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Managing Growth: Up to 18 Portables Planned for Dougherty, Green and Kolb Elementary Schools

April 16, 2013

John Green Elementary SchoolWhereas many school districts are struggling to address declining enrollment and school closure decisions, Dublin is managing rapid growth at the elementary school level. At tonight’s school board meeting (Tuesday April 16), the plan to add up to 18 portables at Dougherty, Green and Kolb Elementary School, at a total cost of $3M – $5M, will be discussed and action taken. The planned locations for the portables are shown at the bottom of this article. As noted in the board meeting agenda item:

“The next new elementary campus in the District, J.M. Amador Elementary School, is scheduled to open for the fall of 2015. Elementary growth in the District is projected to exceed the currently available elementary capacity in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years. Additional classroom space to accommodate student growth over the next two school years is needed.

“The majority of these projected growth students will attend the J.M. Amador campus when it opens. At the December 18, 2012 Work Study Meeting, the Board of Trustees directed staff to proceed with the design of an Interim Housing Plan to include any space utilization adjustments that would be programmatically viable, and the installation of up to 18 portable classrooms configured in groups of up to 6 each at three sites, Dougherty, Green and Kolb.”

Greg Tomlinson + Joan Buchanan + Stephen Hanke

(l-r) Tomlinson, Buchanan, Hanke

Last week was a very busy time at the Dublin Unified School District office. On Thursday, California State Assemblywoman from the 16th District, Joan Buchanan, sat down with various District staff and community members. The day before, had the opportunity to visit with District Superintendent, Dr. Stephen Hanke to discuss the proposed action to install portable classrooms at the Dougherty, Green and Kolb Elementary School sites. While the subjects are somewhat disparate, they are also both related as it refers to the state of school funding of construction in California. We will take them in inverse order.

Recently, families of children at both Green and Kolb Elementary schools were notified of the potential to add portable classrooms at their respective campuses. According to tonight’s school board agenda documents, portables are also planned for Dougherty Elementary School if needed. This notification was largely driven by demographic research that had been presented to the district over the past four years. As opposed to many other school districts in Alameda County, Dublin exists as an anomaly, as one of the few cities that is adding families/students to its rolls. The rapid growth in Dublin Ranch and to the areas in the east, have manifested many changes to the existing school boundaries. Families in these areas have been subjected to school site transfers – oftentimes affecting multiple children within a single family.

Though it has not often been easy, this rapid growth has reflected a generalized positive impact for this city. Unfortunately, many other Alameda and Contra Costa County cities are suffering from stagnated growth or declines – oftentimes resulting in a reduction in teaching staff, school closures, or both.

In recent years, DUSD has contracted with the demographics expert company SCI Consulting Group. Their lead planning representative is Blair Aas. When we met with Superintendent Hanke, he made a few points very clear: the frequency of the demographic data supplied by SCI has increased from an annual report to one that is produced two to three times a year – based upon the rapid population increases in Dublin. Further, the demographic estimations are largely based upon “yield projections.” In other words, statistically, the number of school-aged children produced from a condo residence will generally be smaller than those from a single-family residence.

As these are statistical projections, SCI has produced estimations on both the low, medium and high side. Lastly, Dr. Hanke affirmed the District’s mission to these key ingredients for all schools within the district: safety for all students, ongoing and appropriate programs and the complete functionality of a school site. According to Dr. Hanke, the proposed portables will provide appropriate and suitable classrooms in advance of the completion and population of Amador Elementary School slated for opening in fall 2015. reached out to DUSD Board of Trustees President Greg Tomlinson to further comment on this topic. Armed with demographic data supplied from SCI Consulting Group, are you satisfied with their annual/interim projections for enrollment growth?

Greg Tomlinson: “In regards to the projections from SCI, I’m cognizant of the challenges in projecting growth patterns in a high growth city such as Dublin vs. cities that are in the mature phase of growth. At this point with the information I have available, I’m satisfied that SCI has done as good a job as I believe anyone is capable of doing under the circumstances. I believe a lot of the criticism of SCI, and by extension, the administration and board, is really inaccurate and unfair. The data shows that growth has been going through huge, dramatic swings and it’s just not realistic to believe that you can build and open schools in alignment with these wild swings.” There could be a perception in the community that District administration and the seated Board of Trustees have been “behind the curve” on the growth issue. Please explain.

Tomlinson: “Schools are also very expensive and time consuming to build. The budget for J.M. Amador Elementary School (E4) is over $45,000,000. We are designing schools to be larger now to better accommodate growth and Amador is being designed for 900 students, equating to a cost of $50,000 per student, and that just gets them through 5th grade! Our development fees for new home construction are $4.76 per square foot on houses that are not otherwise covered by a development agreement. Most new homes in Dublin pay far less than this amount. Thus, a 2,500 square foot new home pays $11,900 for a home that could have any number of children and the district has to provide an elementary, middle, and high school for each children in the home where the elementary school alone costs $50,000 per student. Obviously, averages have a way of smoothing out over time but we still have to accommodate all kids whenever they present themselves to be educated.

“We have to also keep in mind that growth has many positive aspects to it as well. Growth has allowed us to broaden program options, especially at the high school level, and survive this recession without laying off one teacher. I believe our district is doing many things right and the results speak for themselves. Test scores are up across the board, we’re successfully closing the achievement gap, and the reputation and image of this district continues to improve which is a key factor why I believe so many people are moving to Dublin and enrolling the children in our schools.” The issue of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) is still being debated. What are your hopes for its ultimate outcome –as it relates to students in DUSD?

Tomlinson: “Words simply can’t describe how incredibly devastating this will be for our district if it materializes in anything close to its current form. According to the state, we will lose over $3,200 per student per year in funding. I plan to ask our superintendent to prepare a high-level rough draft of what our school district would look like if funded at this level which will allow us to see how it could affect the students in Dublin. My hope for an ultimate outcome is that existing funding for all districts across the state will be protected and that if the state wants to direct additional funding to certain targeted groups (English learners, Economically disadvantaged, etc.) that it does so with new funding generated by overall economic and tax revenue growth in the state. Even the name “Local Control” bothers me because it’s so disingenuous of how it will work in practice.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan presents to Dublin Unified School District administration and community leadersThe second portion of our story centers on the recent visit by 16th District Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan at our district boardroom. Ms. Buchanan’s district encompasses cities from Lafayatte, Orinda, Moraga, Walnut Creek, Alamo and into Dublin and Livermore. She is also the Chairperson of the Education Committee for the General Assembly. Ms. Buchanan spoke largely on the subjects of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) proposed by Governor Jerry Brown. The LCFF projections released in mid March were based on the guidance of what was proposed for our state. The majority of the funds were based upon providing districts with the largest number of students that were in the “greatest needs” – lower income and the highest percentage of English language learners. The primary benefactors are those in the districts of Los Angeles, San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco. According to this formula, DUSD would be a “loser.”

Ms. Buchanan went on to further explain what she perceived to be a flaw in this formula. As governmental projections largely view growth on an upward curve, a recession hit the Bay Area in 2007-08. So, the sustainable growth curve could not be met. The present proposal seeks to meet a new and modified level of funding – not associated with matching what was present in 2008. Here is the rub. While many school districts have become accustomed to being battered with budget cuts, the majority are delighted with anything that resembles an increase. It is Joan’s position that these moderate increases are woefully short of what they resembled six years ago. The debate will continue. Citizens will have the opportunity to chime in with their opinions. At the end of the day, the LCFF will have an impact upon how school construction will be viewed. Again, it was another busy week of debate within our city.

The Dublin Unified School Board of Trustees will be meeting on Tuesday, April 16th @ 6:30 PM to discuss the issue of potential portable classrooms, among other items. Public comment is invited.

Dougherty Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

Dougherty Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

John Green Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

John Green Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

Kolb Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

Kolb Elementary School Proposed Portable Locations

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