Our Fourth Elementary School? – Please “X”-plain
print friendly textonly
Our Fourth Elementary School? – Please “X”-plain

Last November we voted for Measure X, a new school bond that was supposed to result in additional classrooms, a fourth elementary school in fact, in Foster City. About a y­ear ago and prior to the election, the San Mateo Foster City School District entered into exclusive negotiations with the owner of the Charter Square Shopping Center to purchase that land for the construction of a new school. Today, that exclusivity period has long expired and we still have no idea where our new classrooms are going to be built.So far, all we see are improvements at the schools in San Mateo, but nothing for our kids in Foster City. I think it's time for the School District to explain.

Overcrowding in Foster City schools is nothing new.I am now the senior member of our City Council and back when I was running for election in July of 2009, the School District had asked the City to give it Boothbay Park as an alternative for additional classroom space.I offered a number of suggestions to the School District Board Members at the time, but unfortunately to no avail.

We went through Measure P in 2013, which would have authorized the School District to issue bonds for specified purposes, but it too went down to failure.There are Measure L funds from 2008 still available, but so far very little of that money has been spent on providing additional classroom space in Foster City.

Prior to Measure X, I proposed to the then-Superintendent and some of the School Board Members that if their decision was to use Charter Square, we could do it as a joint project and provide not only a school but perhaps other community amenities as well.I suggested work-force housing for teachers, police officer and firefighters, and perhaps some retail space to replace the retail that was being lost.There was some head-nodding about how that seemed to be a good idea, but I never received a formal response.

About six months ago, I again proposed a joint project for development of the site and again there were smiles and polite talk, but no real answer.Then just a few weeks ago we had our most recent meeting and I again made a proposal.This time my suggestion was only for the City of Foster City and the School District to form a committee to explore joint development of the site that would benefit the entire community.I was told at the time that it did not seem likely that the School District could do that, as they "needed" the entire site for construction of the school.

Frankly, I found that shocking!They are looking at a school for 400 students – 16 classrooms.A building with 16 classrooms can be built using the entire site or it can use much less than the entire site by building a school of two or more stories.What also shocked me was that fact that the City Council was offering to explore and discuss a potential interest to put significant dollars into this project, dollars that the School District could save and use elsewhere – for construction for example, yet the School District was not even interested in discussing the matter.At the end of the meeting, I was told that the School Board would have to discuss this proposal in closed session and get back to us.They did and the answer was NO. They are not even willing to discuss the issue.

I was a strong proponent of Measure X. In fact, after the election they gave me a t-shirt to recognize my efforts on their behalf.I have been a strong advocate of the School District and of education since well before I was on the Council.Thus, despite my significant difficulty with the School District's lack of action and lack of willingness to be a community partner, I remained silent for the past year.Well, I am willing to be silent no more, because I need your help.I need you, as residents of Foster City, to go to School Board meetings and ask where our new school is, why they need the entire Charter Square site for only 16 classrooms, and why are they unwilling to even discuss the possibility of planning a joint development project with the City.I have asked all these questions often and still have no meaningful answer.I need you and your voice to help me get those answers.

I close by noting that it was not easy for me to write this article. I have placed myself in the center of this issue and I am certain to be blamed if the School District cannot come to agreement with Charter Square because they will say that I have interfered with the process.I tell you now, that is nonsense!The School District has had a capacity problem for at least a decade.Charter Square was an option for years, but the School District stood idly by and did nothing.As to the current negotiations, they have been going on for a year, and as a 30-year real estate lawyer, I can tell you with all certainty that it does not take a year to cut one real estate deal.I speak now because I saw what happened when the construction of the new San Mateo High School was delayed for two years.The construction costs increased substantially and the kids suffered in portables, much like the portables on the front lawn of Bowditch.I can no longer stand by and see that happen again to our community and quality of life.It is now time to act and if they want to blame me, they can get in the back of the line.

As always, the best way to reach me is via email at cbronitsky@fostercity.org.

Council Corner

October 05, 2016
Our Fourth Elementary School? – Please “X”-plain

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200