Council approves school proposed by Zuckerberg’s pediatrician wife

Dr. Priscilla Chan

Daily Post Staff Writer

The East Palo Alto City Council has unanimously approved Dr. Priscilla Chan’s Primary School, despite some residents and council members having concerns about traffic, competition with the Ravenswood City School District and the toxicity of the site.

The school proposed by Chan, a pediatrician and Mark Zuckerberg’s wife, is slated for 1200 Weeks St. and will serve 511 students in grades kindergarten to eighth grade.

Another 150 will be part of an infant-toddler-parent program. The school will combine health care for the children with education.

The school has told the city in the past that about 90% of its students will live in East Palo Alto. This comes at a time when the Ravenswood district is facing steadily decreasing enrollment as families flee to other schools, causing the district to lose state funding, which is based on enrollment numbers.

During Tuesday’s council meeting, all four of the council members who could participate in the discussion (Vice Mayor Regina Wallace-Jones lives too close to the project to vote on it), voiced concern about Ravenswood losing 500-plus students.

“This project, even though it does a lot of individual good, potentially tears asunder the economies of scale (for the Ravenswood School District),” said Councilman Carlos Romero. “If we lose the school district or it goes into a receivership, your students are fine, but some 2,700 students are not.”

Resident Gail Wilkerson said she thinks there are too many schools in East Palo Alto and that The Primary School and others ought to “cultivate the ones we have here.”

All of the council members urged The Primary School representatives to meet with Ravenswood officials and see how the two could benefit from one another.

Worries were also voiced about the toxicity of the site, because a pesticide manufacturer was located just north of the property and contaminated the soil.

The Primary School has said it will clean up the site, bringing in new dirt. But some, such as resident Court Skinner, expressed concerns that excavating the dirt would result in cancer-causing toxins being spread to nearby houses.

Planning Manager Guido Persicone said the school has a detailed plan on how to fix the site while preventing the toxins from spreading.

The council also had worries about traffic caused by the project. There will be about 70 employees and 661 students who will have to be taken to and from school each day.

The school’s current traffic management plan is not adequate and needs to be redone, said most council members.

That council agreed that the city and school will work together to revamp the plan.


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