New Hillview School makes its debut in Menlo Park

by Linda Hubbard on August 28, 2012

Where once there was a playing field that could be accessed not only from Santa Cruz Avenue but from the gates of homeowners on the west side of Hillview Drive, now sits the new Hillview School, which made its debut at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning.

While both Oak Knoll and Encinal Schools were refurbished with new buildings added to existing facilities, the old Hillview School was razed to make way for the new, using a model, according to former Superintendent Ken Ranella, similar to the building of the New York Met’s new stadium, which went up along side the old stadium in a parking lot. “The result,” said Ranella, “is a brand new facility that showcases the promise of excellent middle school education for the community.”

people attend opening of new Hillview School

The total project, which cost $51.6 million, was completed on time and on budget. It includes 85,000 square feet of new facilities and will serve a student population of 860 in the coming 2012-13 school year.  The new auditorium, which Board of Education president Laura Rich characterized as a “community treasure”, seats over 300 with additional space for 100 stackable chairs. Every seat was taken this morning.

“When Ken [Ranella] and I were working on the transition, he told me that Hillview School had to be completed by  Labor Day, and if it wasn’t, I should just pack my bags and leave,” said current Superintendent of School Mauice Ghysels. “Ahmad [Sheikholeslami, the school district’s Director of Facility Planning and Construction] did a fantastic job of getting this done.”

Inside new Hillview School auditorium

Other facts of note about the new Hillview School buildings:

  • A 225Kw PV Solar System is anticipated to be cost neutral with an annual savings of at least $85,000 in utility costs.
  • A new 85,000 square foot synthetic turf field, which will debut later this year, will conserve between 500,000 and 700,000 gallons of water a year.
  • All of the buildings have been designed to maximize energy efficiency with state of the art lighting and mechanical systems
  • Campus is completely Wi-Fi with 37 access points with bandwidth for 60 plus devices each.

When classes start next week, the campus itself will not only be new, the school will be lead by a new principal, Eric Burmeister. “With this new facility, Menlo Park will be at the center of educational innovation,” he told the crowd assembled in the auditorium. “Think of a campus that doesn’t so much as view hills, but rather as one that sits on a hillside and serves as a beacon for educational excellence.”

Interior courtyard of new Hillview School in Menlo Park

Footnote for long time residents: Tinker Park, a playground for the preschool set, is scheduled to re-open in September.

Footnote for new residents: Hillview, like Encinal and Oak Knoll, was originally K-8. With enrollments dipping in the 80s, the schools were reconfigured as Laurel K-3 which fed into Encinal 4-8, and Oak Knoll K-4 which fed into Hillview 5-8.

The situation changed in 1982 when voters approved annexation of the Willows, and the first class of children from the Willows entered Menlo Park schools in 1984. Explains the historical section of the Menlo Park City School District website: “Because there were more children east of El Camino than there was classroom space available, Willows children were bused over to Oak Knoll and Hillview.

Hillview students of the future

“At the same time, the national report on middle schools, Caught In The Middle, advocated a specialized curriculum for 6-8 graders and sparked interest in a 6-8 middle school configuration. The first discussion of creating a single middle school in the District occurred in 1985, but opposition to change led the Superintendent away from the middle school recommendation, and she tried to implement the program recommendations of Caught In The Middle into the existing configuration.

“Initially, the newly annexed families that were bused across town were delighted to be in the Menlo Park schools. But as new families moved into the Willows, pressure mounted for Willows children to attend a school closer to home. This pressure to redistribute enrollment helped spark renewed interest in the idea of turning Hillview into a central 6-8 middle school, and in February of 1988 the Board endorsed that direction.”

Hillview became a middle school in 1989.

Top three photos by Irene Searles; bottom two by Linda Hubbard


One Comment

Dana August 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

Was the entire Menlo Park community invited to this opening?
I missed it and would have loved to have learned more about our new school facilities. Is there another open house planned for residents other than those attending these schools?

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