Balancing growing enrollment with a desire to offer new programs districtwide has led San Carlos officials to consider changing the grade configuration and opening two new schools.
Last year, San Carlos Elementary School District officials said they must add capacity because of the growing number of children at all of its schools. On Thursday, the board discussed drawings of a possible solution: Building a new elementary school on each of the middle school sites. Such schools wouldn’t be traditional but could support fourth and fifth grade students. Doing so would lower the number of students at each site while offering an equal opportunity for all district students. After the idea was introduced Thursday evening, trustees had many questions but were open to learning more.
Superintendent Craig Baker explained the idea originally was to build a new elementary school at Central Middle School. Those in the community then asked how such a plan would benefit their child. Putting schools at each middle school, Baker explained, would allow the district to keep current boundaries, lower the student enrollment at all existing schools and create an academic program specifically for fourth and fifth grade students.
Trustee Beth Hunkapiller had questions. A school serving only fourth and fifth grade students was previously the first to be vetoed when the district looked at reconfiguration, she said. Hunkapiller was also wary about building two schools that would be built at the same time because of the expense.
Others simply wanted more information as well as feedback from the community about changing the grade configurations.
Board President Seth Rosenblatt welcomed the idea.
"The longer I sit with it, the more I like it. … It solves an equity problem and also gives options for technology,” he said.
Trustee Adam Rak agreed, noting he was intrigued by the amount of positives such an option offered.
Configurations prepared by architect Paul Byrne, which were rough ideas, showed Central and Tierra Linda middle schools and how the parcels could be split to add a new school.
If new schools were to be built, the district would need to also study ways to cover the costs. That’s often completed through a bond measure. Baker estimated the bond could cost between $29 million to $59 million, depending on the needs. The district is currently working with a polling company which should survey the community later this month about a possible bond measure. Should the district go for a bond measure it would most likely be on a November ballot, which would allow a lower passage threshold of 55 percent.
At joint meetings between representatives of the school board and City Council, ideas for working together to solve the issue of growth emerged including using park space. Laureola School was an elementary school on the east side of El Camino Real built in 1951. It was closed in 1978 due to declining enrollment. Today, Laureola Park, located at 503 Old County Road, remains. Discussion of the topic doesn’t appear to have gone much farther than throwing out the original idea.
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: email@example.com or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.