Palo Alto Unified School District and Stanford reach conditional agreement on community benefits

The agreement continues the history of partnership between the university and school district.

Stanford University and Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) have reached a conditional agreement on community benefits that will be provided to the school district as part of a possible development agreement for the university’s proposed General Use Permit. The estimated value of the community benefits package is $138.4 million over 40 years. The agreement is the result of facilitated discussions between PAUSD and Stanford, and will expand the over century-long partnership between the two educational organizations.

Nina Randolph, Sarah Walker and Hannah Shabb.

Nina Randolph, left, Sarah Walker and Hannah Shabb work with students in Katherine Sullivan’s first-grade class at Nixon Elementary School in Palo Alto. (Image credit: Rod Searcey)

Community benefits in the agreement include up to $15 million for a new space to foster collaboration between Stanford and PAUSD, ongoing financial support for the school district to address costs associated with students living in tax-exempt university housing, and funding for capital improvements to existing school sites and Safe Routes to Schools.

The agreement was reached over a two-day period of positive and collaborative discussion. A facilitator used an interest-based approach to help both parties identify their priorities and focus on the many shared interests of the school district and university. The agreement requires the approval of the PAUSD Board of Education, which will discuss the agreement in open session on April 16 at 7 p.m., and take action on the agreement at its April 23 meeting.

Leaders from PAUSD and Stanford voiced support for each institution’s goals of expanding academic facilities and opportunities to offer a high-quality education to their students, and are looking forward to partnering in maintaining their student experience and academic excellence.

“On behalf of our Board of Education, I would like to thank President Tessier-Lavigne and the team from Stanford University for their desire to preserve our excellent public school system in Palo Alto,” said PAUSD Superintendent Don Austin. “The conditional agreement should serve as a model of what is possible when groups take the time to understand each other and commit to finding mutually-agreeable resolutions. Beyond the finances of the proposed agreement, PAUSD is excited about the possibility of partnering with Stanford in ways that will benefit all students.”

“I want to thank Superintendent Austin and his team for joining us in a positive and collaborative approach to these discussions,” said Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “Stanford and PAUSD share a deep history of partnership in pursuit of providing an excellent education for our students. Many of our prior interactions have occurred in an organic fashion. This agreement makes our engagement more systematic and organized, helping increase its impact for the benefit of students.”

Details of the agreement include:

  • Stanford and PAUSD will partner to create an innovative space where students and faculty from the two institutions will expand their collaboration. The space may be used for a variety of purposes designed to add value for PAUSD students. Stanford will pay associated construction and furnishing costs up to $15 million for the project on PAUSD property. This payment will satisfy the statutory school impact fees associated with the General Use Permit.
  • For 40 years from the date a development agreement between the County and Stanford is approved and final, Stanford will pay PAUSD $5,800 for each new student enrolled in the district who lives in Stanford tax-exempt housing on the campus or elsewhere if the housing satisfies a condition of the 2018 General Use Permit. A 2 percent annual increase will be made to the per-pupil rate to account for inflation during each of the first 20 years, followed by a 2 percent decline from years 21 through 40 to a minimum of $5,800. This will provide an estimated $121.9 million in operational support to the school district over the length of the agreement.
  • Stanford will provide or fund $500,000 of capital improvements to Safe Routes to Schools.
  • In keeping with PAUSD’s longstanding preference for neighborhood schools, the district will make every effort to accommodate students living in housing generated by the General Use Permit at Nixon and Escondido Elementary Schools. Stanford will contribute up to $1 million toward facility expansion or materials expenses generated by this accommodation.
  • Three years before the General Use Permit ends, Stanford and PAUSD will meet to explore the possibility of a school site in the City of Palo Alto along Sand Hill Road, including the use of land currently occupied by the Oak Creek Apartments that returns to Stanford’s control in 2048. Discussions may involve an exchange of land, location, timing, price and other factors.
  • Representatives of Stanford and PAUSD will meet annually to discuss the implementation of this agreement, collaboration opportunities, and the timing and location of new housing that may affect district enrollment.

The agreement will only go into effect if Stanford and Santa Clara County are able to reach agreement on a comprehensive development agreement as part of the university’s General Use Permit application, and upon approval of the permit and associated development agreement by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Development agreements allow an applicant like Stanford to provide community benefits beyond the mitigations identified in an environmental impact report, many of them front-loaded, and in exchange receive regulatory consistency and certainty throughout the duration of the land use permit.