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Dublin City Council and School Board Collaborate to Develop Two New School Sites

March 21, 2015

Dublin Unified School District E5 and E5-Alt SitesFor parents and educators rapid growth in Dublin schools has been a double-edged sword, complicated by the State of California’s stance on school construction funding. By now, most Dublin Unified School District families have read the statement issued by Superintendent Dr. Stephen Hanke relative to the projected development of two new school sites in East Dublin – E-5 and E-6. The press release was issued on Thursday through direct email communications, social media and other channels. Without question, this is a dramatic and positive shift towards achieving site construction goals.

As recently as August 2014, it became clear that Governor Jerry Brown and some of his colleagues in Sacramento would prevent school construction measures to be placed on a statewide ballot in order to prevent assuming more long term debt for the state of California – even for a high growth/performing district like Dublin. With continued housing construction and increased enrollment, this would be a significant problem. While Amador Elementary School will open later this year, this new school will only temporarily mitigate the overcrowding problems that this district will face over the next ten years.

DUSD has receiving ongoing consultation on enrollment projections for years. And the projections clearly point to higher student populations for several years to come. The E-5 Project at Jordan Ranch and E-6 at Dublin Crossing within Camp Parks have been on the planning board for years. However, the pronouncement from Sacramento prompted some “out of the box” thinking for all interested parties. Historically, the funding formula for school construction in California resembled a three-legged stool. It was a combination of dollars supplied by the state, developer fees and local funding. With the first and most significant leg removed, the burden was then moved to the local municipality.

In an example of effective collaboration, Dublin City Manager Chris Foss and DUSD Facilities Director Kim McNeely began to have discussions about potential solutions. They found one. While the school site for E-5 had already been earmarked, it would still require the purchase of the land by the district at approximately $3 million per acre. This is a sunk cost. Alternatively, the City of Dublin was in possession of a similarly sized plot to the south of Central Parkway that was targeted to become a community park. The City Council and DUSD staff went to work to figure out how this could potentially become a win-win for all parties. The result was a land swap that would allow the district to construct and manage a school site and to provide a park space to the public at a nominal cost – a savings that could represent up to $30 million dollars.

OneDublin.org was granted an opportunity to explore this subject more deeply and we had a recent discussion with Superintendent Hanke and DUSD Board President Amy Miller.

OneDublin.org: Given the rising enrollment projections and the stark need to build more schools, how did all of the parties move towards hammering out this agreement?

Superintendent Dr Stephen Hanke an Dublin Unified School Board President Amy MillerDr. Steve Hanke: “The board has been a key player in this relationship. We have been trying to build the relationship between the city council and board for a number of years. We have had joint meetings and we have a liason committee that has met on a regular basis.”

Amy Miller: “Once we started looking at projections, it became very clear that we needed to build more facilities. We started to have this laser focus on what was occurring in the city. But, now it was looking at the impact.”

OneDublin.org: What was the benefit to converting E-5 into a combination school site and community park?

Hanke: “There was an adjacent site relatively close to the original site near Jordan Ranch. We did preliminary studies to see if this was “doable.’ Upon consulting with the Facilities Department, we came to understand that this was a viable site. The question remained that could the city do a ‘switch” to create the opening to form a school and park site. That was the “what if” and can we do this?”

Miller: “I think that there was something for everyone in the deal. The school is district gets the land for free. And the city gets to help the district at large. And they get to say that they are truly collaborating with the district to get things done.”

OneDublin.org: How does all of this relate to the development of E-6 in Camp Parks?

Hanke: “E-6 is somewhere between somewhere around 2021-23. It’s further out because the development is slower. So, it’s all processed and ready along with great communication between board president and City council members. I believe that we took out any doubt that we were able to build that this school at a viable school site.”

OneDublin.org: While this creative program between DUSD and the City of Dublin diminishes the upfront cost of land to build new schools, it does not address the added funding necessary to construct new school sites. Where does the district reside on this subject?

Hanke: “What it means is that we have to look for alternative funding sources. Another example is taking local funds and deferring other projects and using them to divert to build a school until the air is clear. Another example is to issue debt ourselves. The question is how to commit this “mortgage payment” – the board has yet to make this decision. This result may be an issuance of debt, the utilization of Measure E monies or the deferment of improvements, or a combination from all of the above.”

Miller: “One of the unique things that we have done is negotiating with the developers and discussing the mitigation of such fees. Asking what more can you do? We are working directly with the developers. One of the positive things that have come out of this process is the closer union between the city and the school district and understanding how important development is. The city has really stepped up to help us. We have formed a very healthy and genuine partnership.”

So, many of the significant details in order to construct E-5 remain in place. However, the major item of land acquisition and its relative cost have been resolved – subject to approval by the DUSD Board of Trustees next Tuesday. Given the dynamics of exponential enrollment growth in this district and its inherent challenges to site construction, this event represented a very large movement towards the resolution of these goals. Many other factors will still need to be resolved. There also remains the potential that E-5 may convert into a K-8 site – much in the way that Fallon was initially utilized before it was restored to a middle school. This is not a factual statement from DUSD. However, it is an editorial comment that may bear future consideration.

Hopefully, we were able to distill what these agreements mean to all parties. OneDublin.org would like to thank Superintendent Hanke and Board President Miller for their willingness to sit down and to discuss these issues. The full body of the message from Dr. Hanke is included below:

Dear Dublin Community,
 
The Dublin City Council took unprecedented actions Tuesday night in support of the Dublin Unified School District, setting the stage for the delivery of two school sites to the school district valued at $66 million.
 
The City approved a Memorandum of Understanding for a joint school/park site in Jordan Ranch ((E-5). The first step toward a similar agreement was also approved for a school site in the Dublin Crossings Project (E-6). The MOU effectively provides the land for the building of a school to the district at nominal cost. We look forward to our Board of Trustees considering approval of the Memo of Understanding at Tuesday night’s meeting.
 
We are thrilled by these developments and are extremely grateful to the City Council members for their unanimous support. These actions represent a remarkable partnership between the city and the school district. Our students, parents, teachers and the entire school community will benefit for years to come because of these historic decisions.
 
The rapid growth in our City has put pressure on our schools to house an increasing number of students. We have in excess of 9,200 students in our district this year, more than double the number we had when I became Superintendent here nine years ago. We also believe that the excellence of our schools has compelled many families to move to this community. It is a validation of our commitment to student learning and it has also further filled our classroom space. Meanwhile, the State of California has ceased to provide funding support for school construction.
 
As a result, district and city staffs have been working for several weeks to explore options. Meeting with local developers and city staff, we have negotiated a creative, proactive solution that we believe is unique for the state.
 
As the E-5 school site is designed, the city will be involved in the process and will enter into joint-use facilities agreements with the District. A facility will be created that maximizes use as a school by the district and a park for our community.
 
We look forward to the next steps in this important process as we all keep our eye squarely on “the ball”, making our students and their learning environments a top priority in this amazing community.
 
Sincerely
Dr. Stephen Hanke 
Superintendent
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2 Comments
  1. March 24, 2015 6:02 pm

    Very poor idea.why to kill a park ..thinking out of the box will make Dublin a concrete jungle.. with people no where to walk/relax etc .. bad bad bad

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