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LETTER: Choosing Neighborhood Schools

In the search for a permanent site for Bullis Charter School, stakeholders and officials must recognize that small neighborhood schools are as integral to education and community as 'choice.'

 

Dear Editor,

In listening to the Los Altos City Council on  Dec. 11 discuss the lack of
"logical" basis for parent support of neighborhood schools, it became
apparent that some individuals do not fully understand why the Los
Altos School District (LASD) and its families so strongly support our small
neighborhood schools. Council member (Val) Carpenter stated that close
relationships can also be formed at private schools as has been her
personal experience. My own family experience indicates that there are
other benefits to be found in our local public schools. Beyond the
obvious opportunity to know one's neighbors better and form close local
bonds, neighborhood schools encourage independence in our children and
appreciation of children from many walks of life.

Children who play or work on projects with their classmates can often
walk or bike independently within their neighborhood. As children
become older and gradually expand their 'neighborhood' to the junior
high schools and high schools, they learn to move independently within
and across the towns and can take responsibility for their own
planning and scheduling. When neighbors recognize children and know
other families through school, they know more about where each child
should be and what is appropriate behavior. This makes for a safe
place to practice independence and, in our small community, "It Takes
a Village" certainly applies.

Another benefit of neighborhood public schools, is that the children
who attend them are filtered only by their residence address. Unlike
parochial schools, there is no bias toward a single religious group.
Further, there is no requirement that parents be capable of paying
tuition nor must the children pass any tests to be enrollment. Every
child who applies is accepted. This means that children attend school
with those of many backgrounds and personal abilities, at least as
much as is possible within our affluent community. This is not an
opportunity that all private school children will enjoy.

Beyond the benefit of close bonds, neighborhood schools also help the
community in that a majority of our children walk or bike to school on
many days. While I do see a few students bicycling to Pinewood or even
Waldorf Schools, in general, there is obviously less traffic impact
from children who can walk and bike.

While many families chose to prioritize different benefits found in
private schools or the charter school, 4,500 students attend LASD
schools, and the great majority do so because they appreciate the
benefits of a high-quality education that is shared with their local
community. A failure to understand this choice by our local elected
officials and dismissal of its importance to our families does not
serve to bring a solution to the community. We all need to respect the
choices that various families make for their children in a way that
does not rate one choice as the most valid.

My personal belief is that we will not be able to move toward solution
until an independent site can be found for Bullis Charter School which does not
invalidate the neighborhood school choice made by other families or
disrupt the education of LASD children. We finally have an improving
economy and rising home values that can make a new facility possible
and will retain the high home values lent by our strong school system.

I ask that all of our local representatives, parents and community
members to join together in achieving a rejoining of our now-divided
community.

Best regards,
Tamara Logan
Vice President, Los Altos School Board of Trustees

 

Los Altos Patch welcomes letters to the editor. Send them to losaltos@patch.com 

LASD resident December 18, 2012 at 08:21 PM
There are many studies that indicate engaged parents tend to lead to higher test scores, which in turn lead to higher property values. However, I'm not so sure about the correlation with small neighborhood schools by itself. Surely small neighborhood schools with disengaged parents are not going to fare any better than commuter schools with disengaged parents. In the case of LASD, I believe our strength is engaged parents and not necessarily small neighborhood schools.
Joan J. Strong December 18, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Here's the deal, pick one: 1. Small neighborhood schools, engaged parents, high test scores, high property values. -OR- 2. Crammed far-away mega schools, disinterested parents, lower test scores, lower property values. Note: those lower property values easily reach into the billions of dollars when you add them all up. Sacrificing our public schools does not make financial sense. Our three neighboring towns have all recently made MASSIVE investments in school facilities. You think they might know something? (Reposting this as my original post contained a factual error).
Joan J. Strong December 18, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Here's the deal, pick one: 1. Small neighborhood schools, engaged parents, high test scores, high property values. -OR- 2. Crammed far-away mega schools, disinterested parents, lower test scores, lower property values. Note: those lower property values easily reach into the billions of dollars when you add them all up. Sacrificing our public schools does not make financial sense. Our three neighboring towns have all recently made MASSIVE investments in school facilities. You think they might know something?
PeggyA December 21, 2012 at 03:43 AM
Fascinating discussion, because if memory serves, the genesis of Bullis Charter School was the loss of a small neighborhood school (the last school, too) in Los Altos Hills. If this community discussion had happened in good faith 10 years ago, the present situation would be quite different. I hope that both sides will keep communications clear, honest and free of emotion in an effort to resolve the discord. Education has much bigger problems to solve......
Philip Aaronson December 25, 2012 at 12:01 AM
It would be nice to know, what is the board's current policy? Does the LASD board intend to let schools grow and shrink with their attendance areas and be true neighborhood schools? Or are "neighborhood schools" just words that they use to rail against BCS? Traditionally the board's main goal hasn't been neighborhood schools, rather they've been much more focused on keeping all schools balanced. When a school grew to approximately 600 students, the attendance areas were adjusted or overflow students were quietly shifted to other schools. The board's real direction is anyone's guess, but their recent announcements about a lottery policy for overflow students seems to indicate it's business as usual: balanced schools, not neighborhood schools.

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