Kevin Martinez

Kevin Martinez

San Bruno school officials are moving ahead with the process determining the fate of the former Engvall Middle School campus — potentially a key piece in the vision to restructure the financially-strapped school district.

The San Bruno Park Elementary School District Board of Trustees directed administrators Saturday, May 14, to craft a request for proposals at the 21-acre property currently occupied by the San Bruno Golf Center.

The direction sets the stage for forthcoming decision on the fate of the land, as officials must determine whether they prefer to lease or sell the site located at 2101 Sneath Lane.

For his part, board President Kevin Martinez said opinions on the matter must acknowledge both the dire state of the district’s budget and the future needs of the school system.

“It gives you pause to evaluate the present view of your needs balanced against the long-term benefits, and I think we are empowered to do that, but you want to be forward looking and prudent and cautious,” he said.

Superintendent Stella Kemp said further discussion regarding request for proposals would likely arrive next month. Kemp has been instrumental in the district reconsidering its structure as part of a process designed to improve its financial footing.

Officials agreed late last year to sell the recently-shuttered El Crystal Elementary School for $13.5 million to the Stratford School, which also leases the former Crestmoor Elementary School campus.

El Crystal Elementary School was closed as part of a pivot by officials away from a system built around neighborhood schools to a regional one with larger campuses. Officials are hopeful the transformation will free the district from the budget constraints which have hamstrung operations for years.

The revenue generated by the sale will help pay toward the rebuild of existing facilities which need to be revamped and improved to accommodate more students, as it can only pay toward facility needs and not operations. Officials will use the sales money in tandem with the $79 million raised by a recently-approved bond measure.

The El Crystal Elementary School site is not the only property on the sales block, as officials agreed earlier this year Rollingwood Elementary School would also be shuttered and sold. The timeline for the campus is yet to be determined though.

Meanwhile, Engvall Middle School has been closed since 1989. The site at the gate to Crestmoor Canyon is currently rented by the driving range, but school officials reserved the right to purchase the remaining value on the lease if alternative uses are preferred.

Martinez said it is likely too early to tell whether officials will ultimately pursue allowing new uses at the site, but suggested it is their obligation to at least gauge the alternatives available.

“It would make the most sense to solicit requests for proposals to find out what their interest is at the site, then form something tangible on that,” he said.

He also noted there are divergent opinions among officials regarding the option to sell or lease the site, which he hoped would be informed by the forthcoming proposed uses.

“People have expressed preferences, but I think that got us looking to the requests for proposals to see where the interest would be,” he said.

One unique opportunity raised during the weekend’s discussion was for the site to host some of the soccer fields which could be displaced by the San Mateo Union High School District’s interest in redeveloping the former Crestmoor High School campus.

High school district officials started the process of examining residential development proposals for the site in an effort to finance construction of affordable housing for teachers. As part of the discussion, officials have committed to making available the soccer fields which are currently used at the campus by the community, though no promises have been made that the fields would be kept at the school site.

For his part, Martinez suggested the opportunity to collaborate with other local school officials at the former middle school campus was intriguing.

“That was a new element that we would look to explore too,” he said.

But with the variety of options available, Martinez said he thinks the path ahead may become more clear once officials get a better sense of the interest in the site.

“We have just got to gauge the interest from the market, that is the main takeaway,” he said.

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