San Mateo County schools cope with tide of students 

click to enlarge While dealing with state budget cuts, many schools in San Mateo County are also coping with surging student populations. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner file photo
  • While dealing with state budget cuts, many schools in San Mateo County are also coping with surging student populations.

Across the state, school districts are coping with budget cuts by laying off staff, scrapping programs and delaying maintenance. But several Peninsula school districts also face another challenge: growth.

“Certainly it’s wonderful to know that families want to come to your district,” said Emerita Orta-Camilleri, superintendent of the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary District.

While every school official wants their district to be desirable, the increased enrollment comes at a difficult time for districts, which are coping with several years of state budget cuts.

Belmont-Redwood Shores’ so-called “basic aid” funding formula doesn’t qualify the district for more money when enrollment expands, so officials have had to rely on local taxpayers. In the past two years, voters have approved multiple bond and parcel tax measures to expand the district’s capacity, including building a new elementary school in 2010.

“It is very difficult unless your community supports you,” Orta-Camilleri said.

San Mateo-Foster City has had less luck in its quest to build a new school.

The school board sought to put a bond measure on the June ballot to fund a new elementary building in Foster City and upgrade existing schools, but controversy over a proposed building site delayed the plan.

School board President Lory Lorimer Lawson said the district would hire a land-use planning expert and study the best way to deal with its shortage of space.

“If we do not build a new elementary school in Foster City, overcrowding will continue to impact our entire school district,” she said in an email to reporters.

The San Carlos Elementary School District also is looking to fund one or more new schools through bonds.

“We’re already overenrolled at the four elementaries by a couple hundred students,” said Superintendent Craig Baker.

The district has set up portable classrooms, and it redrew attendance boundaries between elementary schools to take the pressure off areas with the most growth.

Baker said the district was expecting a brief respite followed by more rapid growth in the next few years.

“Every time a house becomes available, it seems to get filled by people with strollers,” Baker said. “On the one hand, it’s a good thing because people want to come to our schools, but on the other hand, we would like to get a rest for a few years.”

Growing populations

As California struggles with ongoing budget woes, some Peninsula school districts have experienced a sharp increase in enrollment. -- Source: California Education Data Partnership

2006-07 2010-11 % change
Bayshore Elementary 415 543 31
Jefferson Elementary 6,421 6,998 9
Las Lomitas Elementary 1,096 1,336 22
Menlo Park City Elementary 2,256 2,629 17
Burlingame Elementary 2,343 2,771 18
Belmont-Redwood Shores 2,517 3,206 27
San Carlos Elementary 2,782 3,212 15
San Mateo-Foster City 9,996 10,904 9
San Francisco 56,183 55,571 -1

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