Residents Turn Out En Masse To Support New Elementary School in Foster City

Board meeting features overwhelming support for school and bond measure.

Community members showed overwhelming support for plans to build a fourth elementary school in Foster City at the San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday.

Nearly 20 people attended the meeting in favor of the school's proposed construction, which is to be funded by a bond measure that would be paid for strictly by Foster City residents.

As a result of the community's support, board members agreed to move forward and secure funding for the new school's construction.

Board members and administration said the school is necessary to cope with anticipated enrollment growth in Foster City. By the 2013-2014 school year, about 545 new students are expected to attend city schools, which is 16% growth since the 2005-2006 school year, according to a district report.
Longtime Foster City resident Robert Nelson was one of six people to speak in favor of the new school.

"We will be behind every step that is in that direction," said Nelson. "And I would be happy to pay higher taxes."

Board president Mark Hudak said that the bond could cost Foster City residents about $20 per $100,000 of their appraised home values.

Resident David Saito, who spoke representing many in attendance, asked that the board secure the funding for the school. Saito said that he would lead the community outreach effort to rally support for the bond.

"Please move forward with the fourth school," said Saito, whose comments were received with a round of applause.

Speakers from community organizations, like the Lions and Kiwanis clubs of Foster City, said they too supported the proposal to bring a fourth school to town.

Board members all supported the crowd's sentiments. They said the school is necessary to not only handle enrollment growth, but also to eliminate stress on school facilities such as libraries and computer labs, as well as reduce safety risks on playgrounds, among other concerns.

But Trustee Colleen Sullivan reminded those in attendance that the new school's construction would not be effective in reducing the district's student to teacher ratio, which is currently creeping toward 26:1.

"If we build a fourth school, that won't change the ratio," said Sullivan. "But it will change the amount of students at a campus."

Trustee Julie Chan implored supporters to go into the community and advocate for the bond measure's passage, but reminded those in attendance that opposition to the bond would see the available space on existing campuses and ask why another school is necessary.

She said that it is not realistic to ask district and school administration to manage the overcrowding on campuses that will likely occur, as it pertains to juggling the limited facility space.

"If this continues and our teachers get burned out, we risk losing them, and the students are the ones that suffer," she said.

Chan moved to request district staff prepare the bond proposal for November's ballot. Superintendent Pendery Clark slowed down that timeline. Clark who amended Chan's motion to request staff move forward with securing the funds, but did not include a date to finish.

In other business, the district proposed $7.74 million in budget cuts and revenue savings that would extend through the 2012-2013 year. The budget balancing efforts are proposed to cope with an $8.05 million deficit over that same time span.

A majority of the cuts come from layoffs to personnel, accounting for about $4.5 million in pink slips.

None of the cuts were finalized last night, as the board will narrow down what cuts they will approve before action is taken on the budget on May 3.

Clark said the district is currently "over-noticing" in laying off its employees as the leaders attempt to budget conservatively.

The board did approve preliminary layoffs of the equivalent of nearly 53 full-time classified employees last night.

In other items, board members voted 3-2 to uphold their Jan. 27 decision to not fund construction of a housing project that would be offered exclusively to district employees.

Chan had requested to bring the topic back to the board after apparently being dissatisfied with the outcome of the earlier discussion.

But she was unable to persuade fellow board members Hudak, Sullivan and Ellen Mallory Ulrich to support the project, as the decision to table it for at least three more years was again approved. Lory Lorimer Lawson sided with Chan, and voted accordingly.

DarrenTh April 04, 2011 at 05:40 AM
So is it my understanding, then, that as a Foster City homeowner I will have to pay for this new school, but it is a school that can be used by all of the people in the District ... including San Mateo? If it is available to all of the District's children, why shouldn't the entire district pay for it, too?


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