Purchasing land to provide a new home for Peninsula High School and the San Mateo Union High School District office is the preference for Superintendent Scott Laurence, but he'll need time to conduct a search.
Discussions of moving the alternative school from its current location -- housed at aging facilities on the campus of the former Crestmoor High School in San Bruno -- started early last year. On Thursday, March 7, the Board of Trustees will hold a special meeting at the Aragon Theater to discuss other options to house the alternative school and district office, on Delaware Street in San Mateo. The board will review the specific space needs for the two different uses, the options previously discussed, and Laurence's recommendation moving forward. He's asking the board to give him six months to look at land options. If nothing suitable emerges, he is suggesting that the district reconsider and discuss if a new Peninsula should be built on San Mateo High School's property on Delaware Street and Poplar Avenue.
"My first priority is to find property," said Laurence.
The goal has been to move Peninsula to a central location. Generally, Laurence will be interested in land between Millbrae Avenue and State Route 92, El Camino Real and Highway 101. Finding a spot within that area would cut down on travel time for students, who often spend one to two hours daily on the bus, said Laurence.
Land acquisition could mean buying separate parcels for the two goals or possibly one for both.
A recent polling of Peninsula students found that 86 percent take the bus to attend school and 68 percent live in Burlingame, Foster City or San Mateo, according to a staff report. The travel time for a student each way can range from an hour to 100 minutes depending on if he or she used district-provided or public transportation options, according to a staff report.
Finding a new home for Peninsula has been an ongoing conversation.
In 2010, a district advisory committee found that Crestmoor High School could be considered surplus if a new, appropriate home could be found for the alternative school Peninsula High and the other district services currently housed on the site.
During a January 2012 study session about Measure O, a $186 million bond measure passed in November 2010, the board agreed a new facility for the alternative school should be the next priority for the money. Trustees told staff to research all options -- placing the school on land at Hillsdale or San Mateo high schools, purchasing new land or remodeling the Crestmoor site in San Bruno where the school is currently located. Laurence then held meetings with local groups and elected officials explaining the pros and cons of the various options before the board took up the topic.
The possibility of moving the facility to either San Mateo or Hillsdale high school has spurred opposition at each school, by law enforcement officials and the San Mateo City Council, as well as in the community -- including two online petitions. This is the first meeting of the board on the topic since the idea came under fire from the community last summer.
Laurence is no longer suggesting Hillsdale be a consideration. San Mateo Union's enrollment is expected to grow in the southern part of the district. The space at Hillsdale will most likely be needed to accommodate that growth. Renovating Crestmoor is also no longer suggested by Laurence since it would not fix the long commute time for students.
Another aspect to this conversation is the Crestmoor High School site which was previously deemed to be unused or unneeded land for educational purposes if Peninsula was relocated. The decision opens up the option to sell the property, a move San Bruno residents have widely criticized. But that topic is not what's being considered at this time.
The board meets 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 7 at the Aragon Theater, 900 Alameda de las Pulgas, San Mateo.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105