As a result of a comprehensive strategic planning process and facilities review in 2022, Mount Tamalpais School is moving forward with a modest expansion of current enrollment and physical spaces on campus.
Our overall student enrollment increase is going to allow us to “right-size” our lower school classes with two groups of approximately 14 students that allow for outstanding learning and social dynamics. These class sizes make it possible for us to realize our strategic goals while also setting the school up for long-term financial sustainability.
As enrollment grows, we are updating our facilities to reflect the needs of our school program. Today, many of our spaces are being used for multiple different purposes, and our spaces are utilized nearly 100% of every day. This means our schedule is driving the program, rather than our program driving the schedule. Our robust, departmentalized program - a hallmark of MTS - needs more classroom spaces that are optimized for the subjects and the students they teach.
- Calendar / Timeline
- Enrollment/Staffing Expansion
- Cost / Financing / Budget
- Capital Campaign
Q. When will construction begin?
A. We plan to start phase 1 construction in early June, 2024. As a result we would need to utilize more of the summer and would start the 2024-25 school year after Labor Day. We will be able to confirm this early graduation date and construction schedule by late January.
Q. What are we doing in phase 1?
A. Phase one construction includes:
- A new welcoming and secure entry to the main school building
- A new front office that makes the best MTS first impression
- Two new classrooms in remodeled spaces as well as new lighting and HVAC.
- Renovated, ADA-compliant restrooms that replace the original 1950s bathrooms and promote wellness
- New offices that allow our professional community to work near those they serve.
Q. What about phase two?
A. Phase two construction will likely take place in the spring and summer of 2025. Phase two construction includes:
- A new building on the south side of the field replacing the portables
- Five new classrooms, including a science classroom, that are optimized for what is being taught and who is being taught.
- Additional restrooms and offices
Q. Why do the portables need to be replaced?
A. As our temporary permits expire for our portable classrooms, and we commit to creating right-size classes in fully optimized spaces to improve the teaching and learning environment, we look forward to the physical expansion of our campus.
“Today, many of our spaces are pulling double duty. Our music room became a math classroom, and the gym lobby has been turned into a classroom to teach Mandarin. Our teaching spaces are nearly 100% utilized every day. This means our schedule is driving the program rather than the program driving the schedule. The robust, departmentalized program that MTS is known for needs more classroom spaces that are optimized for the subjects and the students they teach.”
Q. Will students be impacted by construction? Will the campus be safe?
A. Phase 1 construction is planned entirely for the summer and should not impact students. Phase 2 work will likely close part of the field for Spring 2025. We are already partnering with our contractor to ensure construction is done safely and has minimal impact on student learning.
Q. What if the construction isn’t done on time?
A. We are doing everything we can to minimize the chances that construction is not final in time for the school year. We are preordering long lead-time items, and we are working with the contractor who successfully completed the STEM room and classroom renovations on time during the summer of 2020. We will, of course, put contingency plans in place if the timeline appears to be delayed.
Q. What’s happening to the portables?
A. The portables will be removed from campus during Phase 2 construction.
Q. Why aren’t we adding more classrooms in addition to the renovations we are doing?
A. The scope of the project was limited in large part by environmental regulations; we are pursuing the largest addition possible without triggering a costly and time-intensive environmental review. Our single story renovation and additions were also critical to moving to the design review phase as smoothly as we did. Finally, the scope of the project is also congruent with our fundraising targets. Once complete we will have added nine classroom spaces since 2020. Phase 1 and 2 add three classrooms with the portables removed.
Q. What about environmental stewardship? Are we doing solar? Using recycled water?
A. The design team has been focused on environmental stewardship. Our systems and materials choices are green, and we are looking at a number of “upcycling” options. Additionally, we plan to put PV solar panels on the roof of the new building in Phase 2.
Q. Will the campus still be open during construction?
A. To ensure the safety of our community, the campus will largely be closed to families and neighbors during Summer 2024 and Summer 2025 during construction. Our typical June two-week Summer Bears Camp offered to MTS families by our staff will likely be shifted to an off-site location.
Q. What kind of enhanced security will there be?
A. One of the notable changes to campus will be a single point of entry for visitors. After morning arrival, anyone arriving on campus will have to pass through a single entrance, allowing us to better manage visitors and background checks. We are also upgrading our security systems including cameras and access control.
Q. Will you be changing the play structure?
A. There are no changes to the red top or blacktop in either Phase 1 or Phase 2. With the portables removed and a new building on the south edge of the field when Phase 2 is complete, we will have the opportunity to plant new grass, potentially add sustainable and safe artificial turf, or add new play options.
Q. Will the early ending and late start schedule continue past this year?
A. We need to have a longer construction window for Phase 1 as it requires that essential spaces including bathrooms and offices are closed. We hope that Phase 2 will not require the same extended window and we can return to our typical graduation and start of school schedule.
Q. When do you expect phase 2 to be finished?
A. Phase 2 is scheduled to start during the spring of 2025 and be completed in time for the 2025-26 school year.
Q. Will my tuition be reduced/prorated for the adjusted shorter school year?
A. No. As with COVID and other unusual circumstances, we do not prorate tuition based on total school days. We are confident that our students will meet our 2024-25 school year learning goals within the constraints of this slightly shorter year.
Q. Will tuition continue to increase?
A. Yes. With 85% of our expenses connected to salaries and benefits, our expenses will continue to grow each year and tuition will increase to keep pace with this change. Each year the Board reviews tuition benchmarks of peer schools and sets a tuition that allows us to meet our strategic goals while keeping that increase as low as we can.
Q. I love the field! Why are you putting buildings on the field? What will happen to the field?
A. We are utilizing the campus to the best extent possible. In fact, the new building will be set back from where the portables are now, closer to the redwood trees, and therefore taking up less space on the field. The position of the new buildings will also open the garden up for easier access throughout the school day.
Q. What about parking? Will there be enough parking?
A. We are adding parking spaces behind the gym building for employee parking. As we rebuild the field, we also plan to use a surface that will allow for overflow parking for major school events.
Q. What about the other buildings and spaces that might need to be updated?
A. The Board and school leadership regularly evaluate the campus facilities and have a schedule for maintenance. We have no other major construction planned in the short term.
Q. What is happening to the old girls’ and boys’ bathrooms?
A. The original bathrooms are being demolished and the restrooms for students are being relocated. Our renovated spaces include a Wash Hall with shared sinks and eight individual bathrooms. These bathrooms can be used by any student. The Wash Hall is open to the hallway and will be used by MTS adults as well, providing better supervision of students.
Q. Why increase enrollment?
A. Increasing enrollment will have several benefits. Our students will have a few more classmates to learn from and befriend. More perspectives will be present in class discussions. Additionally, an overall enrollment of 275-80 will put MTS in a better position for financial sustainability. Our current size means we have a tight budget with little wiggle room for flexibility or innovation. Our enrollment will grow gradually over a five-year period.
“It’s essential that we have students in the right-sized classes—classes that are small enough so that we can connect meaningfully with each student and large enough to allow for students to collaborate with a wide array of diverse perspectives. The 26 to 28 student homeroom-of-old no longer works, and a class of 8 or 10 is just too small. As teachers, we need classes that meet today’s highest standards in education.”
Q. What will the impact of the number of kids per class be - student-teacher ratio?
A. The majority of the enrollment growth will be in the lower school. Here we aim to have two groups of 13-15 students. Right now some groups are as small as 10 or 11.
Q. What is total enrollment going to be?
A. Our current vision is a lower school of around 175 and a middle school close to 105 for a total enrollment of 280.
Q. Are we hiring more teachers?
A. Our increased enrollment has already allowed us to hire a full-time substitute teacher. We plan to add a few other roles aligned with our strategic objectives as enrollment continues to grow. Our total staffing is limited somewhat by our conditional use permit.
Q. How much is the building work going to cost? Are you taking out debt?
A. Our initial estimates are for a total project cost just over $8M. We went through a competitive bidding process with multiple contractors and have been working with our contractor throughout the design process to keep costs in line with expectations.
Q. How is the school paying for this?
A. Our goal is that philanthropic gifts to the Into Action capital campaign will pay for the majority of our expansion costs (as well as other initiatives). We are taking out non-profit financing debt to pay construction costs until the campaign is complete and pledge payments are fulfilled.
Q. How does building maintenance impact the overall school budget?
A. Every year, MTS funds our Provision for Plant Replacement, Renewal, and Special Maintenance (PPRRSM) Fund to cover significant maintenance. We plan to increase our PPRRSM Fund once the buildings are complete. That increase, though, will be offset by increased tuition revenue.
Q. How does giving work? Is this in place of the Annual Fund? Do you give a one-time gift?
A. The MTS Annual Fund is essential to our operating budget. For this reason, the Annual Fund will continue throughout and after the Into Action campaign. We have started to meet with families and supporters who have expressed interest in being early supporters of the Into Action campaign. Campaign gifts are often made through a pledge which can be fulfilled over five years. We work with every donor to establish a pledge payment plan that best meets their needs. We hope every family gives to the Campaign when asked over the next three years. Families new to the school will be asked to support the Annual Fund, and we will talk with you about the progress of the campaign as well as your potential philanthropic support. At some point during this multi-year capital campaign, every family in the school will be asked to join in with a gift to demonstrate shared support in the project and initiatives.
Q. How are donors being recognized? Will there be named buildings?
A. We are considering how best to recognize all donors by creating a donor recognition installation. We plan to include every family that participates in the Into Action campaign in that installation. Additionally, we are considering a naming policy whereby areas of the new spaces might be available to be named in honor of someone.
Q. Are you just raising money for the building?
The Into Action campaign is a comprehensive fundraising effort focused on the strategic needs of the school. The funds raised will support professional community compensation, financial aid, and the building projects.
Q. What is the ProComm Decade Fund?
A. The ProComm Decade Fund is one of the accompanying initiatives in the Into Action capital campaign. The MTS professional community is the most essential element of the excellent education we provide. They chose to be part of our community even when facing significant challenges in doing so due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area. The ProComm Decade Fund is set up to directly benefit ProComm in being able to fund innovative ideas around recruitment and retention as well as other initiatives. The fund will be spent down over ten years and invested in a short-term way. This is not a traditional endowment fund. As we spend down the fund over ten years, we will look to the next generation of MTS supporters (parents and others) to seed the fund into the future.
Q. What is the Financial Assistance Decade Fund?
A. Similar to the ProComm Decade Fund, we have set up a fund to support the MTS financial assistance program. These funds are set up for the short term, like a term endowment. We will be able to spend more money from these funds to thereby make a bigger impact now. We seek to maintain and hopefully increase our need-based tuition program and ensure that we can welcome more students and families who will enrich MTS and benefit from their experiences here.