In February of 2012, Oakland voters passed Measure J, an OUSD bond to finance the improvement of school facilities. At the end of last month, Principal Chelsea Toller of Glenview Elementary announced the school’s plan to use these funds to raze and rebuild Glenview entirely, explaining that a total reconstruction will be cheaper than retrofitting the existing building to meet current standards. Many parents and community members quickly raised concerns about the loss of an old– if not technically registered as “historic”*– landmark and what they believe to be a lack of transparency in the school’s decision making process.

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In response to OUSD’s 2012 Master Plan, proposals were drafted last year to seismically retrofit Glenview Elementary, enhance sustainability and expand the school’s capacity. Parents were invited to preside over presentations of proposals at that time, however there was no further inclusion as the process came to a close. The $6M plan to demolish and rebuild the school was decided by an OUSD board vote. The parents behind Facebook page Save Glenview Elementary call this a “surprise decision” and an inappropriate use of tax dollars.

The self-described “collective of concerned parents” behind the Facebook page chose to remain anonymous to “protect their right to privacy and to avoid retribution against [themselves] and [their] children.” In an online statement they went as far as to question “whether OUSD deliberately obscured the truth in order to pass the [measure J] bond” back in 2012. They also argue that “‘Seismic safety’ is a red herring designed to scare people into going along with this ill-conceived plan.” Their statement continues, “It is not necessary to tear down the historic school building. The existing building can be retrofitted. … We are going to try and change their minds.”

However, the district’s decision was based on an assessment done by an independent engineer who played a part in establishing building codes for the state. According to his analysis, bringing the building to seismic as well as electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning standards would cost two thirds of the cost of a complete reconstruction. The state guidelines advise for total reconstruction in all cases in which the cost of retrofitting exceeds fifty percent of the cost of reconstruction. According to OUSD’s Director of Public Affairs, Troy Flint, a retrofit could address seismic insecurity but would not be able to address issues of capacity, sustainability and modernization.

In response to the question of why Glenview was selected amongst the many Oakland schools in poor condition, Mr. Flint referred to the AB300 which is a list of seismically insecure buildings, explaining that Glenview has been flagged for a long time and is therefore the most urgent priority.

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The OUSD board has yet to select a temporary location for the school during the projected two-year construction project. Money has been allotted for transportation from the Glenview neighborhood to the temporary location, as there are no prospective locations near the existing school. Some parents on the Facebook page say they would not have chosen Glenview as their first choice for their kids had they known about the plan before the start of the year.

Mr. Troy acknowledged that “public engagement has been poor,” but wanted to assure stakeholders that “no decisions are set in stone.” In a letter to parents Mr. Troy said much of the confusion “stems from insufficient engagement of the Glenview community in the preliminary planning process, particularly neighbors who live in homes surrounding the site, but may lack a current or formal connection to the school. This has fostered misunderstanding and anger, and we apologize for the lack of outreach to this point. It’s a mistake we are committed to correcting and we hope to begin that process with the first in a series of larger community meetings to be held at Glenview Elementary at 5:30pm on Wednesday, February 19.”

Glenview Principal Chelsea Toller and Oakland School Board Trustee Rosie Torres have announced that there will be additional community meetings on dates yet to be determined.

Additional resources are here:

Troy Flint’s letter to parents
Glenview Elementary construction project website
Glenview Renovation Neighbors wiki

*an earlier version of this story described the building as an “historic landmark,” which was not correct.

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24 Responses

  1. Jennifer Mahan

    Thank you for the even-handed article; this subject has been generating lots of debate and discussion in the community. One small point of clarification: Glenview Elementary is not, in fact, a registered historic landmark.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer Mahan

    One more clarification: the meeting is this Wednesday, February 19. Thanks.

    Reply
  3. Jo Mortensen

    Your opening paragraph makes it appear this is the school’s plan, as determined by the principal. This is not true. This is OUSD’s plan and determination that a rebuild is more efficient than a retrofit. The principal merely announced what had been determined by OUSD. I think it’s important to correct this as it would be unfair to lay this at the feet of the school and/or our wonderful principal, whether you agree with the determination or not.

    Reply
  4. PRE

    And another part of Oakland history meets the wrecking ball. Is what they replace it with going to be as awful as what they slapped up in the Fruitvale?

    Reply
  5. Hugh

    I agree with Jo. The Principal is just communicating info from OUSD. Furthermore this process started before she was even at the school.

    As far as “The self-described “collective of concerned parents” behind the Facebook page chose to remain anonymous to ‘protect their right to privacy and to avoid retribution against [themselves] and [their] children.'”: a) we don’t know how many concerned parents are behind this; b) their claims concerning retribution could not be further from the spirit of the school.

    Glenview is one of the most diverse & inclusive schools in this city. The teachers, principal & parents have made diversity, acceptance & inclusion a priority by supporting all students regardless of race or socioeconomics, by supporting a major anti-bullying program, by supporting educational efforts for students who need tutoring, by addressing the socioeconomic cohorts who are farthest behind, by supporting the Visually Impaired students whose K-5 program is at Glenview, even supporting English language classes for families (parents included) for whom English is a 2nd language, etc.

    This claim is so incompatible with the spirit of Glenview Elementary it smacks in the fact of reality. One is left wondering, then, if OaklandLocal’s main (albeit anonymous) source doesn’t have their own agenda.

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  6. Susan Mernit

    Dear Hugh–I would not categorize parents’ anonymous facebook page as OL’s main source–the stories reports from several sources and includes lots of views and facts. On the other hand, of course those anonymous parents have an agenda–why else would they wish to conceal their names?

    Reply
  7. Hugh

    Susan,

    You have no way to quantify this as parents in the plural. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

    You do not quantify several sources. You quantify two, one being the anonymous source without subsantiation, the other being OUSD Spolesperson Troy Flynt.

    We agree: the parent(s) behind the anonymous post & Facebook page have their own agenda. Yet you ignore this in the article until I bring it up, and the question remains: what IS that agenda?

    & most importantly you report that your source is anonymous b/c otherwise they will bare retribution, when nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does this not fit with the truth…You didn’t seek to verify it from the beginning and you don’t seek to verify it upon questioning.

    Reply
  8. Save Glenview

    Thank you for covering this story. Contrary to what the apologists for the school district have been coached to say, there is no “agenda”, other than stopping the senseless destruction of our beloved school. As for why anonymous, you can see by the mean-spirited comments of some of those apologists — some of whom are also parents at the school — why that is.

    The Oakland school board wants to use your tax dollars to tear down a treasured local landmark – Glenview Elementary school, built in 1927. They made this decision without notifying the community that demolition was even being considered. They also plan to bus the displaced school children to a formerly abandoned site five miles away (Santa Fe Elementary, on 54th and Market). We oppose this senseless destruction and disruption of innocent lives. The district’s own analysis shows that the existing school building can be retrofitted for only 2/3 the cost of tearing it down and rebuilding. Yet they want to spend more of our tax money than they have to, while ignoring community input, destroying for all time a cherished local landmark, disrupting the lives of children, and placing teachers’ jobs at risk. We oppose all of these things. That is our “agenda.”

    CALL TO ACTION – COMMUNITY MEETING
    Wednesday, February 19th, 5:30 p.m.
    Glenview Elementary School
    4217 La Cresta Ave., Oakland
    Front office: 510-531-6677
    http://www.facebook.com/saveglenview

    Make your voice heard!

    Reply
  9. a Glenview parent

    While I will agree that the “Save Glenview” declaration of “fear of retribution” is ridiculous ( As a parent who has some problems with the plans at hand, I’m pretty confident I’m not going to get a brick through my window if I voice them) I would like to say that I am glad the FB page exists: It is the only format I am aware of that facilitates open discussion, as all other school-based forums seem to operate in the mode of “If you haven’t something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” I don’t really care if the moderator is one (clearly upset!) guy, or one hundred, what has been made clear is that there are quite a few community members who are not on board with plans for deconstruction/student relocation. I feel the FB page has served as a fascinating social experiment, and I have found it very interesting how quickly the proponents of this plan have jumped to stifle and discredit any opposition, which has led me to wonder, what is their agenda? I haven’t been made to feel, within the school community, my concerns are at all welcomed, so how is that conducive to “acceptance and inclusion”?

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  10. Hugh

    Save Glenview, There is no mean spirit here. Questioning you, questioning your reason for being anonymous = being mean spirited? Wow, apparently you don’t like to be asked, or to have to answer, questions even when you expect others to do the same.

    It is very interesting that when people answer some of your questions, or correct some of your facts you a) ignore those answers/facts; b) act like only you are correct. You seem bound to only 1 set outcome. Your POV alone is right.

    Importantly there are no “apologists” for the District. Glenview parents started the action & movement to get a new school building. Why? To replace aging, seismically unsafe portables (some that are over 50 y.o.) for the safety of our children. It took a LOT of effort, a lot of meetings, to get OUSD to listen to us. But eventually, listen they did.

    Oakland Local has not even started to explore that side of the story.

    Save Glenview has not acknowledged that effort or the dialog that happened on the Glenview campus in the planning process & outreach that was made to parents. You act like it never even happened.

    Again, I agree that OUSD could have and should have done more, both inside & especially outside the school. The original March meeting was a part of that effort. Personally I think it should have happened at the end of last school year or early this one.

    Moving up the meeting date to February & opening it beyond the school community to the neighborhood community is too.

    I myself look forward to OUSD explaining the plans, the reasoning & the costs. & I myself have issues with some aspects of the plans.

    Reply
  11. Hugh

    The issue I agree most with Save Glenview about is the choice of Santa Fe as a temporary school. (SG, thanks for those pictures). There are sights closer that could be used.

    Also, both plans submitted by the architects do not address the current lack of space for After Care & Enrichment Classes that families need. Last year the plan for an entire new building actually addressed this issue. An extra common room & classrooms above it in those original plans mysteriously disappeared between last year & now.

    These are important issues that parents should push OUSD on.

    Reply
  12. Jennifer Mahan

    As a parent and a 14-year Glenview homeowner, my agenda is to have the best, safest school possible for our community; I would hope that is the agenda of ALL stakeholders. I would hope that we can move past conspiracy theories and anonymous accusations and into a discussion of how to make that school a reality when we meet face to face on Wednesday. If it’s feasible to save the old building and meet those goals, great ; if it is not, I would hope the community can move forward to help shape the best plan for a safe school that will house kids for the next 50 years or more.

    Reply
  13. PRE

    If a 50 year useful lifespan is the timeframe that pubic buildings are expected to meet here in Oakland than it’s no wonder that we are surrounded with such monuments to mediocrity.

    Reply
  14. Jennifer Mahan

    PRE, that’s why I said “or more.” But any building needs retrofitting after 50 years, as my 1918 house can attest (it’s a work in progress). I’m wondering why so little of the discussion has centered on how the current building does not meet the needs of the students, and is instead focused on preserving the original building (which is beautiful on the outside, for sure). The building is a school; its purpose is to provide a proper and safe educational environment for students. The current building may have done that in 1926 when it was built, but it does not now – it’s overcrowded; it is not ADA compliant; it has HVAC issues; it cannot support modern technology, in addition to the seismic safety issues. I hope that the discussion turns towards how we are going to solve these problems, whether it is in the old building or a new one.

    Reply
  15. Save Glenview

    Jennifer Mahan @5:59pm said: “..any building needs retrofitting after 50 years, as my 1918 house can attest.”

    So, when do you plan to tear your 1918 house down to make way for the new, “safer” one you’re going to build in its place?

    Reply
  16. Jennifer Mahan

    Save Glenview, please stop with the anonymous, personal attacks on me and others who disagree with you. It’s not helpful to this conversation and it is the opposite of the open, respectful others claim they have found on your website. As I have said *multiple* times, I am keeping an open mind to all options the district is presenting, including the recommendation to tear down and including the option to retrofit the building and build something to replace the portables. Can you say your mind is open to all options? For me, and for many others in this community, the priority is a safe, modernized school. This is going to be disruptive to the students no matter what – they will have to be bussed or stay on a campus with the constant noise, dust (including toxic dust), and chaos of construction. It’s not ideal either way. And for the record, I have spent probably over twice as much slowly retrofitting my house as I would’ve spent in just tearing it down over the fourteen years I’ve owned it; it’s the luxury I have as a private homeowner, whose construction budget is my own business and no one else’s. I’m imagining that there are many in Oakland who would not get on board with Glenview spending extra on a retrofit when, as you have so often pointed out, there are so many other schools in need in Oakland.

    Reply
  17. Kathy

    Jennifer, as a fellow Glenview parent I just want to thank you for presenting a balanced view of this situation that puts our children’s safety and education first. We all love the look and history of the school. If we didn’t appreciate historic architecture we’d probably live somewhere else. But the school also needs to function properly and safely. I am open to all plans and I hope this matter is resolved with the best plan so we can move back in asap!

    Reply
  18. PRE

    “I’m wondering why so little of the discussion has centered on how the current building does not meet the needs of the students, and is instead focused on preserving the original building (which is beautiful on the outside, for sure). The building is a school; its purpose is to provide a proper and safe educational environment for students.”

    If you’re wondering, I’ll let you know why that’s the case. Because a student attends that school for only a very few years, but the building stands for decades and is either an asset to the entire community or a detriment, or usually something in between – if you’re lucky. To say that a building has only one purpose (proper and safe environment), sounds like something out of what I thought was a discredited notion of modern architecture – a building is a “machine for – fill in the blank.”

    By your logic one would be right to have said, “The Fox is a theater. It no longer meets the financial market circa 1969 and should be torn down.” I can tell you many, many more examples of the very same thinking. In fact, I’m surprised that ANYONE in the Bay Area would not recognize that.

    I’m not with “Save Glenview.” I’m just an Oaklander that would rather not lose another interesting, historic building that adds to the fabric of this city.

    Reply
  19. Jennifer Mahan

    PRE, good point – if I implied function over form, I don’t buy that either, and one of the coolest things that has happened since I moved to Oakland in 1991 has been to see the preservation and restoration of the beautiful Fox. However, my point is that schools do have a function – and they must serve to educate students for decades upon decades. Form should not be more important than function, either; the two should be in balance. I am hoping there is a compromise possible that allows that.

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  20. Dave

    This should require an EIR Environmental Impact Report. If this was done I cannot find a record of the document or a negative declaration. Weather they tear it down or remodel it the impact on the students, parents and the neighborhood will be large. I do not see that this project has been fully thought out.

    Reply
  21. LibbyCali

    It’s interesting that some of the dissent is the idea of being bussed all the way to Sante Fe Elementary in North Oakland, below Telegraph (the only OUSD school that existed below Telegraph, now there are none). Just a note: two Piedmont Elementary schools were retrofitted and expanded. Now, it should be noted that both schools were completed on time and within budget, promises were given and they were met-something just not evident by OUSD’s track record. Those Piedmont students were bussed to Emeryville everyday for a school year. Yes, the parents complained. The difference is—after buying million dollar + homes to “ensure” their snowflakes weren’t in schools with children not exactly like them—Piedmont parents had no choices. There was no arguing with the school district to find somewhere closer and there was no “Option” to choose a different school because there were no other schools.

    So if your complaint is the bussing and/or if you’re thinking of jumping ship because of the inconvenience to you, remember that that choice is a real luxury.

    It should also be noted that fears of retribution from OUSD are valid. Anyone who has been familiar with this district for a good length of time would share this very real fear.

    Reply

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