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Letter to the Editor: Hillbrook School Misleads Public

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In its current application to modify its conditional use permit, or CUP, submitted Sept. 20, as well as on its website, Hillbrook School claims that the enrollment increase it is asking for was part of a master site plan approved by the Town of Los Gatos in 2001.

Nothing could be further from the truth! Extensive documentation from 2001 shows clearly that Hillbrook committed itself to staying at a cap of 315 students. I challenge Hillbrook to supply documentation from 2000-01 that shows anything different.

Here is just some of what was written about enrollment during discussions leading to the 2001 CUP.

From then-Hillbrook Head of School Sarah Bayne: There has been continued suggestion that the school’s master plan indicates its interest in increasing its population and overall size of the school. At no point has Hillbrook ever requested a change in its Conditional Use Permit, which limits the school’s population to 315.”  (Emphasis in the original.)

From then-Hillbrook Business Manager Jim Hilton: It is not Hillbrook’s intent to increase enrollment but to have a safe up-to-date educational facility for our students and campus that fits in with the Los Gatos Community and neighborhood.”

During a facilitated discussion organized by the town in July between neighbors and Hillbrook, the highly qualified facilitator began the discussion by noting that Hillbrook School could not be in a worse location.

It is tucked inside a completely residential neighborhood, surrounded by homes, with just one narrow, winding dead-end street as access in and out. The small country school originally located at the Hillbrook site no longer exists. In its stead is a modern, recently rebuilt junior-kindergarten through eighth-grade private school.

Hillbrook grew to its current size long after the neighborhood came into existence in the 1960s. There is no way a new school would be allowed at the current location today. For that very reason, Hillbrook at its current location must be strictly limited in enrollment.

Since Hillbrook’s 2015 Master Plan calls for an expansion, we think that the school should look for a separate location for at least part of its school—perhaps the middle school. Shifting to a K-5 school at the current location and a sixth- through eighth-grade school at a new location—with good street access—would seem an appropriate approach to the problem.

Hillbrook has lots of space for students, but unfortunately the neighborhood does not have the street access needed to transport students to Hillbrook’s current location.

Here is the language Hillbrook is using in its application for an enrollment increase: “Hillbrook School is seeking to fully enroll its campus as envisioned in the Master Site Plan previously approved by the Town.”

We see no evidence that the 2001 Master Site Plan “envisioned” a long-term enrollment increase beyond 315 students, but if Hillbrook could indeed document this, it would simply make matters worse. It would mean that in 2001, when it publicly committed itself to an enrollment of 315 students, it was privately planning an expansion. It would mean that Hillbrook was misleading the neighborhood and the town back in 2001. This behavior clearly should not be rewarded with permission to increase enrollment in the face of clear neighborhood opposition and in the face of the increased safety hazards such an increase would create throughout the neighborhood.

—By Los Gatos residents Barbara Dodson, Renee Preaseau, Susan Nissen and Susan and Steve Beritzhoff.

Dyan Chan December 01, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Thank you for providing information and contributing to a thoughtful discussion about Hillbrook School's proposed expansion. Unfortunately, I have heard of some incidents of individuals in the neighborhood harassing Hillbrook students and families, which I believe is inappropriate and unproductive. (I imagine there might be examples of individual Hillbrook parents acting inappropriately too, though I haven't heard of any.) I hope that the neighborhood and the school can work together on a solution that is fair and acceptable to all.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz December 01, 2012 at 05:06 AM
If not really needed, Rule it out!
HD December 01, 2012 at 05:50 PM
The town has a duty to support the tax paying residents of Los Gatos. Hillbrook is not for profit. The streets in the neighborhood are too crowded for the current amount of traffic. There are no sidewalks and a narrow road which ends in a steep up hill approach to the school. In the morning the sun rises directly at the top of the hill. Driving up the road in the morning you are blinded by the sun. I fear for the kids walking to school. It isn't safe. If Hillbrook wants to expand it's enrollment then they should do what Valley Christian and Harker did in years past. Build another campus elsewhere.
Patti Elliot December 02, 2012 at 01:37 AM
Dyan, What evidence do you have of "harassment"? Hillbrook leaders accused neighbors of being "mean-spirited" because we conducted a car count on the first day of school. Is that the "harassment" you heard about? Please don't spread unverified rumors. I know my neighbors. They don't "harass" people. Please, let's stick with facts on this issue. Unverified rumors is how we ended up spending $50k for a worthless election.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) December 02, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Patti, election cost the town $37,700.

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