District will keep Alameda, Encinal high schools

District will keep Alameda, Encinal high schools

Michele Ellson
Historic Alameda High School

The school district is keeping Alameda and Encinal high schools open, instead of building a single, new school to house all of the two schools’ students.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to focus its efforts – and Measure I bond money – on fixing up its existing high schools, rather that embarking on a quest for the money and property that they’d need to find in order to make the dream of new, single high school a reality.

“With the $90 million we have, we are going to get two very nice campuses,” school board trustee Gary Lym said.

Some community members have advocated for a single high school, saying that building one could address historic inequities between Alameda’s two comprehensive high schools and erase divisions between the east and west ends of the Island. Proponents also said students deserve a state of the art school.

But Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said it would cost the district up to $275 million to build a new high school – money the district doesn’t have and won’t be able to request from voters for another eight to 10 years. The district also doesn’t have a location that’s big enough for a new school.

“If you gave me a check for $300 million, I would build it for you,” McPhetridge said. “But we don’t have the money, we don’t have the time, (and) we don’t have the space.”

Designing and building a new school would take another eight years, for a total of 16 to 18 years – long after even today’s kindergartners will graduate from Alameda schools.

Schools leaders included $90 million for high schools in the Measure I bond, which voters approved in November. But they held off on deciding how to spend the money in order to talk to the community about whether Alameda should retain its existing high schools or create a single new one.

The district held community meetings in January and February to discuss the future of high schools here and conducted an online poll. The vast majority of people who participated in the meetings and the poll said they’d like to keep the Island’s two high schools open.

Alameda High educates 1,746 students on a 12.9-acre site, while Encinal High serves 1,052 students on 21.9 acres. School board members have set aside $44 million to renovate Alameda High and $39.5 million for Encinal High.

Projects the district expects to perform at Alameda High include structurally upgrading and modernizing Historic Alameda High School, creating new science labs, upgrading the school’s outdoor areas, modernizing Larry Patton Gym – and removing the safety fence lining the perimeter of the historic high school campus.

At Encinal High, the district plans to build a new, two-story classroom wing and reconfigure its existing classroom wings; renovate its science classrooms; upgrade its locker rooms and improve its outdoor areas.

Board member Philip Hu said he thinks the money can help the district transform schools to make them more desirable.

“Clearly a lot of the passions run deep,” Hu said. “But I think a lot of things change as we start to change schools.”

McPhetridge said he thinks the equity issues raised by community members can be addressed without a new school.

“We have work to do on both sites. But I think we can address these equity issues more economically at two sites,” he said.

Separately, board president Barbara Kahn asked her dais-mates to consider changing the order the district performs schools upgrades and fixes to be paid for with bond money. As it stands now, the district will perform all of the work planned for its elementary schools before moving on to the high schools.

The board agreed to ask district staff to offer recommendations on the order work should be performed at schools, which could mean some high school projects are performed sooner than now planned.

“We can bring back a hybrid plan if the board tells us to do it,” McPhetridge said.

The heads of two of the district’s unions and a parent at one school said they’d like the district’s top priority for bond projects to be safety, following a vandalism incident on February 13 at Bay Farm School and a trespassing incident Monday at Edison Elementary School.

Police reportedly arrested a 27-year-old Vallejo man on Monday after he allegedly trespassed on the Edison campus and attempted to rob two employees and pull one of the employees off campus. Police said the man appeared agitated and disoriented and that they believe he was on drugs; schools officials said they placed the campus on lockdown.

Alameda Education Association president Audrey Hyman said many Edison school staffers were shaken up by Monday’s incident. She wants the district to make school safety and security its bond funding top priority.

“We need to do something to protect our employees, and to make them feel assured that we are not taking for granted what is happening at their sites,” Hyman said.

McPhetridge said the district intends to address school security concerns.

“Sadly, the world is changing,” he said Tuesday. “To keep our students safe, we need to be like other modern schools and put fences around our campuses to keep out unwanted intruders.”

Comments

Jon Spangler's picture
Submitted by Jon Spangler on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

The school board's decision re: our high schools was the only rational option available. Alameda simply does not have the extra money--about $150 million--to purchase the land and construct a new single high school...

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

Yes, I agree with Jon. $300 million! It's a little like, "AUSD announced today that it will not be sending a manned mission to Mars."

Submitted by Bara W (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

Agreed - but they still should consider some of the very creative ideas offered up in the community input process, such as unifying the two high schools and splitting the student body into Freshman/Sophomore on one campus and Junior/Senior on the other campus. It would more equally spread the opportunities and advantages of each high school campus/program, and help even out the most glaring inequities, creating a more unified community overall.

Submitted by David (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

The de facto socio-economic and racial segregation within Alameda's school system will remain.

If AUSD was at all serious about considering this issue (I believe they never were...) they would have put it in Measure I in November, instead of putting in lip service language ("we'll study the issue...") as they did.

Submitted by BMac (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

A little disappointed that the Superintendant feels the need to build fences around all of our schools. Hopefully that gets discussed and deliberated more fully than just going into a reactionary, overly fearful series of steps.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

I agree with B Mac. Re:

"The heads of two of the district’s unions and a parent at one school said they’d like the district’s top priority for bond projects to be safety, following a vandalism incident on February 13 at Bay Farm Elementary School and a trespassing incident Monday at Edison Elementary School."

Really? The top priority is now safety because a couple of incidents that could have happened anywhere?

I think the "top priority" should reflect the biggest gap between reality and excellence. That would have to be an excellent education for our children. Not solar panels, not fences, not political indoctrination and not administration feather bedding to name a few competing agendas.

Submitted by 10dB (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

Single high school in two buildings is easy -- 9th and 10th grades in, say, Encinal and 11th and 12th in Alameda...

Submitted by Steve Gerstle on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

If we cannot have one high school in order to avoid the "other side of the tracks" syndrome, then how about doing away with attendance boundaries and giving everyone free choice and equal access?

Submitted by trendy (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

I won't think Single high school in two buildings is easy.

Think about one end of bay farm kid commute all the way to Encinal on the other end of the island, before 8AM work day, while fighting with the local traffic. How many time, how many traffic, how many speedy parents would involve. The school line bus wont reach Encinal by 8am in fact and not in a walkabout distance unless you live by the main street.

Submitted by MJ (not verified) on Wed, Feb 25, 2015

How about we work with what we have? Fix em up. You know.

Submitted by Laura (not verified) on Fri, Feb 27, 2015

Regarding police arrest at Edison:

Police reportedly arrested a 27-year-old Vallejo man on Monday after he allegedly trespassed on the Edison campus and attempted to rob two employees and pull one of the employees off campus. Police said the man appeared agitated and disoriented and that they believe he was on drugs; schools officials said they placed the campus on lockdown.

I am a neighbor and I am concerned. A few of us watch the arrest with shock and awe but while it was happening one neighbor told us that the very same man had belligerently been knocking on their door in the middle of the night and screaming for his friend whom he thought lived there. Feeling threatened, her husband pointed a gun at the guy and screamed at him to leave. But then a few hours later this guy wreaks havoc on the school but why did this happen? Didn't the neighbors call the police after being woken up and threatened enough to brandish a firearm at the guy? Did they ever tell the police? Do the Edison parents who are asking for new funding towards increasing the school's security know that an across the street neighbor will brandish a gun when threatened but then maybe not report it? There is a big disconnect here and the implications could be important to a variety of municipal/personal interests.

Submitted by dj (not verified) on Fri, Feb 27, 2015

I see no mention of the students coming with the development. If you combine the two high schools and throw in a number more from the new area, you end up with an Alameda version of Logan High, where so much opportunity is limited by stiffling competition. The 'good school, bad school' will disappear with the addition of hundreds of high end housing units on the west side. There are no bad schools or good schools. There are higher achieving and lower achieving students due, in great part, to economics.

Submitted by David Johnson (not verified) on Fri, Feb 27, 2015

Ask Washington for the money, it seams there is no shortage of spending there!

Submitted by KD (not verified) on Sun, Mar 1, 2015

Yes the new housing is going to bring new kids. Developers get away with building an elementary school only, but no secondary. Look at Fremont: all the high schools are bursting at the seams and they just approved two new developments. The current board and supt just kick that can down the road.

Bully Gold Coasters like Spangler don't want those Encinal types coming into their neighborhood any way.