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City against school move
May 22, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

Bill Silverfarb/Daily Journal San Mateo Union High School Superintendent Scott Laurence was told by the San Mateo City Council last night that they oppose an idea to move a continuation high school onto the campus of San Mateo High School.

Bringing rival gangmembers from other cities to the campus of San Mateo High School will likely create violent conflicts and hostility if a proposal to relocate a continuation school to the site succeeds, according to a report by the San Mateo Police Department.

Last night, Police Chief Susan Manheimer spelled out the department’s concerns related to the San Mateo Union High School District’s effort to find a new home for Peninsula High School — a continuation school for students at risk of not graduating — which is currently housed at aging facilities on the campus of the former Crestmoor High School in San Bruno.

As many as 39 percent of Peninsula students have documented criminal behavior and another 20 percent have known street-gang affiliations, Manheimer said at a special City Council study session last night.

The district’s Superintendent Scott Laurence made a presentation to a packed council chambers last night that highlighted the pros and cons of relocating the school to the San Mateo High School campus.

Peninsula has 362 students currently, with about 58 percent of them residing in San Mateo, Laurence said.  

The district is weighing whether to buy land for the school, rebuild on the Crestmoor site or relocate the school to any of the district’s high schools.

Moving Peninsula to the San Mateo High School property will be less costly and centrally located for its students, who reside throughout the district but mostly in San Mateo, Laurence said.

The idea has already been met with opposition as the San Mateo High Parent Teacher Organization has penned an online petition opposing the idea with 762 signatures so far.

It also found opposition in a united City Council last night as all five members made formal declarations that they oppose the move.

But the council has no authority over the district, meaning the district can house Peninsula at any of its six comprehensive high school campuses, including Hillsdale in San Mateo, or purchase property for a new school facility.

About 200 people attended the study session with 25 of them taking the time to tell the council exactly why Peninsula should not be moved to the San Mateo High School campus.

"Trying to control the gang problem will be exponentially more work for police,” said Kerry Hyman, president of San Mateo High School’s parent-teacher organization.

Ninety-six teachers at San Mateo High School also oppose the move, said Miguel Appleman, who teaches at the school.

"I’m not sure the district is listening to its teachers,” Appleman said. Putting the Peninsula students on the San Mateo High School campus, he said, would put them "on the stigmatized side of the fence.”

A report prepared by the San Mateo Police Department states Peninsula students who reside in San Mateo will be better suited to go to school at a neutral campus, since many of them did not find success in a traditional school setting.

"There are simply several groups of students that comprise a significant portion of their student body population, that we believe could potentially create disruptive influences at San Mateo High School and in the broader North Central community and in turn create undue impacts to our already strained police resources,” according to the SMPD report.

There are a significant group of documented gangmembers from other cities attending Peninsula, mostly from Millbrae and San Bruno, that have rivalries with several gangs that operate in the North Central area, according to the SMPD report.

"The addition of outside rival gangmembers in this fragile neighborhood ... will likely create violent conflicts, open hostility and an environment that will take extraordinary police resources to quell,” according to the SMPD report.

Mayor Jack Matthews said he did not have a problem with Peninsula being located in San Mateo, "just not on the campus. Please look at another site.”

He suggested the school district find a 2-acre site on El Camino Real to purchase for the school.

Laurence said the district has been looking at sites in the 8- to- 14-acre range for Peninsula that could also be used for other district needs.

The district had a $186 million bond measure pass in 2010, Measure O, with part of it earmarked for a new facility for the continuation school.

Some at last night’s meeting said they would never support a bond measure again by the San Mateo Union High School District since Measure O had language in it to build a new school site for Peninsula students.

Placing the school on district-owned property could be the easiest solution since it requires less money and fewer approvals from outside agencies, according to the school district. In terms of district-owned property, the board could consider using surplus land at Hillsdale High School or reconfigure the San Mateo High School campus or make improvements to the Crestmoor site.

"The best way to help the students is to take them out of the environment they struggled in,” Deputy Mayor David Lim said. "Crestmoor serves these students well.”

A conceptual proposal to move Peninsula to San Mateo High School’s campus includes moving the district office — to where is yet unknown; shifting the adult school and building Peninsula on the adult school’s current location. While possible, the idea raised a number of concerns from the board in January including reducing the open space, putting more people on a crowded parcel and worsening an already bad traffic situation.

The school district’s board is not expected to make a decision on relocating Peninsula until the fall, maybe in October.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by email: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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