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School Board President Addresses Potential Bond Measure

The president of the San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees writes about the potential upcoming ballot initiative that would raise money for the school district.

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. 

Sincerely,

Lory Lorimer Lawson

President

Board of Trustees

San Mateo-Foster City School District

Charlie Bronitsky March 01, 2012 at 03:50 PM
The vote is actually today at 7pm
Charlie Bronitsky March 01, 2012 at 04:00 PM
I went back and looked at the minutes of the School Board and in the September 8, 2011 minutes I found the following: "Dr. Simms announced that the Board of Trustees has selected the Charter Square parcel (1050 - 1064 Shell Boulevard, Foster City) as the preferred site for the fourth school in Foster City." According to the minutes votes were taken and it was unanimously passed to hire an environmental consultant and an architect to start the studies necessary for turning that site into a school. I wholly support a great education in Foster City but the issue of Charter Square is not fictitious. As demonstrated by the minutes, the School Board selected the site back in September.
Laura Dudnick March 01, 2012 at 04:00 PM
Charlie, thanks for catching that - just fixed the story. Laura
Jason McComb March 01, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Anyone following this issue sees the connection between more funds for the School District and possible condemnation of Charter Square. The regular agenda doesn't specify a "yet unnamed property", it specifies parcel 1050 - 1064 Shell Boulevard, Foster City. The Board has been working behind closed doors on this for months, and is using Tim Fox to help acquire the property. Sorry, but I think we're past trying to disguise intentions. While Charter Square is on the table, even as a small part of a bond measure, this is not a 'fictitious real estate controversy". What a callous and disrespectful way to refer to the elimination of 23 local businesses and 120+ jobs. I am overwhelmed by the support we have received from the community, in the form of signatures, phone calls, and email. I am excited to see the outcome of the meeting tonight, and encourage everyone who is able to join us. Jason McComb Charter Square Merchants Association
Kathe March 03, 2012 at 12:42 AM
I spoke at the meeting last night, too. I said we would not vote for their bond measure if Charter Square wasn't taken off the table as a possible site.

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