EDITOR: Planning for the future and building for the future are
two distinctly different endeavors. As my worthy and learned
critic, Bill Keig, suggests, it would indeed be desirable to work
20 years ahead. However, the five-year time frame that is often
referred to is the limit of the district
’s own projections.

Planning for the future and building for the future are two distinctly different endeavors. As my worthy and learned critic, Bill Keig, suggests, it would indeed be desirable to work 20 years ahead. However, the five-year time frame that is often referred to is the limit of the district’s own projections. In the words of Assistant Superintendent Bonnie Branco, projecting ahead farther than five years is subject to so many variables that the accuracy of such projections becomes meaningless.

Recent history whole-heartedly supports the assistant superintendent. A little over five years ago, this district was engaged in the political campaign to pass a school bond. During that campaign, many informational tidbits were exchanged that bear great similarities to Mr. Keig’s suggestions. Mr. Keig predicts up to 45,000 students in the Coyote Valley, (our district’s current size is closer to 9,000) as well as at least a 50 percent increase in building costs if Sobrato is not completed by 2008.

Likewise, over five years ago, our district leaders looked into their crystal ball and proclaimed that if Sobrato wasn’t approved then we would be in real trouble. Live Oak would be on double sessions within two years and costs would so escalate that future bonds would have to ask for millions more to complete Sobrato. The administration even went so far as to proclaim that in five years, Live Oak and Sobrato would be so crowded that we would then be occupied with building a third high school.

What seemed like sure predictions of the future now five years later reveal themselves as statements designed for political expediency. Not only have those event failed to occur, but data indicating declining enrollment trends are now known to have extended back beyond the bond campaign. Luckily, building costs have actually gone down, saving the district millions (which will no doubt be needed to settle eminent domain costs due to poor planning).

Five years from now, the economy may recover. Cisco and San Jose may look to Coyote Valley, a housing boom may begin that will quintuple the size of the school district, and we may be scrambling to build schools. Five years from now a Catholic high school may cut our 9-12 enrollment needs in half, continuing economic woes may inhibit growth, or terrorist attacks may render the grouping of children into schools completely intolerable. Like the IBM commercial says, there is no crystal ball.

That is why this community needs to plan for the future while restraining building projects to current needs. Sobrato should be built, (assuming persistent land, water, sewer and utility issues can be resolved). However, flexibility and responsiveness to current needs must be maintained while determining the scope of operational plan for Sobrato. The only plan to date is to operate Sobrato as a comprehensive high school – the most expensive option. (Other options might include continuation, vocational, satellite, or specialty schools of some other type).

It would be fiscally irresponsible to build and operate a second comprehensive high school. The plans for Sobrato include space for 2,500 students but current enrollment only requires capacity for around 500. Building plans need to be scaled back to match the need, leaving room for other buildings as enrollment grows. Live Oak’s current capacity is 2000, its current enrollment is 1,611. Add to those 680 ninth graders for a current 9-12 enrollment of 2,291 (which is consistent with projected 9-12 enrollment needs of about 2400 through the year 2008 – but a fully completed Sobrato and Live Oak would have a capacity of more than 4,000). Why the recent “Our Schools” newsletter indicates Live Oak’s current as 1800 remains a mystery if not a hint at the ethical challenges that continue to face the district.

Potential growth from new housing would carry with it additional funding for school building. If 30,000 new homes appear in Coyote Valley as Mr. Keig suggests, hundreds of millions of dollars in Mello-Roos and impact fees will be generated.

Those future dollars should fund future building for future students. Our current dollars should fund current needs for current residents who are currently paying the bill. Community priority should be to fully complete Live Oak while building as much of Sobrato as is absolutely needed and affordable. Likewise, it should be an ethical priority to spend $9.2 million in state modernization funds recently approved for Live Oak on Live Oak, rather than diverting them to Sobrato. Approval of all building plans for Live Oak should at least accompany if not precede any approval of Sobrato eminent domain resolutions.

Urgent and active exploration is needed to develop alternative operational plans for Sobrato. Meeting student needs while controlling the costs associated with a second comprehensive high school deserves attention that is past due – such planning must go hand and hand with the building process. Regardless of the current economy, duplicating expenses is not justifiable until enrollment improves greatly. In the meantime, the district must continue to plan for the future without over committing in structural facilities. Securing future school sites that can be rapidly developed as required would be far more prudent than building more classrooms than are currently needed.

Glen Webb,

Live Oak High teacher,

Morgan Hill

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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