Do proposed changes reflect full input of LGUSD students & parents? Daves Avenue parent responds with illustrated suggestions.

Posted with his permission, here is the message of an 11/9/21 letter to the LGUSD school board from a Daves Avenue parent...

Dear Terese, Mrs. Mittleman, and all others concerned,

Thank you for hosting the town hall session last night. I know a lot of work has gone into this by you and your team.

Here are the thoughts I left the meeting with – first, 2 general notes about the process, and then 2 specific notes about the plans for Daves Avenue…

[For those that don’t know me, I’m a designer (and licensed architect in 5 states) and a dad of 3 girls – one at Daves now and 2 more to follow in the years ahead.]

General Notes


It would be great if the district’s designs could be posted at each of the schools for review by current parents, students, and even community members that may have future students. As is, the plans are hard to read and visualize (even for someone working in the architecture industry). Sadly, combining these issues with the lack of transparent communication (no mention of the meeting on the website or contact info in the ppt) there is an unfortunate sense of opacity about this topic. 

Experts in the field-

In addition to the artificial turf consultant, I’m curious what other industry experts the district and/or the designers have consulted with? Perhaps a children’s environmental psychologist, an education naturalist, or even just an education architect? We were told that the money was earmarked for “outdoor classrooms.” Are Verde qualified to design these spaces? They look to have a lot of experience with sports fields, but I don’t see any outdoor classroom designs on the Verde website portfolio. 


Artificial Turf at Daves:

I’m encouraged by the decision to use grass on the fields instead of turf. But I am struggling with how this same logic cannot also be applied to the courtyard and kinder spaces. As the district’s turf expert conceded, he thinks of turf not as nature, but as “sporting equipment”. So why are we putting sporting equipment outside the classrooms??

Kindergarten Yard-

I heard 2 reasons for artificial turf: 1) The circulation between the classrooms destroys the grass. And 2) Grass won’t grow here. Then the district showed a dramatic photograph of the yard with dirt. Which, I agree, looks bad. But I don’t see turf as the only solution to those 2 issues. Because in that picture I see dirt, but I also see grass growing just fine on the southern side. And to solve the wear issue, why not distinguish better circulation path(s) separately from the grass play zones? Frankly, the existing site offers no direct hardscape circulation path between the destinations on opposite sides of the yard at all. That’s not the fault of grass, that’s just a bad original design. We can fix that with a good design, not turf. 

Suggestions: I’ve includes some sketches to help illustrate my ideas.

A) Firstly, we should improve the circulation paths by providing direct routes of travel between classroom and gate destinations. Pave in the grass corners to widen these walkways as needed. (The Verde concept seems to put the sandbox right in the way btw)

B) These paths now define zones, allowing us to put grass on the southern side where it likes to be and filling in the remaining areas with other natural amenities – in this case I’ve used the diverse landscapes of California to inspire the different zones (Mountains, Forest, Valley, Delta, and Beach). And it’s all tied together with an arroyo that follows the naturally sloping topography.

I would recommend looking at successful precedent projects, such as the Caltech Childcare Center (link 2) – a great example of balancing grass and other natural materials in an arid, drought conscious climate.

*What if the play yard could be more than a sterile blank slate, what if it could be a learning yard?!

1st -5th Corridor Courtyards-

I heard 2 reasons for turf in these areas: 1) Flexible use space for “outdoor classrooms”, and 2) Maintenance difficulty. It sounds like maintenance concerns can be solved by better design (updated irrigation, drainage) and planning (mowing before or after school or on weekends).

Regarding the flexible classroom space, I would like to hear what other ideas were considered before turf. For example, we could provide movable benches outside, or even small mats the kids could sit on and then put away after. We may still need some of those with turf anyway.

*This looks like a missed opportunity for “Project Based Learning”, getting the students involved in creating their own solutions.

At first look, the proposed Verde design isn’t too bad – it has a variety of landscape materials and spaces – so, a simple fix would be to swap all turf out for grass (or even some of it).

Analyzing the design further, there are opportunities for improvement. For example, as the son of an elementary school teacher, I know that an outdoor classroom should have a variety of spaces, but the current design only creates socialfugal connections. The benches around trees and seat walls along planted edges all position the students to face away from each other. Curved seat walls with open interiors would create more sociopetalcommunal learning areas – perhaps these could be at the edges of the grass to prevent wear from shortcuts. I’ve quickly sketched some examples ideas.


I understand the work the district has done has carefully balanced input from maintenance staff and teachers. Those are undoubtably essential stakeholders. However, I can’t help but feel as though the proposed changes do not adequately reflect the full input of the most important group – the students and parents. Our voices and tax dollars shape our community. Los Gatos is such a special blend of nature and urban environments. Daves Avenue campus is a perfect example of this in microcosm. I fear that the proposed changes will remove this connection with nature. Or worse, teach our kids that “gosh, nature is difficult and dirty, we should just carpet over it.”


Thank you for reading this. And for your thoughtful consideration. As you can see, this issue is important to me and my family.

I am happy to volunteer my time to discuss this topic further.


All the best,



Noel Shamble, AIA, NCARB, EIT