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Update on use of old Yerba Buena site

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Synopsis

As you probably know, Yerba Buena Elementary moved to its new home about a week ago. Previously, Yerba Buena Elementary (YB) was located immediately next to Lindero Canyon Middle School (LCMS) which is now the oldest (un-renovated) facility in the Las Virgenes School District.

The plan has long been for LCMS to go through an extensive, multi-year renovation that realistically could start towards the end of the 2007-08 school year. In the interim, LCMS was hoping to make use of the extra space to get some "breathing room" until construction started, but that may be changing. The district is seriously considering locating the new Community Learning Center (most people have called this the "charter school") at the old YB campus. Prior to that, most believed it was being located at AE Wright.

The below gives an overview of how the renovation will proceed, the effects already seen now that YB has moved, the upcoming new school, and where it may be located.

Full Article

History

First, let's do a bit of history on both YB and LCMS. The completion and move in of the new Yerba Buena Elementary has been a very long time coming. The project ran into a wide variety of problems over a long span of time.

As anyone who has toured Lindero Canyon Middle School will tell you, even though the school is not at it's highest student population levels right now, LCMS is very stressed for space, and the facility itself is clearly the most "run down" and need of updating in the district.

If you aren't familiar with LCMS, it's amazing how much they accomplish with a facility this run down. For example, the band program wins a constant stream of awards, and the drama productions are amazing ... both accomplished without the school having a multi-purpose room (not a small one, but NO multi-purpose room -- instead, they use the gym).

The buildings very clearly show their age as the oldest campus (without updating) in the entire district. As you walk through the campus, you can see the uneven hardscape ... not to mention "potholes" in the grass. Many of the buildings have ventilation "contraptions" outside the classrooms that almost look like mad-scientist experiments. And, they are so crammed for space, that even in the principal's office, boxes are stacked because of lack of storage.

Maybe most horrific is the proliferation of cockroaches in the bathrooms, and to some extent even in the classrooms and offices.

That's the bad news.

The Future Renovation

The good news is that the district is well aware of LCMS' status, and has long declared it as its highest priority to update. Furthermore, Measure G (passed in June 2006) gave the district the monies needed for the LCMS upgrade. In fact, this is one of the priority uses of the Measure G funds.

LCMS renovation planning has been talked about for years. But, the project really started to move forward after Measure G was passed in June 2006. After that, the architectural firm was hired, and things were able to really start moving forward.

In a presentation last Fall, district representatives showed interested parents and the community surrounding LCMS preliminary drawings and concepts for the LCMS upgrade. At that time, the district anticipated the earliest start of construction would be August, 2007 -- this summer. Of course, that was barring any unforeseen delays or issues ... and that was clearly stated at the time.

Since then, the district has been working with the School Board, architects and Citizen's Construction Oversight Advisory Committee (CCOAC). The CCOAC is made up of those in the community (many of which with high end expertise in architecture, construction, etc...). There's been a continual stream of new requests, changes, revisions, and so on. That process has definitely not gone as smoothly as hoped, and has definitely taken longer than expected, but realistically, this delay has not been significant in the scheme of things. In short, these D&D delays happened simply in an effort to make the project better, at the request of the key parties, and with the desire to keep appropriate quality control. In addition, the time line has started to take lot more concrete shape.

The good news is that this "Design and Development" phase (aka layout or design plans) are now nearly complete with only a few details remaining to finish. Once approved by the Board, hopefully in the next month or so, the architects and engineers create detailed construction plans from these layouts. That will likely take 2 months. The architect has created a scale model of the Lindero renovation, which will soon be available for parents and other interested parties to look at.

Every school construction project that involves a structure -- whether large or small -- is overseen by the state. The Division of the State Architect (DSA) provides design and construction oversight for the K-12 schools and community colleges within California. DSA approval, if all goes well and doesn't require a lot of modification, takes 3-6 months. If changes are required, the resubmitted changes are processed more quickly ... usually within days (depending on scope).

Once DSA approval is acquired, the project goes to bid. Figure it will take 6-8 weeks for the bids to come in. The district reviews those, and then the Board votes on it. Figure a month for that. Once the contractor is selected, construction can proceed about a month after that.

No construction can proceed prior to DSA approval, but it is possible to begin demolition and bulk grading. History in this district has shown that sometimes this is a good idea, and sometimes it's a bad idea. So, proceeding early with demo/grading is something that will have to be carefully weighed/considered.

In the end, the district's Project Manager, Don Blake, is still anticipating that construction will begin at Lindero in the 2007/08 school year. With the above time line, it would be completely unrealistic to think that this will start construction within 2007 calendar.

The Effects on LCMS of YB Moving Away

Until about a week ago, LCMS has been intending to use its newly found "breathing room" once YB moved out. This isn't something that LCMS and the district have discussed, but to most people it seemed like a natural conclusion that Lindero would be able to use at least some of the old YB space. While nothing has been decided for sure, the types of things that LCMS has been thinking to do includes a variety of things, such as:


  • using the old YB multi-purpose room (LCMS doesn't currently have one)
  • moving remote classrooms to be closer to the other classrooms
  • moving from split lunch periods to a single unified lunch period
  • parking overflow and relief of parking/traffic congestion
  • storage
  • offices for staff that in less practical locations

Even without taking advantage of the space, many of the school staff, teachers, students and parents felt a genuine "pressure relief" on the very first day of school after YB moved. There are those that feel that the school was "due" this relief after so many years of delay in building the new YB campus.

The first day of school after YB moved to its new home, it was clear that traffic, parking ... and most noticeably, the noise level of Lindero was much better.

The Upcoming Community Learning Center (aka "charter school")

First, let's be clear: the Community Learning Center (CLC) is NOT a charter school. A charter school has a very specific definition, which includes where revenues flow to. The CLC is a new program within the Las Virgenes School District, and is considered an alternative elementary education program, and a "school of choice". In other words, it's a school that space permitting, anyone in the district can apply to.

Normally, a new school like this would take a couple of years to get going, but due to pressures of losing revenue if the school went "charter," the School Board voted in February to move it ahead. The CLC, headed by Dr. Brenda Harari, is now slated to open in Fall 2007. And, instead of the original 100 students, the CLC will now have approximately 200 full time students (about 100 of which coming from outside the district), and another 100 students that will be home schooled and attend the school a couple of days a week. Parents of each child need to volunteer at least 5 hours per week.

While no final determination has been made yet as to needs, CLC will need at least 9 classrooms, but there's a good chance that will become more, and it doesn't include administrative or other space needed. Not knowing the needs is part of the reason to temporarily locate it at the old YB -- to give time to better assess the longer term needs. At the CLC, people should expect a classroom density (e.g., teacher/student ratio) that is lower from the typical neighborhood school.

Students from throughout the district will attend the CLC. In other words, where most schools have students grouped by geographic area (aka a neighborhood school), parents will drive the CLC students to the school from all over the district. Remembering that the district spans from Westlake Village to Calabasas, the CLC has been slated to have its permanent home at AE Wright -- which is geographically the center of the district.

While the CLC is a relatively small number of students, because of the volunteers, the part time students, and that most kids would be driven to school, it's reasonable to figure that it has a greater traffic/parking impact than a neighborhood school. In this case, and it's anyone's guess, the CLC with 200 full time students is going to be anywhere from half to full impact of the old YB with 400 students.

While the program is likely to grow, it's not likely to grow very large as the structure for the program is very different from a neighborhood school. In other words, it's always likely to be limited in size. That said, most people are expecting grades levels to be added each year.

CLC at AE Wright or LCMS

Ok ... so this was all interesting, but what's different this week?

This week, the district informed LCMS that it is seriously considering placing the CLC at the old YB site as an interim solution. Again, AE Wright is really geographically central for the district, but with the expanded CLC capacity, AE Wright needs either temporary classrooms, trailers, or permanent construction to handle the CLC classrooms. The trailers can be done with probably a month's notice, but the modular classrooms, and the permanent construction take longer and both require DSA approval. In addition, it would need play equipment and grass areas suitable for K-5 (remember, AE Wright is a middle school -- so it has different types of play areas).

As background, AE Wright once had close to 2000 students on campus, but with the completion of Alice C. Stelle Middle School in Calabasas, a great deal of space became available. In fact, the state considered AE Wright to have a "catastrophic drop in student population". Since then, the AE Wright itself has taken advantage of some of the extra space, and there are a number of other district special uses of that space. This is just one of the reasons why AE Wright is considered as an option for the CLC in the long term.

The upside of CLC being at the old YB site, from the district point of view, is VERY clear. With the old YB site being vacant, the district can take the time to create/allocate facilities in the best way possible at AE Wright or elsewhere. This may make the most sense for the district, CLC and AE Wright, from a financial and a practical point of view.

The downside of this approach is also clear, and is primarily for LCMS. LCMS has long been looking forward to the reprieve from the cramped space, the traffic/parking congestion, and to start the construction as soon as possible.

Don Blake is contracted by the district as a construction manager. He's the one who worked very, very hard to get the new YB done before the summer, and has many people crediting him for a great job on YB. Don has been asked by the Superintendent to assess whether locating the CLC at the old YB will have any impact on the construction time line for LCMS. And, if it does, then CLC will not be located at the old YB.

The LVUSD Superintendent has directed, in writing, "that under no circumstances can this program delay the Lindero construction work." That said, there are many at LCMS that are concerned that having the CLC at the old YB site will "take the pressure" off constructing LCMS as quickly as possible. Even if not overtly the case, many are concerned that attitudes could become more lax and that could slow LCMS construction. In addition, they are concerned that having the facilities in use may alter the construction phasing in a way that would force construction to take longer.

To be fair, the Board and the District have repeatedly and emphatically said that CLC being located at LCMS will not affect time lines for construction. And, if it does, CLC will not be located at LCMS.

Lastly, while the permanent home for the CLC has been planned at AE Wright, apparently, there are those at AE Wright that do not want it there. Some see the CLC being placed at the old YB site as a way to find a different solution for CLC's permanent home. That said, given that LCMS has already planned out the complete footprint for the renovation, there's no room for CLC to have a permanent home at the renovated LCMS. But, there may be other locations that CLC can go that the district either already owns, or could acquire.

Where can you give feedback?

There's a lot of information here. Some of you may want to give feedback to the interested parties.

The Las Virgenes Unified School District has regular board meetings. They are open to the public, and you can attend or watch on TV. The next one is Tuesday, May 8th at 6:00 pm at the District Office. Or, if you would like to write an email to the board, or send a letter, contact the Superintendent's office at 818-880-4000 x225 and get further instructions.

In addition, LCMS last PFC meeting of the year is on Tuesday, May 15th at 9:15 am in the Staff Lounge, and this topic is certain to be discussed there as well.

Best yet -- let the Board of Education know what you want. Send an email to: and we'll make sure that copies get to the board. mailto:lvusd-feedback@westlakerevelations.com

Can you share this info?

As with all Westlake Revelations pieces, I strongly encourage you to forward this message along to others you know. Because things can be taken out of context, I only ask that you either forward in its entirety, or link to the web site at http://www.westlakerevelations.com/ -- if you need an excerpt, just drop me a note to discuss.