School Board to search for location to build a fourth middle school

Parker Devine and Amanda Carlsson

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Supt. Kevin Skelly and the PAUSD School Board discuss preliminary research on a new middle school in the district. Skelly is in his sixth year as Superintendent and if the project is carried through, it will be one of his biggest yet.[Parker Devine]

The Palo Alto Unified School District will begin preliminary searches for a location for a new middle school following a school board meeting held Tuesday, Aug. 21.

Superintendent Kevin Skelly proposed the act to begin the search for a new location for a fourth middle school in response to “growing enrollment from students from K-12 and experiencing squeezes in all levels.”

According to student representative Anthony Villanueva, “This year’s freshmen class is Paly’s largest yet with over 500 students.” Both Palo Alto high schools will be filled beyond capacity by 2030 if the current rate of enrollment continues its steady increase.

One of the locations discussed is the district-owned Cubberley Community Center located on Middlefield Rd. The community center’s lease is up for renewal in 2014, which gives the board time to consider the possibility of building the middle school there.

However, Skelly listed disadvantages to the Cubberley location.

“Loss of the ongoing seven million dollar revenue from Cubberley’s lease would require major structural cuts to PAUSD education,” Skelly said. “Also, we need to keep the option to reopen Cubberley sometime in the future as a third comprehensive high school to meet enrollment projections.”

Board member Melissa Baten Caswell suggested a combination high school that would include both a middle school and a high school on one site, claiming that it would “have unforeseen benefits to students.”

To carry out the search, the board will “identify future community uses [of Cubberley] and examine its capacity” and “research ways to pay for those things and future actions regarding the schools,” Skelly said.

Palo Alto High School Junior Rajiv Vasudevan said the change “would certainly help the overcrowding dilemma that afflicts our school district but dozens of sports groups that meet there would have to find another place to meet.”