A $130 million bond measure primarily aimed at rebuilding and expanding Bowditch Middle School to add fifth graders and to reopen Knolls Elementary School is on the Nov. 5 ballot for the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District.
The Daily Journal interviewed those for Measure P last week, including board President Lory Lorimer Lawson, Superintendent Cyndy Simms and Measure P co-chairs Daniela Relaford and Doug Stoveland. Trustee Ellen Mallory Ulrich and Heidi Bowman, the treasurer of past bond Measure L, also interviewed at the Daily Journal, but on the opposing side.
If approved, Knolls in San Mateo, which has been used as a temporary overflow school, could reopen for the 2016-17 school year, following a design process and construction of about three years, taking about $18 million. About $60-80 million would go Bowditch in Foster City expanding from 1,000 to 1,500 students, adding a floor and expanding on the ground level to address growing enrollment. It would cost property owners $19 per $100,000 assessed property value. Voters previously approved Measure L, a $175 million bond measure in 2008. There is still $70 million in funds left from Measure L, Lawson said.
Those opposing the measure fear that other facilities projects are being thrown to the wayside.
“Where’s the list of other schools that aren’t getting work done that are incomplete projects from Measure L?” Bowman said.
Priorities have changed, Lawson said. She noted that fixing and expanding Knolls and Bowditch are pressing needs.
Ulrich disagrees, noting that Borel Middle School in San Mateo is a target of a population explosion and is a place where facilities need to be added. Both she and Bowman said they are concerned Bowditch will end up costing a lot more than anticipated.
“I’m appalled work has not been done when we could have gotten great pricing [during the recession],” Bowman said.
Ulrich is concerned about the Superintendent’s Committee on Overcrowding Relief group’s leaning toward Foster City because of its overwhelming number of people from Foster City in the committee, fearing they had self-serving interests. She is also concerned about a lack of plan in place for Knolls, while Simms said that there would be a conversation with the community on how the school should take form — be it boundary changes or turning it into a magnet school — if the measure is approved.
“You can’t have a committee only from Foster City deciding a bond measure,” Ulrich said. “We need to go back to the drawing board with San Mateo and Foster City people and sit down and say ‘there are other options.’”
The “us versus them” mentality is a scary thing, said Lawson. Stoveland noted that they are all a part of one district and the needs are all theirs, while Lawson noted that there are different requirements for each school based on when it was built.
“There’s so many things we do well together,” she said.
Of the Measure P funds, $18 million would also go to energy efficiencies, including solar panels, replacing old and inefficient windows, lighting, irrigation, heating and ventilation systems. Thirty-million dollars would go to technology, such as upgrading media and audio/visual equipment, electrical systems and upgrading and replacing computers, hardware and software systems, to support the new Common Core standards. The new curriculum calls for more team collaborative learning, with less time spent on lectures and more of an emphasis on students using technology in classrooms.
Measure L helped fund wireless, SMART Boards and voice enhancement systems, Simms said.
Ulrich is not so pleased with the technology and solar aspects of the plan either.
“Technology is great, but living within your means is also great,” she said.
She rather see devices leased since she doesn’t want to see taxpayers buy devices that have a five- to six-year shelf life.
“Then there’s maintenance taken care of by people who know what they’re doing and they’re up to date,” she said. “Things change so quickly.”
Ulrich has her qualms about the district purchasing solar panels as well.
“It’s an awesome idea, but do I think asking taxpayers to put up $18 million for putting up solar panels is a good idea? No,” she said.
Solar would be incredibly cost-effective, Lawson said, with Simms adding that about $900,000 each year would be diverted from operational dollars to the general fund because of the switch.
Last year, the district nixed a $130 million bond measure that would have proposed buying up land in Foster City to build a new school so it could better communicate its goals with the public. This came after SCORE recommended the board replace Bowditch and move fifth graders there, which is now part of the current bond measure.
Measure P requires 55 percent of voters’ approval to pass.
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