates and enrollment history weren’t reliable when deciding how big the school should be.
Construction costs were estimated using assumptions about the cost per square footage and the average square footage needed per student as well as inflation. Healy said Measure BB set aside $98,865,000 for a 600-student Laurelwood. Using the same options as the previous meeting, Scenario 1, a 650 student school (600 plus Special Education), would now be $199,533,045, so over $20 million would be needed from the Measure BB reserves on top of the $98 million planned. Scenario 2, a 650-student school with facilities built for 800 and classrooms planned for the additional 200 students would be $140,200,720, requiring about $41 million in reserves. Scenario 3, an 800-student school would be $148,737,368 and would require about $49 million in reserves. Healy stated that scope reserves and escalation reserves are built into Measure BB.
To provide a bigger picture, Healy listed out projects at other school sites that Measure BB funds could be used for. The community members were frustrated that the District was pitting school communities against each other. President Jodi Muirhead said she received similar comments and reassured the community that it wasn’t their intention and that they’re trying to make sure the budgets for all the Measure BB projects make sense.
“The fact is, we have a limited pot of money that has to serve the whole district and we have to make choices,” said Board Member Dr. Michele Ryan.
The Board debated the best course of action. They narrowed the choices down to Scenario 1 or 3 – so a 650 or 800-student school. Muirhead said she was concerned about overbuilding a school they may not be able to fill. Fairchild said there was too much new information and she was getting “whiplash.”
Board Member Albert Gonzalez made a motion for Scenario 1, a 650-student school. “This is a difficult decision for most of us… This is an opportunity for us to look towards the future and keep the community together,” said Gonzalez. However, the motion failed with Gonzalez and Dr. Ryan voting ‘yes,’ and Andy Ratermann, Jim Canova, Bonnie Lieberman and Muirhead voting ‘no,’ Fairchild abstained.
Canova motioned to go with Scenario 3, the 800-student school, and that passed with the same split. Fairchild apologized and said she couldn’t decide.
The Board unanimously approved Paul Fuller as the new Principal at Laurelwood Elementary. For the past seven years, he has served as Assistant Principal. Fuller has been a popular candidate for the role and this appointment has been a passionate topic for the community. For more on the appointment, please read Erika Towne’s in-depth coverage: https://www.svvoice.com/new-laurelwood-principal-named/
The Board also publicly announced that they are terminating the investigation involving Laurelwood.
The Board meets next on Thursday, May 12 at 6:30 p.m.