Board support for Hoover project not yet unanimous

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    Board President Terry Godfrey (left) said she supports the Hoover Elementary School renovation project. Photo: Jevan Yu.

    As it tries to reconcile the district’s budget and the school’s apparent need for improved facilities, the Palo Alto Unified School District Board of Education is continuing its debate concerning the Hoover Elementary School renovation project.

    According to Bob Golton, the bond program manager, the budget for the proposal currently sits at $23 million. He said he believes the district has “sufficient” funds for the project.

    Although Board President Terry Godfrey and trustees Jennifer DiBrienza and Melissa Baten Caswell announced at Tuesday’s meeting their support for the project, trustees Todd Collins and Ken Dauber voiced some reservations, citing financial concerns.

    Collins, whose 2016 campaign was based on strong fiscal management, expressed some unease about the project’s price tag. He drew a comparison to the multimillion-dollar construction undertaking at Duveneck — which including a new two-story building — the school board approved in 2011. Now, he said, with declining enrollment at the elementary level, there aren’t enough students to fill these new classrooms.

    Trustee Melissa Baten Caswell rebuked Collins’ comments, saying that the project is not about growing enrollment, but rather about “equity for kids across the district.”

    Over a dozen advocates of the Hoover renovation project were present at the meeting, many of whom were sporting “Happy Hedgie” shirts, a reference to Hoover’s hedgehog mascot. Parents, teachers, the school librarian, and a Hoover student expressed their support for the project during the open forum. They described problems such as three teachers having to share the same room and the inconvenient location of the restrooms.

    Many of them thanked the board for its backing of the project, even though not unanimous. These messages of gratitude coming from elementary school affiliates strikingly contrasted with the criticism often aimed at the board from parents of high school students.

    Collins did, however, note that improvements to Hoover’s campus are long overdue.

    “Hoover is a fantastic school … and it’s definitely Hoover’s turn,” Collins said.

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