With student enrollment projected to rise by 8 percent within a decade, the Menlo Park City School District is starting to urgently consider larger class sizes, another campus and even a change in school boundaries to accommodate the growth.
One option -- to expand onto the former O'Connor School campus at 275 Elliott Drive -- would require the district to move quickly. To make that site available in time for the 2014-2015 school year, the district by April 10 would have to notify the private German-American International School that now leases it to find another home, according to Superintendent Maurice Ghysels. The district will receive $336,930 from the lease this fiscal year.
This month, the district is holding meetings with parents to discuss the options being contemplated. Already, student enrollment at one middle and three elementary schools has reached 2,798, or 40 percent higher than in 2000.
During a meeting Wednesday at Oak Knoll School attended by about 20 parents, Ahmad Sheikholeslami, the district's director of facility planning and construction, said all choices would flow from the decision about whether to open a new school at O'Connor.
"Either going forward with that or not ... everything else is a subset of those two options," Sheikholeslami said.
Without a fifth campus, the district might have to increase class sizes. "Then the schools would become really large," Sheikholeslami said.
As a result, Encinal
Or the district could add more classrooms by bringing in portables or building second stories, Sheikholeslami said. "There's a couple of ways of doing it, but you'd still be at large schools. This probably would be the least expensive one. We'd keep the O'Connor revenue. If the enrollment (projections) doesn't pan out, we're OK."
If O'Connor is added to the mix, the district would have options in assigning students among four elementary schools, School Board President Terry Thygesen said. For example, one campus could be designated for a specific magnet program such as language immersion or science and technology to "draw enrollment off existing campuses."
Another idea is for the district to create a K-5 school between two campuses with O'Connor taking the fourth and fifth grades from nearby Laurel School, which would keep the lower grades.
Thygesen said such a hybrid school arrangement would provide "a school community that stays intact. ... The downside is you're doing it at two campuses."
If O'Connor is reopened, some buildings would have to be modernized and others added. The school has no library or music room, Thygesen said, and the cost to upgrade likely would be comparable to "building a new school." That means a bond measure would have to be approved, she added.
District residents currently pay an annual $743 parcel tax for schools.
When pressed by parents, Sheikholeslami estimated about $25 million might be needed for the new facilities.
After the meeting, Ghysels emphasized that no direction has been set.
"We're on a listening campaign right now," the superintendent said.
The final parent meeting for this month has been scheduled for Tuesday at Encinal School, 195 Encinal Ave., at 8:45 a.m.