Budget cuts could shut down community college classes in Half Moon Bay, forcing Coastside residents to travel farther to go to school.
Three years ago, the College of San Mateo began offering classes from two classrooms and a computer lab in downtown Half Moon Bay.
About 10 percent of the community college district’s students come from the coast, but until then, those students had to drive half an hour north to San Bruno’s Skyline College, or 20 minutes over the hill to College of San Mateo.
Before long, the Coastside facility was hosting 15 classes a week. But despite that success, the experiment may end when the lease ends in December.
“We’d like to keep it going, but the economic times just make it really, really difficult,” said James Keller, executive vice chancellor at San Mateo Community College District.
Keller said the San Mateo County Community College District has cut classes across its campuses to accommodate $20 million in cuts in the past few years.
The facility, which costs about $8,000 a month to rent, was nearly closed when the lease came up in December, but was saved at the last minute. The number of sections offered there was cut from 15 to just three this spring, however, and only five are planned for this fall.
Ron Andrade, coordinator for the Coastside facility, said moving the classes to San Mateo will make it harder for many students to attend.
“I know students who have simply said, ‘I won’t go over the hill for a class,’” Andrade said. “I’m not really sure, when it comes down to it, how many will make that choice.’”
Other students may not have a choice to make, said Joe Toschik, public services librarian at the Half Moon Bay Library.
“Getting over to the main campus at the College of San Mateo is a hardship for a lot of people,” he said. “The public transportation is really patchy, there’s maybe eight buses a day over the hill, so if people don’t have ready access to a car, they aren’t really able to take any community classes over there.”
The San Mateo Community College District may pull out of Half Moon Bay this year, but officials hope to return in style.
The district has approached the city of Half Moon Bay, its library, the local school districts, and San Mateo County about building a shared facility in Half Moon Bay.
The proposed building would include a large new library as well as classroom space, and possibly office space for the county and city, said James Keller, executive vice chancellor for the community college district.
There’s a need for about 100,000 square feet, Keller said. The project could require a bond for financing.
Librarian Joe Toschik said the current library was built in 1971 to serve a population of about 5,000, and now serves tens of thousands of residents between Pacifica and Santa Cruz, the two nearest libraries.
Half Moon Bay City Council member Marina Fraser said the city lost out on California bond funding for new libraries in 1999.
“I think we’re all in the same financial situation, and you have to find ways to optimize your dollars and resources,” she said.