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Dublin’s Rapid School Growth Offers Challenges and Need for Community Involvement

September 16, 2015

DSC_1676It has been said that statistics can be deceiving. In the next breath, they can also be quite revealing. With that said, let us examine the historical K-12 student enrollment data in the Dublin Unified School District (DUSD). In the ten year period between 1995 and 2005, student enrollment expanded from 3,647 to 4,904 – an increase of 34.4%. In a similar period between 2005 and 2015 (projected) the increase of students moved to 9,900 – representing a growth rate of 101.8%. Granted, these were two very different eras and the peak growth period represented a rapid home construction movement from Dublin Ranch eastward to Fallon Road and beyond.

But the growth has yielded a far more robust tax base for the City of Dublin and has also produced many more retail and entertainment avenues. From the theater district to the newly opening retail at Persimmon Place and to Fallon Gateway, the experience of living in Dublin has been greatly enhanced. However, this rapid growth has placed a strain on the town’s infrastructure – including an impact upon the districts’ schools. Anyone that has resided here in the last 10 years can articulate the changing traffic channels and/or how all of the schools seem to be so crowded.

So under this backdrop, there is an opportunity for added community involvement into how the school district will move forward while facing these challenges. The District Optimization Committee (DOC) has existed in various iterations over several years. The group was formed during the period of 2008-09 when California was facing a budgetary crisis and it was necessary to examine what academic/enrichment programs might be cut if the state entered into a worst case scenario. Subsequently, it was formalized last year to take a hard look at what enrollment growth vs. home construction could look like in Dublin for years to come. reached out to DUSD Senior Facilities Director Kim McNeely to gather her thoughts on this subject. Keep in mind that Ms. McNeely is subject to the limitations of how the State of CA funding formula has changed. But, we thought that her insights were fascinating. As one that has actively participated in the District Optimization Committee (DOC), please cite how this has been a positive process for community members.

IMG_3506Kim McNeely: “The District Optimization Committee was a positive process for the community and staff.  It was a great opportunity for district staff to share information and expertise and to hear community questions. Mostly, it was an opportunity for everyone to share ideas about something we all care deeply about.” As a Facilities Master Plan is being developed for both the short and long term, please discuss why this is a vital process for our school district at this critical juncture.

McNeely: “The Facilities Master Plan is important to our district for several reasons.  It will allow us to review the assumptions that are used to create a Facilities Master Plan like demographic data to identify the number of students we will need to serve.  The condition of our campuses from an infrastructure and program perspective will need to be evaluated.  The Facilities Master Plan process will also seek input on the goals and needs for our campuses from the campus staff and our community.  The Facilities Master Plan assumptions are critical to identify options to meet the District’s facility needs and then to identify resources to accomplish our facility goals.”  Finally, for some long time residents and newcomers to Dublin, there is a rising perception that new home construction and student enrollment is being outpaced by the district’s ability to provide schools/classrooms.  As a Senior Facilities Director, how would you respond to this feeling?

McNeeley: “Classroom space for students is critically important to our community and to the school district.  The amount of growth and the pace of growth have created challenges that we are all feeling.  The Board is moving forward with the Facilities Master Plan to identify the needs, solutions and resources needed to implement projects – which is exactly the right thing to do.”

DSC_1670This is also a highly complicated subject. Despite tremendous economic growth in CA, Governor Brown and his colleagues in Sacramento have resisted the opportunity to foster public school bonds for new school construction. This is partially due to the adherence of Proposition 98 which has hamstrung many high growth school districts. Furthermore, some school districts have been forced to utilize their previously approved bond monies to fund new construction – as was the case in Dublin with Amador Elementary School. This statistic is in concert with the fact that the City of Dublin has been limited to pursue only Level 2 fees that are contributed by local housing developers. This is a step below the maximum Level 3 fees that can be collected. The removal of the “third leg” to school capital development is what is haunting Dublin today.

To make matters worse, the newly adopted Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) that administers statewide funds to school districts has resulted in a negative impact upon high performing school districts such as DUSD. So, what is left to deal with is the “optimization” of what this school district is facing. It will be necessary to work with what we have. The good news is that there is a collection of school administrators, certificated/classified staff, parents and community members that have been working very hard of the past year to add ideas and to provide oversight.

These issues and others have opened up the opportunity to gather additional members to the DOC. In short, the DOC has been charged with researching demographic changes within Dublin, to examine student populations at all school sites and to breed communication efforts throughout the community. Today, there are multiple opportunities to join the DOC. The deadline to apply for a position is September 18th @ 4:00 PM. The link to the application can be found here. would like to encourage community members to apply for this opportunity which may have a significant impact upon future growth plans relative to our young students. We would also like to thank Ms. McNeely for her contributions to the construct of this profile. The future of DUSD is ahead of all of us. We would encourage all of your to take an active part in its destination.

  1. Gabe permalink
    September 16, 2015 4:00 pm

    You can’t grow a community that much and that fast without understanding the impact it would have on schools. I moved here in 1996 just as Dublin was expanding. There were promises of a new Junior high, Wells was the only one. The homes went up, the school stayed in planning stages, the classrooms at Wells were so full kids sat on the floor. By the time the new school went in my kids were at Dublin high where it was overcrowded, the building was old and falling apart.

    I am not sure we need more retail shops as much as we need our kids to have places to sit. Now we are going through this all over again at the high school, there are more students than the school should have and resources and faculty are stretched thin, last I heard the councilors have at least 500 kids each and can not possibly meet the needs of the children. The school day has been extended in an effort to make sure kids who need extra study time will have it but mostly it is an hour of roaming around or for some lucky kids a two hour lunch period.

    What needs to happen is developers and builders need to be involved in how this growth will take place and be limited to that building until we can be sure we have resources for the schools we will need. City planning has to be sure schools get built before or at the same time as the housing so there isn’t this huge space in time where these kids are impacted negatively.

    Planning makes sure there is plenty of retail opportunity for the new neighbors but the people who have been here have to share schools that are not big enough or equipped to handle this many kids. It is also a little insulting that the schools with better amenities are built for the kids in East Dublin, Wells has hardly caught up. The same will happen when and if we get another high school, by then my youngest will have graduated.

    The success of a community is not how much revenue is generated by strip malls and big box stores it is determined by the overall happiness and well being of its residents, successful schools, safe parks, community involvement and activities, people feeling like this place is their home.

    Dublin went for fast and cheap. The money that went into the high school and other improvements came from measure C, paid for by residents through taxes. Dublin will fast become another overcrowded town of cookie cutter strip malls and worn down neighborhoods, all quickly built to please the influx of consumers instead of a town with substance.

    We don’t need a committee to smooth things over, we need a new high school, we need to halt the building and we need to create higher taxes for new building to pay for the improvements and building of the schools we need. We don’t need a water park, we don’t need anymore franchise places to eat. This was once a small town with a big heart now its a place you pull off on your way to somewhere else to get a burger.

  2. Michael Utsumi permalink
    September 17, 2015 12:08 am

    Gabe, Thank you for your thoughtful reply and comments. Needless to say, the landscape in Dublin has been changing over several years. Perhaps, you may be willing to consider joining the DOC and to add your voice to the discussion as this is one of the few vehicles available to steer the conversation related to student enrollment growth/diversion and the direction that our school district is undertaking. I am confident that your passion on these topics would be welcomed as beacon for positive change.

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