Measure A passage means more classrooms at local high schools


Plans to expand classroom capacity at local public high schools can now move into a more detailed phase with the passage Tuesday of a $265 million bond measure in the Sequoia Union High School District.

Measure A won the approval of 64.3 percent of the voters, according to results announced election night. The yes vote was 15,780 and the no vote, 8,752. Passage required the approval of 55 percent of the voters.

The district's school board proposed Measure A in response to a predicted enrollment surge of at least 22 percent by the 2020-2021 school year. The projections reflect a surge in enrollments in the elementary school districts that feed students into the high schools, with much of the growth coming from the Menlo Park and Las Lomitas districts and the districts serving Belmont and San Carlos.

At Menlo-Atherton High, where the impact is expected to be felt most strongly, district officials see enrollment growing by as much as 25 percent by 2020-21. At Woodside, projections show around 19 percent growth.

At these two schools, the effect of Measure A will be most noticeable when second stories rise on top of what are mostly single-story classroom buildings. These campuses and the others -- Sequoia High in Redwood City and Carlmont High in Belmont -- are built out, so the only reasonable option was to go up, officials said.

Initial plans show M-A receiving a total of 22 new classrooms. In addition to 17 regular classrooms, there would be two for science, one for chemistry and two for the arts or career technical education. (Five new regular classrooms are already funded.)

Woodside would get 15 new classrooms: 12 regular and one each for science, chemistry and art or career technical education.

More bathrooms, staff offices and food service areas and upgrades to physical education facilities are also on the project lists for each school.

To lighten the impact at M-A, the district plans to build one of two new small magnet high schools for 300 to 400 students "in the Menlo Park area."

The small schools would each have a curriculum focus, such as art or science, to attract students away from the comprehensive schools. In a search for models, the district's career-technology task force has been evaluating "several successful small CTE schools" in the Bay Area, Superintendent Jim Lianides told the Almanac.

Measure A will also dedicate about $21 million to Redwood School, a "continuation" school that gives students at risk of not completing their coursework another chance at a diploma.

At a January 2014 school board meeting, Redwood High Principal Miguel Rodriguez noted the importance of equitable facilities. Redwood has no computer lab, no library, no multi-purpose room, no art or multi-media rooms, no counseling spaces and no hot water, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Click here for more information on on Measure A, including a tentative project list.


The measure had opposition, from 8,752 voters, according to the election night results. During the run-up to the election, on the Almanac's Town Square online forum, some posters sounded off about the Sequoia district's financial management.

Among their concerns:

■ Does the district have a big-picture understanding of all its obligations, and is the district on a sound financial footing?

■ Have district and campaign officials made a solid case or have they relied on previous successes and sentiments such as "It's for the kids"?

Measure A is the fifth bond measure from the Sequoia district since 1966. The measure raises the annual property tax rate for high school bond measures to $46 per $100,000 of assessed value from the current $33.

Proposition 39, adopted by voters in 2000, lowered the threshold for passage of school bond measures to 55 percent of voters from two-thirds. It has had a significant impact on school construction, according to state records.

Majorities of 55 percent or better approved 624 of 757 bond measure elections from 2001 through November 2013, a success rate of 82.4 percent. Among the 941 elections that required a standard two-thirds majority, just 55 percent passed from 1986 through November 2013.

Principal comments

Woodside High Principal Diane Burbank served on the district's facilities committee and was involved in conversations about growing enrollment and the need for more classrooms. "I was confident that the need warranted the bond amount," she said. "I was not doubtful of the outcome, but I also didn't take the votes for granted -- a vote is never owed; it is always given.

Woodside will meet with architects this summer about improving classrooms and traffic flow, to name two needs, she said. "Having renovated the cafeteria and guidance offices just last summer, we have a recent sense of how improved facilities can increase school pride," she added.


The campaign committee supporting Measure A spent $69,787 as of May 17, most of it on direct mail, including $18,101 for postage, according to the latest campaign finance reports from the San Mateo County Elections Office.

The committee raised $161,902, with about 51 percent of that coming from corporate and institutional donors and the rest from individuals. The final report on fundraising won't be available until July 31.

Of the 82 individuals who gave a total of $69,200 to the campaign, 47 listed residences in the Almanac circulation area and gave a total of $47,900. Major donors include Carolee M. White of Palo Alto and Colleen Tate of Portola Valley, who gave $10,000 each, and Helen Wilmot of Menlo Park, who gave $5,000.

Of the 25 corporate and institutional donations, leading the list were $10,000 gifts from Blach Construction in Santa Clara, Prefast Concrete Wall Systems in San Mateo, and CSDA Design Group in San Francisco, reports show. Spencer Associates, an architecture firm in Palo Alto, gave $8,000.

The $5,000 donors included the foundations at Menlo-Atherton and Woodside high schools, and the Charter Schools Association of California. Also giving $5,000: Quattrocchi Kwok Architects of Santa Rosa, and Cornerstone Earth Group, a construction service firm in Sunnyvale.


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