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Board discusses new elementary school boundaries

New Dougherty Valley campus now expected to open in fall 2016

As building plans on the new Dougherty Valley elementary school move forward, the San Ramon Valley school district is looking at how to arrange elementary school attendance area boundaries for the new campus and the four existing schools in the area.

At a school-boundary workshop Tuesday evening in Danville, school board members also reviewed options for handling expected enrollment increases in the next two years before the new school is built.

Next year, the district proposes to use some auxiliary classrooms (such as science labs or classrooms for intervention programs) and possibly day care classrooms for general education classes. Various options were discussed for academic year 2015-16.

The district currently expects construction of the new Dougherty Valley school to be finished in spring 2016, with the campus opening that fall.

District officials originally eyed a fall 2015 opening, but recent changes to the construction schedule forced officials to push out the opening date, said Terry Koehne, San Ramon Valley Unified School District spokesman.

"Our original hope was to open for 2015-16, but that's just not realistic," Koehne said in a follow-up interview this week. "And to open a school midyear (spring 2016) is just really problematic."

District officials anticipate construction to start in June at the new school site, located in a currently undeveloped portion of the burgeoning Dougherty Valley community in eastern San Ramon, approximately half a mile southwest of the Dougherty Station Community Center and Library.

Board members said Tuesday that it was important to get feedback from affected parents and the community before finalizing plans to change school boundaries.

"I would like to bring our community along with us to have a deeper understanding of the issue," said Board Vice President Denise Jennison.

Board members asked staff to plan two board meetings on the issue at a high school to accommodate the large number of people they expect to attend. These will be held in June, and at least one will likely be in addition to the regularly scheduled board meetings.

Prior to these meetings, the district also plans to hold community meetings. Feedback gathered there will be considered when finalizing a staff proposal to the board. They are scheduled for:

* Tuesday, May 13, 7-8:30 p.m. at Live Oak Elementary School in San Ramon.

* Thursday, May 15, 7-8:30 p.m. at Quail Run Elementary School in San Ramon.

Board members also asked staff to put information about the proposed changes on the district website, including boundary maps. Board member Mark Jewett asked that staff include new maps that are blown up enough to clearly show streets and natural or other barriers to help people better understand why boundaries are drawn the way they are.

Grappling with how best to accommodate rising enrollment in the elementary schools presents challenges. Not only are future enrollment projections moving targets, but the district must balance between goals such as placing students at their neighborhood (or "home" school) and maximizing facility usage at each site.

Gary Black, assistant superintendent for facilities and operations, said Tuesday he would keep the board apprised of enrollment revisions as they develop.

The district expects that about 250 children, or about one-third of the new school's students, will come from homes not yet built in the Dougherty Valley, but would be occupied between 2016 and whenever the development is completed, explained Black.

About 310 students would come from neighborhoods within the present Live Oak attendance boundaries and roughly 200 from within those of Quail Run.

For the academic year 2014-15, district staff proposed:

* Keeping all Dougherty Valley transitional kindergarten (TK) students at Coyote Creek

* Using some auxiliary classrooms for general education purposes

* Continuing progress toward class size reduction to a 24:1 student-teacher ratio

* Using day care classrooms, as necessary, in a shared-use arrangement.

The district staff presented three options for academic year 2015-16:

* Option 1 would place new students where space is available and continue past practice of diverting within or outside the Dougherty Valley, while maximizing facility usage and using day care classrooms as necessary

* Option 2 would include Option 1 measures, but also allow grades TK-3 classrooms to have 26 students.

* Option 3 would add six additional relocatable classrooms, with their distribution amongst the different school sites to be determined.

Options 1 and 2 would cost the district for adding teachers and support staff at the school sites and possibly the loss of some lease revenue if day care facilities are used. For Option 3, the district would pay for added staff and $510,000 for the relocatable classrooms.

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