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OP-ED: New direction for San Carlos
April 24, 2014, 05:00 AM By Matt Kowitt

Matt Kowitt

If only we knew then what we know now. Get talking with almost anyone in San Carlos about kids and schools, and eventually the old San Carlos High School comes up. San Carlos High, home of the Dons, closed in 1982 in response to declining enrollment. Six years later, the campus was razed and sold for housing development, with a portion of the land transformed into Highlands Park. The same story describes the old Laureola Elementary School, which closed in 1978 and was later sold off for development. Less well known were the additional future school sites, places with names like Site 8 and Site 10, that were held by the San Carlos school district in the western part of town in preparation for a growing population in the middle of the last century. After enrollments peaked and began declining in the 1970s, budget pressures led to the sale of these properties as well, mostly for development.

Today, our schools are bursting at the seams with growing enrollment and need to expand capacity. It’s easy now, with the benefit of nearly 40 years experience and hindsight, to wish we could go back and make different decisions. We can look at the exception of Tierra Linda Middle School, closed in 1982 during the same era but thankfully not sold off — that site was available to reopen in 2001 and is now a full, thriving middle school as well as home to Charter Learning Center, or CLC.

San Carlos, like much of the Peninsula, is essentially built out. The few remaining patches of vacant land are of course the most challenging to develop. It is neither possible nor desirable to try to undo the losses of former school land: those sites now are part of our community. Families live there and have made those places home.

But, there is an opportunity today for San Carlos to set a new course. To turn the corner on a 40-year trend of losing land that has once and will again be desperately needed for schools and public benefit. The undeveloped city land at the top of Crestview, near Club Drive and across the street from Vista Park, should be developed as a school site to house the nearly 400 K-8 students of CLC, making room on the Tierra Linda campus for a new fourth-, fifth-grade school. This can be accomplished if the city of San Carlos accepts a proposed land swap from San Carlos Elementary School District, trading the Crestview property to the district for around 4 acres at the edge of Tierra Linda for development as a sports facility.

The San Carlos City Council met on Tuesday, April 22 to discuss the land swap proposal. Much work remains to be done, and no firm guidance was given by the council about how a deal might be structured. However, all five members of the City Council concurred that an important next step should be to put the question directly to the voters of San Carlos. This would likely happen sometime this fall.

The time to act is now. The students are here, and construction cannot wait. San Carlans should seize this opportunity to be good stewards of the community’s resources.

Matt Kowitt is a 16-year resident of San Carlos, and the current board chair of San Carlos Charter Learning Center.



Tags: carlos, school, development, closed, district, tierra,

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