Shara Watkins

Shara Watkins

Following years of hurdles, construction of a new Foster City elementary school is slated to take a sizable step forward as education officials may select a builder for the new campus.

The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District Board of Trustees is facing the selection of a preferred contractor from two bidding firms which have applied to develop the school proposed at the former Charter Square shopping center. The potential decision Thursday, June 6, could mark a key advancement for the project which has been plagued with a variety of dilemmas since it was first proposed several years ago.

Recognizing the magnitude of the moment, school board President Shara Watkins expressed her enthusiasm regarding the opportunity to push the project forward.

“It’s a huge step,” said Watkins. “Foster City is well overdue for a new elementary school. There have been issues of overcrowding for years.”

At the upcoming meeting, officials will weigh the lower bid of $29.9 million from Overaa & Company against the costlier bid of $32.2 million from Rodan Builders to construct the two-story school designed to accommodate about 460 students at the intersection of Shell and Beach Park boulevards.

Watkins acknowledged the two bids came in a bit higher than officials had hoped, but she shared optimism that officials would be able to offset potential additional costs by pulling from other funds.

She further balanced that perspective by noting that the two bids received were relatively competitive, especially considering the rising costs of construction throughout the Bay Area.

“They did come in much more reasonable than we had anticipated,” said Watkins.

Officials took the school out to bid on their own following the dissolution of a construction deal with the former property owner, which had previously agreed to develop the campus after the district acquired the land.

The failed development deal was the last phase of dysfunction for the project, which also faced a lawsuit attempting to block its progress with claims that the district subverted the public process by hiring the previous land owner to build the school. The lawsuit was eventually settled.

Watkins cited the district’s ability to independently seek bids as a crucial component to identifying potential builders willing and able to work alongside the district.

“The option we had to go out to bid on our own has allowed us to have bids which are more within the realm of possibility for us,” she said.

The project has also seen significant cost escalation and designs have been amended to be more affordable. Financing for the new campus as well as gyms and classrooms throughout the district is offered through the $148 million Measure X bond, which must also address a variety of construction projects in a second phase of construction. The bond fund has about $102 million remaining, according to a recent district report.

Should a contractor be identified within the project budget, Watkins has said she expects Foster City elementary school construction could start in July with an anticipated completion in fall 2020. The site where a shopping center and post office once stood has since been cleared and is ready for construction.

Following the variety of hurdles the project has encountered, Watkins shared her anticipation for the chance to push forward a priority project for the district.

“It’s really exciting for us,” she said.

The San Mateo-Foster City Elementary School District Board of Trustees meets 7 p.m. Thursday, June 6, in the district office, 1170 Chess Drive, Foster City.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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(6) comments

JD Rhoads

I apologize for my typos. Big fingers stinking little keys! But I'm confident you all will decipher it.

JD Rhoads

I'm sorry. I read the opening paragraph and started to laugh. I graduated San Mateo High in 1966. In 1964 Foster came to San Mateo and requested that San Mateo allowntheir students to arlttens San Mateo High Schools intil they xan build theirbown in a "year or two". LOL!! 2019 there still isn't a high school in Foster City. Actually there isn't a Foster in Foster City. Okd man Foster moved to San Mateo. And they complain about"pass through" traffic? This is hysterically funny!

Jeff Regan

@JD Rhoads Agree that Foster City not having a high school to this day is a shame. This is a different school district then what this article references. The San Mateo Union High School District never intended to build Foster City a high school, despite all the state income they receive from FC school students. FC is the largest California City without a high school. Many FC residents wanted to start their own high school district, but the votes weren’t there. Cut through traffic is to the East Bay, so not sure of the relevance. Finally, Jack Foster III lives in Foster City. I know because he lives on my street.

Jeff Regan

Very happy this is finally moving forward. The best part is that the Foster City Council and Planning Commission will have to keep their hands off of it. Having a city council member sue the school district was a waste of time and money.

vincent wei

Watkins acknowledged the two bids came in a bit higher than officials had hoped……… “They did come in much more reasonable than we had anticipated,†said Watkins. So which is it? Ever get the feeling that during this whole convoluted process, the school district has been learning on the job……. It’s a problem system-wide, elected officials with no background whatsoever in real estate development.

Comment deleted.
vincent wei

I believe it...a clear sign of an inexperienced real estate they say "It would be funny if it weren't so sad... with so much needed (smaller class sizes etc.) education money being wasted....and it also seems $46 Million of the $148 Million bond has already been spent.

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