The discussion about setting up the Pleasanton Unified School District property on the edge of downtown for future redevelopment could be moving to the next stage soon.
The Board of Trustees expressed interest in a conceptual plan presented by district staff at last week’s meeting to relocate district headquarters to an office building in Hacienda Business Park, a move that could result in a new home for Village High School and a portion of the current site to be sold for future housing.
“I just really also applaud the administration here for looking at all the various options with us and our facility master planning committee for really weighing all that type of information and kind of synthesizing those priorities so that we can get the most value out there,” Board President Mark Miller said at the April 28 meeting.
The presentation was led by Ahmad Sheikholeslami, assistant superintendent of business services, who spoke about the plans for Village High School and laid out potential options for planning work.
The PUSD property at 4645 and 4665 Bernal Ave. includes the district office, Village High School and the upper Bernal field. The upper field is under a lease to the city and is used by the school during the day and by the community in the afternoon.
The property also houses the Pleasanton Virtual Academy, the Superintendent’s Office, Business Services, Student Support Services, Teaching and Learning, Tri-Valley Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), Adult Education and Career and Technology Education (CTE) programs, TV30, Horizon Early Education, STEAM Preschool and Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE).
The district functions on a property with seven buildings spread over 10-11 acres of land, which has also long been considered ripe for redevelopment as residential due to its prominent location in downtown and near the ACE Train station.
Village, the district’s alternative high school, is located in both modular and older 1950s buildings. But the placement of the buildings causes inconvenience to students with Horizon is on the north and STEAM is at the lower part of the campus, PUSD officials said.
According to Sheikholeslami, efforts are ongoing over the past months for the potential acquisition of a site for a good portion of the district office functions in the Arroyo Center on West Las Positas Boulevard in Hacienda.
The office building would provide the district with a great deal of flexibility to move most of its functions, Sheikholeslami said. A portion of the property is rented currently, but he suggested it could be a potential opportunity to pursue it at this point.
“So we’d have to really look at those buildings and make sure that they are in the condition that they’re supposed to be and they meet all our demands,” he said.
The presentation also included plans to modify Village High School, along with the consideration of the Educational Operations Center for a potential future bond measure.
Board members agreed that Village High School is in dire need of a makeover. Trustee Mary Jo Carreon said students deserve the same opportunities as students at other schools as she tried to understand what the plan entails.
“But when it says relocate Village High School, I want people to understand that that would be temporary wouldn’t it though because what would happen if we don’t have the bond?” she asked.
The relocation would be a phased approach, according to Sheikholeslami.
“Phased approach is to relocate them down here in a unified campus, bringing in portable classrooms. So the unified campus is out of the older 1950s building and so how we position that and how we do that depends on what paths we (take),” Sheikholeslami said.
Vacated district operations area could potentially be used as classrooms since they are more modernized, but everything will depend on the path taken including funding, he said.
“If we decide if we don’t have a bond measure, if the new high school or some level of modernization upgrades are not included in the bond, then we’d have to look within the dollars we have and the dollars we could get from a potential sale than to come up with an alternative plan,” Sheikholeslami added.
“But it needs to be a plan that thinks of the Village holistically and not just something that just kind of gets them through the next few years. It has to be a holistic long-term plan,” he said.
Student Board Member Saachi Bhayani came with many questions, including about the board’s closed-session financial deliberations on Arroyo Center, to which Board Member Joan Laursen said such negotiations were not disclosed to the public because it would give away the board’s plans to potential negotiators and put them at a disadvantage when negotiating property deals.
“If we talked about the price that we were trying to buy or sell something, the other party would have an advantage to knowing what our thoughts were,” Laursen said.
Bhayani had multiple questions related to finance, “What is the cost to prepare the entire district office?” she asked.
In terms of modernizing and bringing the buildings together, Sheikholeslami said, based on recent building construction costs estimates of $600 per square feet, the district needs 60,000 square feet amounting to approximately $36.2 million.
“Do you know how much the district office would possibly sell for the property value of this place?” Bhayani responded.
Treading carefully around the question, Sheikholeslami said, it is a highly priced property and it depends on many issues such as final approval, number of units but gave a rough estimate of $4 million to $5 million per acre.
“I’m assuming we’re trying to move forward with the purchase of the new district office; I was wondering how it will be funding that new district office if we’re not selling this property as of yet?” queried Bhayani.
There are loan opportunities a district could take and that could be through a certificate of participation arrangement or a bridge type of loan between the time we purchased and then sold this property, answered Sheikholeslami.
Bhayani wasn’t still convinced about the plan and said, “I’m just confused about the logistics of getting rid of the district property and then keeping the Village still, so we’re only gonna sell a portion of the property instead?”
The idea would be to retain a portion of it that would most likely be the one connected to our remaining property at the upper Bernal field, which would provide access to that field from the campus and the remaining portion of it would be for sale, Sheikholeslami said.
Superintendent David Haglund spoke to assure the community that a Facilities Master Plan process was involved here in which each school had a group of stakeholders contributing ideas to the facility.
“The similar process would be used to engage the teachers and students and families that are participating in the Village program; some of that process has already started,” he said.
Trustees had more queries to understand the nuances about the proposed plan.
“Has there been other considerations for other schools besides what was presented here as a high school?” Trustee Kelly Mokashi asked, to which Haglund said nothing new was being added but just replacing the existing school to modernize it.
“It’s less about doing something new, but enriching and engaging and more about doing the right thing for the current students that we have,” Haglund said.
After discussions and deliberations, the board members said they were satisfied with the plan and excited about moving forward to the next step.
Laursen expressed gratitude about moving forward with the plan although it would still need the city’s help and many details still needed to be worked out.
“Taking our assets that we have, and converting them into their best use to move this district forward is what we’re supposed to be doing. So, I am really thrilled,” she said.