Customer Spotlight: Santa Clara Unified School District’s Redistricting Project

Posted by Ron Van OrdenO

March 3, 2020

The Santa Clara Unified School District needed to redraw its elementary, middle and high school boundary lines to provide attendance areas for the three new schools being built on its 55-acre Agnews Campus.

The Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) spans three cities nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley. These communities have grown in tandem with the technology boom, driving the demand for housing to unprecedented highs. Due to this recent growth, the district now serves over 15,500 K-12 students and an additional 6,000 students in preschool through adult school. Neighborhoods in the cities of Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, San Jose, and Cupertino comprise the District’s 56 square-mile area.

“Historically, local residential developments were comprised of single-family homes,” says Andrew Lucia, SCUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of School Support and District Development. “But we’ve seen a shift towards multi-story, multi-family townhouses. We expect this trend to continue over the next decade, adding additional students in that area of our school district.”

To prepare for this influx of new students, SCUSD worked with the City of San Jose to acquire a 55-acre site called the Agnews Campus. The goal is to construct three state-of-the-art facilities — an elementary school, middle school, and high school — on the campus by 2020. But with the land secured and construction under way, one critical question remained: how was SCUSD going to undertake a massive reboundary project in light of these new facilities?

A Systematic Approach to Redistricting

Redistricting is a significant undertaking for any district leadership team. Add three new schools into the mix and the process becomes even more complex. It was clear SCUSD needed support, so Lucia and his team turned to DecisionInsite, powered by Hoonuit.

In the winter of 2018, we rolled up our sleeves alongside SCUSD and got to work, starting with the development of a 44-member Agnews Boundary Advisory Committee. This committee was comprised of administrators, teachers, classified staff, parents, high school students, and guardians from across the 10 existing SCUSD schools. Together, these stakeholders were responsible for developing a redistricting plan the district administration could recommend to the SCUSD Board of Trustees.

With Hoonuit’s guidance, the SCUSD crafted a detailed timeline and meeting schedule to keep the redistricting project on track. During each session, the committee discussed in-depth enrollment projections, residential research, and boundary scenarios via slide presentations supported by Hoonuit’s enrollment analytics, mapping capabilities, and extensive redistricting expertise. Hoonuit’s consultants also aided the committee by reviewing district policies and identifying key boundary criteria such as balancing enrollment through a five and ten-year geographic area projection, minimizing the number of students impacted, and optimizing safe walking distances and safe bus routes.

“Because of the new boundary for the schools being built in the area north of 101, middle school and high school students coming from those areas will see a significant decrease in travel time to school. We believe these changes will also help reduce the number of cars traveling south of 101 from the affected areas.”

Andrew Lucia, Assistant Superintendent of School Support and District Development at Santa Clara Unified School District

Hoonuit was there throughout every step of the project, reviewing, refining, and reconfiguring boundary options as needed, based on district staff and committee discussions, and feedback from the community and the board. With each meeting, the team moved one step closer to determining an optimal outcome for all.

Addressing Redistricting Hurdles

The Agnews boundary reconfiguration wasn’t the only challenge SCUSD faced. For years, Don Callejon, the district’s K-8 facility, was composed of two schools on one campus: a K-5 catchment school and a school for grades 6-8 that served a larger attendance area. Each year, students from nearby elementary schools were funneled into Don Callejon’s sixth through eighth grade program. This made it difficult for the school to realize its goal of remaining an authentic K-8 institution.

At the time of the Agnews development, district administrators and the Board needed to decide whether to create an attendance area for a Don Callejon K-5 school, or an attendance area for a Don Callejon K-8 school. Either decision would reroute different numbers of sixth through eighth grade students to the new Agnews Campus. The SCUSD Agnews Boundary Advisory Committee remained in close contact with district administrators throughout this process, ensuring their final decision was incorporated into any boundary plans Hoonuit proposed.

District boundary map of Santa Clara

As the spring of 2019 approached, the SCUSD Agnews Boundary Advisory Committee laid out two comprehensive boundary scenarios. Hoonuit worked closely with the committee during these final stages, providing additional insights to address any lingering questions or concerns. In May 2019, the board arrived at a final redistricting decision, landing on one of the two scenarios outlined by Hoonuit and the committee.

The Final Phases of Development

Construction of the Agnews Campus is currently in full swing, and Lucia and his team have been in close communication with the impacted communities. Thanks to Hoonuit’s online dashboards, Lucia is able to address parents’ and teachers’ queries in real time.

“I turn to the Hoonuit platform weekly, if not daily, to answer questions like, ‘Which school will my child go to?’” said Lucia. “I find the platform to be very user-friendly while still providing really powerful data.”

Even more than the platform’s ease of use, Lucia has come to appreciate Hoonuit’s collaborative approach. “Accomplishing the Agnews redistricting was no small feat. But throughout it all, I always felt I had a partner in Hoonuit. Their consultants were there, day or night, to help us navigate unexpected hurdles and land on a redistricting decision everyone was confident in,” said Lucia.

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