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Once again the issue of building a fourth elementary school in Foster City has come to the forefront. When it was first raised in the summer of 2009, the San Mateo Foster City School District had requested that the City give it Boothbay Park, a request that was vehemently opposed at a public hearing in 2009 and ultimately denied by the City Council.
The School Board continued to press forward and voted to create a sub-district of only Foster City, separate from San Mateo, for the purpose of having only Foster City residents vote on a multi-million dollar bond to fund land purchase and construction of a new school. Apparently the School District’s polling on the potential success of the bond measure did not go well, as the bond was pulled from the ballot prior to the vote.
Today we have before us the issue of the School District wanting to build a school at the Charter Square Shopping Center. The owners of Charter Square, however, are not interested in selling the center, they are interested in redeveloping the center into mixed use with modernized retail and some housing. The School District has therefore been looking at the prospect of simply taking Charter Square from the owners by power of eminent domain, a power which allows a governmental entity to purchase land from an owner regardless of whether the owner wants to sell or not. Let me be clear on my position on this: I do not think this is a good idea and I do not think that the Charter Square location is a good location for a school. I do, however, strongly support a quality education for our Foster City students and I think that there are more reasonable and feasible alternatives that the School District should consider.
Back in 2009 when I was running for my seat on the Council, I spoke with two of the School Board members and offered them several options that I had researched. One of those options, the one I believe is most viable and will best address the needs, is to redevelop the Bowditch Campus.
Although some work was done on the Bowditch Campus last summer, it is readily apparent that a new state of the art facility would be a major boost to the ability of the School District to educate our middle school students. Much has changed since Bowditch was built and a new state of the art campus, with all new and modern facilities could be a key asset of our community. When building this new campus, I have suggested that an additional building be built in the far corner of the campus and used, for now, as an additional elementary school and then as the students grow up, it can be used to provide additional capacity for Bowditch, something the School District has admitted it will need but plans to fill with portables.
I see this as a win-win for our community. The School District saves by not having to buy land to build a building, it can get started on the project that much sooner, it can add capacity for elementary school students and also have capacity when they become middle school students. A new state of the art facility will only enhance the ability of the School District to provide a great education. Creative education programs could be brought to this new campus involving the interaction of elementary school and middle school students. The opportunities are endless.
I have been suggesting this alternative for well over two years, speaking directly to elected officials and the professionals responsible for running the School District. To date, not one of them has told me why this is a bad idea. Perhaps there are reasons, but no one has told me yet what they are.
Regardless of how you feel, I urge all of you to get involved, as I will continue to be involved. There is a School Board meeting on March 1 at which this issue may come to a vote (the agenda has not yet been released as of this writing). The School Board is located at 1170 Chess Drive right here in Foster City. The Board meetings start at 7:00 p.m. I intend to appear and speak and I hope each of you will as well.
Share your ideas with me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (650) 286-3504.
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