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School Board Commits (Again) to New School for Laurelwood

After a long wait, the wait is still not over for the Laurelwood Elementary community. At the Santa Clara Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday, April 8, staff provided an update on the Laurelwood project delays. Superintendent Dr. Stella Kemp asked the Board whether they should stay the course and continue building a new school or change direction and modernize the existing campus in light of the delays and other new information.


Laurelwood Project

Staff informed the Board that they are facing significant delays at the state level — CEQA and DTSC testing requirements — that are pushing out the timeline for the new school at the Patrick Henry site. They would start work on the new school this summer and, according to the new timeline, it would be complete and ready for occupancy for the 2026-2027 school year. They also shared that new projections show that Laurelwood’s enrollment is trending down, not up as they thought they would. When the Board initially approved the new school, it looked like enrollment would spike to 800, however, now it looks like enrollment will not grow past 650.


Because of this new information, Dr. Kemp asked the Board to give direction: continue building the new school at the Patrick Henry site, or modernize the existing Laurelwood campus.

Staff recognized that they have already talked to the community about the idea of modernizing Laurelwood many years ago but the community turned that down and that the promise to build a new school was part of the push for Measure BB. The Board approved the new school in May 2019 and they thought it would open in 2022.

The community was expectantly upset as was Board Clerk Bonnie Lieberman, who is part of the Laurelwood community.

The public called in to remind the Board that the promise of a new school was already made and that the Laurelwood community has already paid for it through Measure BB. They just want the new school. Others also said that they didn’t buy the enrollment projections, saying that the demographer missed key details about the area.

“Our area campaigned for Measure BB on the promise that we’d be getting a brand-new school,” said Lieberman. “My issue is the Board already approved this in May and I feel like we have a duty to ensure our own accountability for the expenses for BB that the community has already paid and we owe them the support that they gave us when they approved that bond measure.

“We owe them advocating for their kids for the school that they asked for, that they’re paying for and that they’ve been promised since 2014. I hope that we listen to the community that has already spoken multiple times.”

The Board agreed to stay the course with the new school and unanimously passed a motion giving Dr. Kemp that direction. They also asked the District to communicate the delays and changes with the community.

Board Member Jim Canova said he voted ‘yes’ under protest since they had already voted on this two years ago.


Reopening Update

It looks like the District will be able to hold outdoor graduation and promotion ceremonies. Dr. Kemp cautioned that these celebrations will look much different — there will be strict guidelines and events will be ticketed. They will have more information by the end of April.

Indoor athletics are back on according to Dr. Kemp. They hit a bump in the road with compliance but figured it out.

Chief Academic and Innovation Officer Brad Stam said waitlist numbers are improving and, as of the meeting, was down to 177 students. When it comes to extended care, the waitlist is improving there too with 150 on the waitlist. Through partnerships with YMCA, Boys and Girls Club and Sports for Learning, they’re able to accommodate more kids.

Chief Business Official Mark Schiel said the District is aware of reported Wi-Fi issues and staff has plans to find solutions before students return from spring break.

Board Vice President Vickie Fairchild raised the issues of crossing guards and pick-up/drop-off traffic. Scheil said they are working with the City of Santa Clara and have crossing guards at all but one location. In Sunnyvale, Director of Facility Development Planning Michal Healy said Sunnyvale is having staffing issues so Ponderosa doesn’t have all their usual crossing guards. Also, solutions are being put in place for the traffic flow issues at Ponderosa.



The Board passed a handful of resolutions including the long-awaited resolution in support of the Asian and Pacific Islander community: “Supporting People of Asian and Pacific Islander Ancestry and Condemning Harassment, Violence and Hatred toward People of Asian and Pacific Islander Descent.” It was approved unanimously after a small addition from Board Member Andy Ratermann.

They also recognized May as National Foster Care Awareness Month and Mental Health Awareness Month. Ratermann made additional motions for each, asking staff to do presentations about what the District does to support these groups and what they could do to further their commitments.

May 6 will be National Nurses Day, May 16-22 will be Classified School Employee Week, and May 12 will be California Day of the Teacher.


English Learner Master Plan

At the very end of the meeting, staff had to rush through their presentation of the EL MP. The six-chapter, multiyear plan aims to better serve the students who speak over 50 different languages. It also takes the new Vision 2035 and applies it to ELs.

There will be new pathways that align with the individual needs of ELs and new courses to help EL students move at their own pace.

The EL MP will return to the next Board Meeting for action.


Other Business

The Board voted for Andres Quintero and Bridget Watson for the CSBA Delegate Assembly Candidate Run-Off Election. 

They also approved receipt of the UTSC Initial Proposal for Reopeners for 2021-2022 and the Initial Proposal of the UTSC Contract Reopener Negotiations 2021-2022.

The Board meets next on Thursday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. Dr. Kemp said the Fall 2021 reopening plan will come to a Special School Board Meeting on Thursday, April 29.


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