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Los Gatos Schools Near Capacity

The Los Gatos Union School District's enrollment is expected to reach limit by 2013-14 school year.

As developments are being approved and built in town, the question most parents of children in the have is how will new kids moving in be accommodated when campuses are already near capacity. 

To better understand the dilemma the district is facing, the table below shows current elementary school enrollment and the little room that will be available for incoming students.

 

Current number of classrooms filled

Total number of classrooms

 

Difference

Blossom Hill Elementary

26

28

2

Daves Avenue Elementary

24

25

1

Van Meter Elementary

26

27

1

Lexington Elementary

7

10**

3

Totals

83

90

7

According to district officials, the average class size is 24 students. The number of total classrooms for assumes a new campus is built as proposed for $21 million and without cost reductions.

Temporary Options

LGUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Leslie Paulides said, in addition to the projected number of regular classrooms available, a small number of special use, music or flexible rooms at Blossom Hill, Daves Avenue and Van Meter schools could be converted to classrooms if needed.

Before a full house at the Sept. 14 LGUSD board of education meeting, Paulides updated the board on the progress of Bond Measure E expenditures, devoting most of her time to the proposed new Lexington Elementary School.

If the new Lexington School is built as proposed, it would have a capacity of 240 students at a cost of $21 million, she said. The enrollment is currently 170 so that would leave space for an additional 70 students. 

She added that the total growth that could be supported in Los Gatos elementary schools will be 168 if the new Lexington School is built without cost reductions. Based on current projections, the district will then reach capacity by the 2013-14 school year. 

Portable classrooms are also an option, but they are expensive depending upon site development costs, according to Paulides. The board could consider buying or leasing portables and installing them on existing campuses, she said.

Cost-Reduction Ideas

She said that a special reserve fund has $2.7 million, which are the remaining proceeds from the sale of the Ralph O. Berry Elementary School. Located on Oak Road in Los Gatos, the Berry School was part of the Los Gatos Union School District from 1962 until 1980. The school was sold and the land is now occupied by the Jewish Community Center. There may also be proceeds available from the current Measure E bond fund if proposed costs are scaled back.

Paulides proposed three ways to reduce costs on the pending Lexington School project which could amount to a savings of $1.5 million.

The public spoke up on issues relating to the cost involved in building the new Lexington School and particularly with the proposed option of housing Lexington students on Van Meter’s campus during the one-year construction period to save $500,000.

When asked if district trustees have discussed a long-term solution based on projected enrollment growth, Paulides stated that “we are working on updating some longer-term planning documents for discussion with the board.”

Long-Range Facilities Master Plan

She is referring to the Long Range Facilities Master Plan last updated in 2001. The 2001 version of the plan accurately estimated that the LGUSD would have 3,084 students by the year 2010.

As of June 30, 2010 there were 3,047 students enrolled.

An updated plan will allow the district to carefully look at its capacity issues going forward based on the proposed real estate developments including residences proposed for the former Honda dealership site, the North Forty site, the Swanson Ford site—all on Los Gatos Boulevard—and any other site that is considered for development by the Los Gatos Panning Commission and Town Council, she said. 

The district has also chartered the Budget Advisory Committee to look at a systemic way of forecasting enrollment on a rolling basis. The committee is made up of a group of Los Gatos parents, community members, a Los Gatos Education Foundation representative, teachers and administrators. Paulides made clear that “the facilities piece of this enrollment/capacity discussion has been ongoing and has been increasingly surfacing as a more critical discussion.”

Developments and School Impact Fees

The critical nature of this discussion surfaced last May when a proposal for the and 14600 Winchester Blvd. was presented to the Planning Commission. Among other things, one of the points of discussion was the proposed residential component of the plan. Initially, developer John R. Shenk proposed an option to develop up to 516 multi-family units and up to 600 senior units on the site in addition to office space. At the same meeting, Paulides expressed concern about finding places for the students that would potentially occupy the proposed residences.

At the Aug. 1 Council meeting, Shenk amended his development plan to include office space and the possibility of 168 senior-only residences. The development of a new office park will increase the assessed value of the property significantly according to the Town of Los Gatos, generating new property taxes, $1 million of which would go directly to the schools, without adding any new students. This is in addition to a one-time school impact fee of $141,000. 

In 1998, the California Legislature enacted a bill that requires developers to mitigate the impact of their development on schools as part of the planning process, requiring an impact fee paid for new development over a certain size that goes directly to the schools.

This state law, known as Senate Bill 50, is considered full mitigation of any impacts on the school by any type of development. The proposal for the Albright site development was approved by the Town Council on Aug. 15 and is currently being challenged in a lawsuit filed by a small group of Los Gatos residents. 

More Development Projects

Another new residential development has been proposed for the former Honda dealership, owned by Margaret R. Bishop and located at 16213 Los Gatos Blvd. On Oct. 3, the Council voted 3 to 2 to allow the development to proceed in the planning process by rezoning the property from commercial to residential.

Paulides projects that the development will add between 10 and 15 students to the district. She arrived at this number by using demographic studies and internal forecasting based on historic trends.

At the Sept. 14 meeting, developer Mark Robson offered to pay a one-time fee of $150,000 to Los Gatos Schools. This would be an amount in addition to the state-mandated school impact fee estimated to be approximately $150,000. 

The Ford Swanson site development was approved by the Council in June. The residential portion will include 14 single-family homes, nine town homes and several below market-rate units. The current district forecasted enrollment is about five according to Paulides, but suggested that this number may be low.

The with a North Forty committee meeting regularly to look at various land-use options including a residential component according to a report filed with the Town on Sept. 26.

High School District in Same Boat

The faces similar issues regarding capacity.

The capacity for Los Gatos High School is 1,780, and the enrollment, as of Aug. 31, was 1,768, according to Markus Autrey at the Sept. 20 high school district board meeting.

In addition, enrollment continues to show growth for future incoming classes. This fall, Fisher expanded its facility when 10 new classrooms were completed. The much-needed classrooms were paid for using funds provided by Measure E. Also an additional gym is on the list of additional proposed projects for the school using Measure E funding.

The school capacity issue continues at the Oct. 18 LGUSD board meeting.

LG Resident October 20, 2011 at 04:24 PM
I might also add, that those of us who bought homes in the Lexington district also prefer to go to a *neighborhood* school. A neighborhood school that has been here for 152 years and that was a huge factor when we made the choice to buy.
LG Resident October 20, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Bonnie, thank you for your recommendation about engage with the Town Planning Commission. I encourage every resident of the Town of Los Gatos to please do so! I'd like to point out an important element of this debate that has not been well highlighted. These development plans which are causing so much (understandable) anxiety in the district are decisions being approved by the elected officials of the Town of Los Gatos. The LGUSD mountain community does NOT have voting power in the election of these officials. Discussion of removing our community school from our community to accommodate projected capacity needs due to development approved by a body for which we are not eligible to cast a vote, is very troubling.
LG Resident October 20, 2011 at 06:12 PM
Just a clarification: The acreage chart you are referring to is a RECOMMENDATION, not a requirement. Not to say this is not valid issue, but in a part of the country where land is incredibly expensive, it isn't realistic to believe we will always be able to follow those recommendations and still have money to BUILD a structure after buying that much land :)
Bonnie Westman October 20, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Thank you for your comment. I have not heard any discussions about removing your school from your community to accommodate projected capacity needs due to development.
LG Resident October 20, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Perhaps you didn't stay untill the end of the BOT meeting on Oct 18 (& 19th!)? It was quite clear that at least one member of the BOT favors pursuing options which could include NOT rebuilding Lexington on it's current site, and sited district-wide projected growth as a reason.

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