Measure N addresses LASD class sizes

On the November 4 ballot, voters in the Los Altos School District (LASD) will be able to vote for or against Measure N. If the measure receives 55 percent or more of the vote, it will pass and give LASD the power to spend up to $150 million to expand and upgrade their elementary and middle school facilities. Proponents state that the measure is needed to relieve overcrowding due to an influx of students into the district. Opponents argue that the measure does not have a set plan for what the money will be used for and does not give voters a say in the money’s usage.
One factor of the influx of students is the high property values that have risen in part (API) scores of public schools in Los Altos, both in LASD and in the Mountain View Los Altos (MVLA) School District .
Measure N was created from both this increased enrollment and from a modernization effort which seeks to add to and renovate existing school sites while making them more energy efficient. Phase One of the measure, which called for the modernization of all district buildings, was completed between 2000 and 2008. Though the district has completed Phase One of the effort, Phase Two requires more money and a new bond to be passed. They hope this new bond will be Measure N.
Supporters of the measure argue that it will help keep local schools small. The number of students in LASD schools has grown by 1,129 since 2004, creating levels of enrollment that have not been surpassed since the 1970s.
“[The bottom line is] it’s going to create more spaces for students to learn,” LASD Superintendent Jeff Baier said.
Advocates also contend that a higher number of students will dampen LASD’s image as a district renowned for having small schools.
Elena Shea, a supporter of Measure N, is the president of the Huttlinger Alliance for Education, a non-profit, volunteer-run organization which promotes public schools in Los Altos.
“Schools are a big reason that many families move to Los Altos, so it is important to keep our schools strong by supporting Measure N,” Shea said.
Opposition to the measure, represented by the “No on Measure N” website, argues that it will raise taxes unnecessarily and that the money could be used for anything.
“Voters should demand a detailed plan for how the funds will be used, what and where facilities will be built and how facilities will be used,” the oppositional statement on the “No on Measure N” website says. “This bond contains no plan for how its $150 million will relieve overcrowding.”
There is speculation that the money will be used to build a permanent site for Bullis Charter School (BCS), a school with which LASD recently signed a five-year provision that creates an agreement about facilities between the two parties.
“The agreement requires BCS and LASD to work together to help pass Measure N to secure a long-term facility for BCS,” a statement on the “Yes on Measure N” website says.
Though the district does contend that finding a permanent site for BCS is a top priority, the measure does not confirm or deny those suspicions and treats BCS the same as the other nine LASD schools.
If the measure is passed, the LASD school board will appoint an oversight committee to ensure that the board’s planned actions with the money follow the lines for it outlined in the measure. Though the oversight committee will be appointed by the board, by California law, members of the committee have to represent certain groups of people, such as senior citizens and owners of businesses within district lines.
The expected influx into LASD that is fueling Measure N will also impact the MVLA district and its high schools: Los Altos, Mountain View and Alta Vista.
MVLA expects 150 more students per class for the next few years. Though MVLA Superintendent Barry Groves believes that the new students will come from all over the district and feed into the three schools equally, the district has already built 12 new classrooms at Los Altos High and Mountain View High and has passed a bond to create space for the increased number of students.
Overall, Groves does not think a larger number of students will have a profound impact on MVLA schools, in part because of the new classrooms the district has constructed at both high schools.
“I don’t think [a larger number of students will affect schools] very much,” Groves said. “As a percentage of the total number of students, it is not very high.”