San Carlos School District explores options for charter center after land swap scrapped 

The San Carlos School District is considering alternative sites for its Charter Learning Center after the City Council recently voted against building a new facility on city-owned parkland off North Crestview Drive.

The district had hoped to build the new structure for the charter center on a 4-acre plot off Crestview Drive, which would have meant swapping some district land with the city in what district officials had described as a historic agreement.

But Councilmembers Bob Grassilli and Matt Grocott both voted against the proposal after considering some residents' concerns, and without the four out of five votes needed, the Crestview Drive plan was effectively struck down for good.

The San Carlos Charter Learning Center, which opened in 1994, is the oldest charter school in the state and one of the oldest charters in the country, and currently serves about 260 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

The council's action on the potential land swap agreement conflicted with the position expressed by school officials. Superintendent Craig Baker lamented the council's decision in a letter sent to parents.

The council's vote "rendered irrelevant our tentative agreement to swap land with the city, which would have allowed us to reduce the future impact of traffic in our city, preserve and enhance sports fields, and provide a new home for the Charter Learning Center," Baker said.

If the swap had been enacted, the city would have received about 4 acres of land near Tierra Linda Middle School, a 2.9-acre space near Heather Elementary School, and $1.5 million to invest in an athletic field at Tierra Linda.

As a result of the council's rejection, San Carlos residents will not have the opportunity to vote on the matter, something school board President Adam Rak lamented, as community members have been actively engaged throughout the discussion.

"You had almost 1,500 people sign a petition in favor of the swap, 500 who signed against it, so you had a lot of interest from the community," Rak said. "They were engaged on this issue, and I think it was a disservice not letting the citizens vote."

Concerns raised by residents who protested the land swap deal included an increase in traffic to the area, environmental impacts, and the loss of park lands.Among other options being considered by the school district are keeping the center within the Tierra Linda Middle School campus or moving it to Heather Elementary. The board will meet to decide the matter Aug. 7, said Rak.

In his letter to parents following the council vote, Baker noted that the district "will continue to look at creative solutions to our current enrollment challenges." The district has pushed for the construction of a new Charter Learning Center building as a way to help ease overcrowding from increasing enrollment, as well as to expand educational offerings for students.

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Emilie Mutert

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