Enrollment is projected to grow in the Sequoia Union High School District from 8,300 to more than 10,000 students by 2020-21 and enrollment in its feeder districts is also starting to grow. So how does the district meet the growing demand for its classroom space?
The answer seems to lie in a $265 million bond measure which would allow the district to create two small schools of 300 to 400 students while adding six additional classrooms to Menlo-Atherton High School. That last project is called key after district officials agreed to shift East Palo Alto students currently being bused to Carlmont High School in Belmont to the closer Menlo-Atherton.
Addressing opposition that says the district is not using its current funding properly, the district is a victim of its diverse socioeconomic student population. It has been hit hard by the revised state Local Control Funding Formula because overall, it has revenue to support itself as a basic aid district, but still does not receive the funding required to meet the needs of its low-income population. Districts in other parts of the state that have a large percentage of low-income students typically are not basic aid and will receive their share of new state money specified for that population. It is an unfortunate reality that is unique to this area that has significant pockets of both rich and poor populations.
That aside, there is a need for new facilities to meet the needs of the growing student population and the district has been deliberate and methodical in determining a responsible path forward in contending with, and indeed, thriving with the change. By shifting borders, the district is aiming to fix an equity issue that required students from East Palo Alto to be bused to a school far from their neighborhoods. It also is aiming to add new schools with small populations that will meet the overflow needs of the district rather than impacting the already established schools.
The price of the bond called for in Measure A is no small matter. It is $265 million and will mean an increase of approximately $16 per $100,000 assessed value of a property. That means the owner of a home with an assessed value of $700,000 will see an increase of $112 on their annual tax bill. However, the benefit outweighs the cost. Crowded schools means additional challenges in the classroom and good schools equal higher property values. District officials have been proactive in engaging the community about the necessity of the projects to meet growing enrollment challenges. Measure A is the result of that community engagement. It deserves your support.