The San Mateo-Foster City School District Board of Trustees has instructed a pollster to gauge the interest of district voters in building a fourth elementary school in Foster City.
The board voted 4-1, with trustee Ellen Mallory Ulrich dissenting, at its meeting Thursday night in favor of sending pollster Brian Godbe into the community in order to retrieve fresh information on whether voters would support a bond measure that would be used to build the new school.
Under the approval, the board agreed to pay Godbe Research $20,000 for the polling of 400 to 500 district voters.
The district hired Godbe in February to do a similar poll, which found the board needed to rally more community support before going forward in approving a bond for the upcoming November election.
Yet still the board elected to go forward with approving putting the bond on the ballot, before pulling it in August amidst concerns regarding the decision to split the district and ask voters solely in Foster City to support the tax increase necessary to build a fourth elementary school.
According to district reports, a fourth elementary school in Foster City is necessary to accommodate an expected enrollment spike over the coming years.
The district has already selected a potential site inside Charter Square at 1050-1064 Shell Blvd., Foster City to build the fourth elementary school. It is in the process of negotiating a purchase price for the site, as well as searching for an architect to design the campus.
The purchase of the land would be covered by money left in the $175 million Measure L bond that was passed by voters in 2008. A separate bond would be necessary to cover the construction cost.
At Thursday night's meeting, Board Chair Mark Hudak said he supported the idea of going to get updated information from district voters before making any further decisions on whether, or how, to pursue the bond.
Superintendent Cynthia Simms had floated at the board meeting October 6 the idea to fold the cost of the school construction into a larger district wide bond that would also offer enhancements to district schools in San Mateo, such as solar panels and improved classroom technology.
Ulrich has repeatedly opposed going to district voters for another bond measure, as she said she believes the region is already overtaxed by the existing elementary school district bonds, as well as the burdens placed on voters by the high school and college districts.
"When I got my last tax bill I almost had a heart attack," said Ulrich. "I think we should focus on other things in the district right now. We should figure out our other priorities before we go out for other bonds."
But Hudak said that polling the district voters will be useful to tell the district what kind of support the community shows for passing a new bond measure.
He has also said that he would only support the bond measure for the construction of the fourth school only if it went to solely Foster City voters.
The past couple discussion by the board on the matter of a fourth school have been largely contentious, and Thursday's meeting was no exception.
"This remains a very difficult issue for the district and how we are going to deal with our enrollment issues," said Hudak.
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