Dennis McBride

Dennis McBride 

The transformation of the Redwood City Elementary School District is planned to continue, as officials are examining rebuilding the district office into a teacher housing development.

The district Board of Trustees advanced Wednesday, June 26, with a vision to redevelop the property at 750 Bradford St. into a tower with administrative headquarters on bottom floors and staff housing above. At the same meeting, officials also floated a parcel tax to the fall ballot and approved an annual budget.

The teacher housing, which is in the formative stages of planning, is part of a larger vision crafted by officials to consolidate school sites and rent or rebuild properties no longer accommodating students.

Board President Dennis McBride expressed his enthusiasm for the opportunity, borne out of an attempt by officials to both overhaul facilities and cure the fiscal dysfunction which has long plagued the system.

“It’s really exciting,” said McBride, who helped develop the vision for teacher housing with Superintendent John Baker, other administrators and a consultant who recommended alternative uses for the district’s unused properties.

McBride suggested the redeveloped downtown district office property could accommodate the administrative uses on the first two floors, with as many as eight stories of residential development above.

In pursuit of the vision, the district’s next step will be taking on a feasibility study examining the opportunity at the site, said McBride.

As for other district land, McBride said officials are considering leasing the former Adelante campus to Menlo Church and the former Orion campus to the Creative Learning Center, a service provider for students with special needs headquartered in Los Altos. The two initiatives are expected to generate about $2.1 million for the district, said McBride.

Officials will also seek requests for proposals to rent the former Hawes campus, where administrators had considered moving the district office until determining the relocation costs were too great.

Officials approved shuttering and consolidating campuses at the end of the school year in an effort to save costs associated with operating a neighborhood school system while preferring to move to a larger, regional model.

The district has long struggled with its finances, largely due to a dwindling enrollment associated with the popularity of local charter schools and families leaving Redwood City in search of more affordable communities.

The affordability crisis has also plagued the school district personnel, causing frequent staff turnover which officials are hoping to stem by developing housing reserved for educators and support workers.

Such developments have grown in popularity recently, as the San Mateo County Community College District operates a popular and expanding workforce housing network and the San Mateo Union High School District is seeking developing its own project with money generated by the sale of an old campus.

Regarding the district’s finances, officials also approved during the most recent meeting a budget which shows spending outpacing income to the tune of more than $6 million, requiring a $2.4 million transfer from estimated redevelopment agency allocations as well as $3.8 million from reserves to balance the books.

The shortfall stems mostly from the school system’s reliance on state allocations according to average daily attendance, since the amount of local property tax revenue generated is insufficient for Redwood City schools to be primarily community funded.

To boost access to local revenue, the officials also at the meeting approved floating a parcel tax to the fall ballot. The proposed $149 parcel tax stands to generate about $3.45 million annually over the next 12 years, if approved by a supermajority of voters in the November election. The district has another parcel tax, passed in 2012, which generates about $1.9 million annually.

McBride said the newly-proposed measure would generate money which would be directed to the district’s general fund, which officials could allocate toward reducing class sizes, paying teachers or expanding science, technology, engineering, arts and math programming. Revenue from the existing measure is divided equally to each school site, and allocated individually according to specific needs of the school community.

For his part, McBride expressed optimism the new measure — if approved — will go far to delivering desired curriculum to students while also building on the potential for young learners.

“It will be very powerful,” he said.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 105

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