San Mateo Mayor David Lim and Deputy Mayor Robert Ross recommend that the full council oppose Measure P when it votes whether to endorse the school bond at its Monday night meeting.
Lim and Ross, as part of the legislative subcommittee, say the $130 million bond does not “adequately address equity issues for students in San Mateo” and “was formulated with no input from key stakeholders” in the city.
The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District is seeking to expand capacity at Bowditch Middle School in Foster City to accommodate all of the city’s fifth graders, which will cost an estimated $62 million, or about 48 percent of the total bond.
Other facility improvements include $18 million to upgrade and reopen Knolls Elementary School in San Mateo; $18 million to install solar panels on school district property; $30 million to provide for core standards improvements, including the upgrade of technology for students throughout the district; and $2 million for undetermined needs.
The subcommittee’s decision not to support the bond led to an awkward moment after the meeting between Lim, Ross and district Superintendent Cynthia Simms when she hesitated to shake their hands.
The “handshake-gate” moment has since created a bit of a rift between those in Foster City who say the Bowditch expansion is a necessity to help relieve the city’s three overcrowded elementary schools and those in San Mateo who say too much of the bond money will go toward assisting Foster City students.
Lim and Ross oppose the measure, in part, because all seven members of the Superintendent’s Committee on Overcrowding Relief had Foster City’s interests in mind since no one from San Mateo sat on the committee, according to a staff report the full council will hear Monday.
The two also contend that the bond does not address equal access to a quality education since San Mateo has an average population of 31 percent low-income students compared to only 4 percent low-income students in Foster City.
They also said plans for Knolls Elementary School are vague and unfair to San Mateo parents and that some schools in San Mateo have capacity to house additional students that could ease the district’s overall crowding problem.
If passed, property owners will pay $19 per $100,000 of assessed property value annually to pay off the bond.
The district still has $70 million remaining in Measure L funds that was approved by district voters in 2008.
“As I understand it, most of the proceeds of the prior bonds went toward schools located in San Mateo yet I wholeheartedly supported that because those schools needed the funds to make repairs and expand their campuses,” Foster City Vice Mayor Charlie Bronitsky wrote the Daily Journal in an email.
Bowditch is more than 40 years old and is antiquated, Bronitsky said.
The district tried for years without success to find space in Foster City to build a fourth elementary school in anticipation of increasing enrollment.
Adding on to Bowditch will add capacity to the three elementary schools in Foster City and ease the city’s current overcrowding problems, according to bond proponents.
The district is seeking the council’s endorsement of the bond measure. The council may still endorse it, however, despite the subcommittee’s recommendation since it would require three votes.
Measure P requires 55 percent of voters’ approval to pass.
The San Mateo City Council meets 7 p.m., Monday, Oct. 7, City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., San Mateo.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106