Editor's Note: The following letter was written by the president of the San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees in response to a proposed measure for the school district. The school board is slated to vote March 1 on whether to ask voters for approval on a $130 million bond measure in the June election.
As the President of the San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees, I am proud of the fact that our school district is now among the highest performing in the state. This success and achievement provides a great benefit to our community. Not only do our high performing schools provide a good education to our children they also attract new families to our communities and help to protect our property values. These universal benefits are a result of our shared values and a testament to this community’s commitment.
Despite this success, I am very concerned about potential misinformation and confusion surrounding our potential upcoming ballot initiative to raise desperately needed revenue for the San Mateo-Foster City School District. In reading recent coverage, one might be left with the impression that this potential initiative is about a commercial real estate transaction.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This potential measure is vitally necessary to address critical needs of the District. While a new elementary school for Foster City (which is already oversubscribed) is included, it is but only one item of the very many necessary capital projects to improve our facilities for our children that:
· Upgrade classrooms to meet current earthquake and building safety codes
· Update school library facilities, technology and science labs
· Improve access for students with disabilities
· Keep classrooms safe, clean and well-maintained
· Provide modern technology and computer labs at all schools
· Provide additional classrooms and school facilities to help relieve overcrowding in San Mateo and Foster City
· Improve energy efficiency to save money
The potential measure will address these critical areas of need in our district with funding that will go directly to our schools-and cannot be taken away by the State. The measure would provide $130 million for these needed school improvement projects and would cost property owners $19 per $100,000 of assessed valuation annually.
The recent controversy about where the new elementary school will be built and whether it will require us to obtain a commercial property in the area, Charter Square, is simply off topic. This is a troubling development that needs to be addressed before it becomes a distraction to the important needs of the students of our community. Two things must be understood:
· First, no determination on the ultimate site of the elementary school has been selected. While we have studied and reviewed many locations and have identified Charter Square as a viable potential, no Board determination has been made by District.
· Prior to making any decision on how we address our space shortage, we must conduct a full environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act, which will study project alternatives. This study is at least one year away.
Our needs for space are well understood; recently an independent demographer reported to our Board that our student enrollment is increasing dramatically throughout the District. You can read this report by visiting our school district's website. This report stated that in the next three years, 773 more students are expected to be enrolled in our schools. Both San Mateo and Foster City schools are experiencing this growth. This growth will require new classrooms in San Mateo. However, our schools in Foster City are already beyond capacity. If we do not build a new elementary school in Foster City, overcrowding will continue to impact our entire school district.
However, the potential bond Measure has nothing to do with the decision on how we address these space needs, it simply provides the funds necessary to address them while also addressing many more needs we have with our facilities throughout the District.
In order to prevent unnecessary controversy, the District has decided to embark on a process to study the best way to address our lack of available space. We will be hiring a land use planning expert with experience in schools to help guide us. This process will identify one or more potential solutions—some, or all, of them will be studied under the California Environmental Quality Act.
After the District has this information and with the funds necessary to construct the facility through the passing of the potential bond measure, we will make a decision about how we can best address the critical shortage of space in the Foster City portion of the District after a full and comprehensive public process where all views can be considered and addressed.
In the meantime, we hope that this potential bond measure is not held hostage as part of a fictitious real estate controversy. To do so would severely shortchange the needs of our children and the community’s success.
Lory Lorimer Lawson
Board of Trustees
San Mateo-Foster City School District