Mountain View New School, New Boundaries, and a Growing City


In another sign of increasing investment by both builders and the government into the northeastern neighborhoods of Mountain View, the Mountain View-Whisman School District has decided to reopen Slater Elementary School, citing a multitude of reasons. Faced with the changing needs of a city on the precipice of a major growth spurt, the district has taken forward-looking actions to prepare for the future.

The most notable driving factor for the district to reopen Slater Elementary is that the two highest-scoring schools in the district, Huff Elementary and Bubb Elementary, are presently at capacity. This results from district schools continuing to strengthen in both test scores and reputation, enticing more young families to move in. DeLeon Realty has anecdotally observed many buyers of Mountain View properties to be families with young children, many of which are approaching school age and will soon attend district elementary schools. This has placed pressure on the higher-scoring schools which the district, after eighteen months of conversation, seeks to mitigate by opening another school and redrawing the attendance boundaries, more evenly spreading students amongst the schools in the district.

The current attendance boundaries in North Whisman, Slater, and Whisman Station have this compact northeastern section of the city served by three different elementary schools: Theuerkauf, Huff, and Landels. All three of these schools are across at least two major thoroughfares from the area, causing parents to have to drive their children to school. In addition, the neighborhoods have lacked the cohesiveness that comes from a community school. The district has recognized this through altering the attendance boundaries and planning to open Slater Elementary, allowing children in all three neighborhoods to walk to school, as well as encouraging parent involvement due to proximity.

While there is nothing certain yet, the district also has considered the fact that more housing is likely coming to Mountain View. The current proposal by the mayor and vice mayor is for 9,850 housing units to be built in the North Bayshore area, which could add up to 4,000 new students in the district. Adding one elementary school and altering the attendance boundaries is unlikely to accomplish everything needed to address this potential influx, but it is a preliminary step towards that end. There is also the possibility that another 2,000 residential units could be added to Moffett Field, which would further increase the district enrollment.

While most reactions are positive, these decisions are not free of issues that must be resolved. Controversy exists around the fact that Slater Elementary has been leased to Google for their childcare program, and the district is accommodating their continued use by spending funds to build new buildings to house the classrooms and other facilities of the school. Some believe Google should not be allowed to continue use of a portion of the site while others, including district officials and this author, believe Google should not be disturbed. After all, Google provides childcare to many children, Google pays a large amount of property taxes to the city, and the leases provide substantial income.

Another notable item to be resolved is whether students can be grandfathered into their current schools or if they will have to switch at the start of the 2019 school year. Proponents of grandfathering argue that it is disruptive to students to switch schools. Those in opposition are concerned that the intended effects of these carefully implemented changes will be substantially slowed. While this issue is not resolved, it will be an indicator of how serious the district is about implementing changes to quickly address the needs of a growing city and district.