SLV School District Perspectives


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Analysis and Discussion


School Closure - Key Points - South District

There were a lot of pros and cons for keeping both schools open. Here is a summary of the important differentiating issues (the ones that where the two schools were found to be different), taken from the School Closure Committee Report. Note that the following was as of March of 2003.

When reading these lists, I think it's vital to realize that not all issues are equally important. I mention this because in the course of evaluating the various factors about the schools, numerical ratings were assigned to the schools on many issues. These types of ratings are useful in comparing on each individual factor, however, it's not very helpful to use such ratings to make comparisons between issues. An example is the transportation evaluation in the northern area. While both schools had their positives and negatives, many committee members felt strongly that overall commute time, bus route complexity, and number of displaced students were much more important factors than ease of pickup and drop-off. Therefore adding up the numbers of each of the issues only muddies the waters - it's truly like trying to add apples and oranges. Decisions on complex issues, unfortunately, can't often be reduced to adding up columns of figures. For that reason, I'm not including the numbers in my listing of the issues.

Key points that carried a lot of weight with the committee and/or board are asterisked. Some of these were written in the report, while others are from my notes of what committee members and board members said.

A. Facilities

* 1. San Lorenzo Elementary has a slightly larger classroom capacity than Quail Hollow Elementary. SLE needs to replace three of its current portables, and to add three more to accommodate the extra students. Four of these could come from Quail. Quail would need two extras to accommodate students. So, all in all, with either option we'd need to lease two portables.

* 2. Play areas - Quail Hollow has a total of 92,711 square feet, with about 60% of that being grass. SLE - has 76,590 square feet, with about 2/3 of that paved. SLE has more sand area.

* 3. The quality of the permanent classrooms at SLE is good, whereas there were more concerns with the condition of the permanent classrooms at Quail, and the fact that even after the renovation, eleven portables would remain, including six older portables. At SLE, five portables will remain after renovation.

4. There is more room to add portables at Quail.

5. SLE has a large library, which is due to be renovated.

* 6. Parking - SLE has a large parking lot, but overflow is farther away. Quail has a tiny parking lot, but a lot of overflow parking on the street, although this means walking up and down the hill.

7. Pickup/Dropoff - see safety section

8. MP room - SLE's MP room is new.

9. Community Use - SLE's MP gets more use - outside areas at both are used by the community, although the large playing fields at Quail are a special plus and used extensively by community sports leagues.

10. Technology infrastructure lacking at Quail.

11. Quail has phone and intercom in each room. SLE has intercom in each room, and money to install phones.

12. Layout was cited as "pro" for SLE, but not Quail, which has 18 portable classrooms out of 28.

Quote from Facilities Report:

"...although it is our recommendation to have SLE remain the elementary school site for the future, it is our decision to recommend that we temporarily house the Quail Hollow."

B. Safety

* 1. Pick-up and drop-off raised concerns at both sites. SLE has no crossing guard at Highway 9, and traffic backs up in the driveway and sometimes onto Highway 9 (in the bike lane). The situation in the parking lot is sometimes chaotic. On the other hand, unofficial dropoff sites at the Jr. High and church relieve congestion in the main areas, and the traffic pattern can be smooth if people follow it. SLE also has wide covered outside walkways.

At Quail Hollow, the main concerns are the steep stairs which most children use unsupervised, and access by car during storms (see point below about exit). On the other hand, Quail is not on a main artery, so traffic isn't much of an issue.

* 2. SLE has 2 street exits and 2 off-street exits, however, Highway 9 becomes backed-up and traffic snarled. Big concern with QH only having one street exit, and that that exit is steep and has a large berm in it, causing inbound traffic to use the left (outbound) lane. (This last was a major negative point about QH, and came up in several different contexts.)

3. SLE has evidence of mold and mildew in some portables.

4. SLE has "non-conforming slope " (non-handicapped accessible, I think this means) and some uneven blacktop.

* 5. The examination of Quail revealed a number of "red flags" including weaknesses in wood retaining walls, some exposed conduits, and the location of bus barn and gas tanks.

6. 12 classrooms at SLE and 8 at QH only have one exit.

7. QH has no peepholes in classroom doors. A little over half of SLE's do.

8. SLE is at low risk for floods, fires, and slides. For the most part, also true of QH, however it is in the flood plain for Loch Lomond -the impact of this is unknown.

9. QH has many stairs and very uneven surfaces which limits accessibility.

* 10. Emergency Response Time - QH is within 3 miles of both the Zayante and Ben Lomond fire stations. SLE is within a mile of emergency services. Both have helicopter landing space. The district nurse on the SLE campus. Traffic on Highway 9 could impact SLE emergency response, though this has not been a problem to date. QH does not have the capacity to do an "all-call" to classrooms, while SLE does have this capacity.

C. Transportation

There were not as many differentiators in this group.

*1. Busing would be more complex at SLE. Lompico and Zayante students currently go to Quail Hollow without having to go on Highway 9. Also, since there are more walkers at QH, more students would ride the bus if SLE remained open. The bus turnaround area at QH is tight.

*2. Major concern about increased traffic on Highway 9 if SLE remained open. On the other hand, SLE has easy access from Highway 9, the light at the high school helps regulate the flow, and the school and can be accessed from either of the other two schools or the neighborhood behind the school. Quail impacts a residential neighborhood rather than a main artery. Pickup and dropoff concerns, as well as parking and the single problematic exit at QH have been covered under safety.

3. There was great concern over safety for the few children who walk along Highway 9 without supervision.

D. Financial Implications

This is from the report for all four schools:

"The operating fund budget crisis caused by declining enrollment has necessitated this action.

The amount of operating fund savings of closing a school is not a function of which school is closed.

The differential operating fund costs of the elementary schools is only marginally different, and not a significant factor.

It is virtually impossible to meaningfully ascribe relative value to the subsequent alternate uses of the various facilities.

Regarding renovations from the Measure S Bond, this is important in considering the "big picture" of district finances and the allocation of scarce resources. It should not, however, be confused with annual operating budget implications.

Other Factors

One more factor doesn't really fall into the any of the above categories, but was mentioned frequently in the course of discussion:

SLE being close to the Jr. High and High Schools, benefits from "cross-fertilization". Some advanced sixth graders can take math in the Junior High, and older students can get experience teaching younger children, to the benefit of both.

In the end, the School Closure Committee voted to recommend keeping SLE open, but that the board should strongly consider having the students spend the first two years at Quail Hollow during construction. This would also allow the Junior High to use the SLE building during this time.