Town Hall on Dublin School District Growth Packs Fallon Middle School with Parents and Passion
Monday evening at Fallon Middle School served as the time and venue for community members in East Dublin to convene with DUSD staff, the Board of Trustees and members of the District Optimization Committee (DOC). The point of the meeting had two purposes. A primary reason was for the Dublin Unified School District and the DOC to publicly share some options to effectively manage growth as enrolment continues to rise at an accelerated rate in this portion of town. The second element would allow district families to voice their opinions/concerns relative to the changes that are being proposed.
The DOC will reconvene on June 15th – for the last time in this academic calendar year. Their desire is to find consensus of a growth plan option that can then be recommended to the Board of Trustees for consideration at their June 23rd meeting. The issue is highly complex and there exists the potential push back from large members of this vicinity if a school boundary change is adopted.
At the outset, Superintendent Stephen Hanke went to great lengths to explain why the District has arrived at this point. The incredible rate of new housing construction in the last decade has appeared to outstrip facility capabilities that were approved in the Eastern Dublin General Plan of 1994. Planning and development for any potential new school is a three to four year proposition. Additionally, there is the question of paying for land and construction. While Amador Elementary School – adjacent to the Positano subdivision will open in a mere three months, it will operate at nearly 75% capacity in its first year of operation. So, with a fourth elementary school coming online for the 2015-16 academic year, the obvious impact will be felt at Fallon Middle School for years to come.
So, since last December, the DOC has been tasked with producing creative solutions that would potentially mitigate the overflow impact at Fallon. In response, the committee pondered many options. For the next two years, some of these included: adding portable classrooms and capping overall enrollment somewhere between 1500 – 1600 students. In the following three years additional options could be considered. They include: Continuing the enrollment cap, potentially convert Amador into a K-6 school, redrawing existing school boundaries and a lottery system based upon date of residence/construction.
Following Dr. Hanke’s presentation, two stand-up microphones were available for public comment with a two minute limitation for statements and questions. The response was direct and swift. For the next two hours, most every speaker expressed comments that covered similar themes. For one, there was a clear sentiment about not creating any boundary re-draws for the upcoming year. This was largely based upon not “splitting up” families that have had a clear path to Fallon and having their children diverted to Wells Middle School.
Another point of contention was the veracity of the enrollment projections that have been presented to DUSD for years. Their accuracy was questioned at many times. Thirdly, a large theme voiced was a desire to not have E-5 planned upon as another elementary school – but to consider it to be converted into a third middle school – thus alleviating the inevitable pressure that is potentially coming to Fallon.
With each succeeding petitioner coming forward to the microphone, the tone of the discussion became highly passionate. And in some cases, it became a bit personal relative to the work of the DOC and District staff. Dr. Hanke fielded the vast majority of the questions. While present, the DUSD Board of Trustees – absent Sean Kenney – was largely observers to the process.
What is plainly clear is that this topic has struck a nerve with many Dublin residents/parents. They had the opportunity to voice their opinions and they did so clearly. The tennis volley now returns to the DOC as they will meet in mid-month and to deliver a recommendation to the Board of Trustees. From our observation, there are no easy or simple solutions. The school district must follow a charter to provide safe and adequate housing for all of its students.
Here, we will not debate the quality or nobility of the district’s direction. However, this subject is coming to a head and the potential impact may be felt in less than three months. For now, the Board of Trustees may be faced with deciding a course of action that will have far-reaching impacts. As of today, the item will be placed on the District agenda on June 23rd.