FOSTER CITY — The San Mateo-Foster City School District should add classroom space at its three elementary campuses in Foster City and eventually build another campus in the city to help tackle an enrollment boom, according to a group of local parents.
Parents reached that consensus Monday night at a meeting attended by more than 100 people from the Audubon, Brewer Island and Foster City school communities.
"I'm quite concerned about overcrowding," Isabelle Bushman, a Brewer Island parent who attended the meeting, said Tuesday. "Currently at Brewer Island, there are 640 kids on a site that's probably not meant to hold so much."
Parents plan to present their suggestions to the district board at its meeting Thursday. District staff is also expected to submit recommendations on how to address student population growth at the three Foster City schools and Baywood Elementary in San Mateo.
The staff recommendations follow district-spearheaded focus group meetings with community members over the past several weeks regarding enrollment issues at those schools. Trustees are expected to decide on the recommendations at the board's subsequent meeting Feb. 19.
After one recent focus meeting, Foster City parents formed their own group to further debate a number of short- and long-term options provided by the district to address growth.
The parents favored increasing capacity at the existing Foster City schools as a short-term solution.
That could be done by bringing in portable buildings and converting classroom-size spaces, they said. Converting spaces, though, could lead to the loss of rooms now used by certain programs, such as art and computers.
But parents preferred that idea to such alternatives as having morning and afternoon kindergarten sessions in which teachers would have to share classrooms.
"In general, there's a fear that if you go with (morning and afternoon sessions), the staff may leave or be unhappy," Bushman said. "Parents are not willing to lose their teachers."
For a long-term solution, "people do want to see a fourth school added to Foster City," she said. "No matter what it takes, we should fight for that."
Parents believe a good spot for a new school is on part of Boothbay Park, Bushman said.
But building a campus in Foster City "requires cooperation with the city," said district board President Cathy Rincon. "Currently, the district doesn't have land in Foster City for another school. I'm hopeful we would work with the city to address enrollment issues."
A new campus should be a high priority, said longtime Foster City resident Fred Baer, who has two grandchildren attending Brewer Island. "But a fourth school is probably not enough," he said, considering projections of ongoing enrollment increases.
The district serves about 10,000 students. It could reach the 11,000-student mark in 2011, according to a demographer affiliated with the district.
"It's a very startling increase in student enrollment, within the next five years particularly" at the three Foster City schools and Baywood, Trustee Mark Hudak said. "Our job is to provide education to those who come here, so we have to plan accordingly."
The $175 million Measure L bond that district voters approved a year ago would help fund certain options, such as adding portable classrooms, Hudak said.
Staff writer Neil Gonzales covers education. He can be reached at 650-348-4338 or email@example.com.
What: San Mateo-Foster City School District board meeting
Where: District offices, 1170 Chess Drive, Foster City
When: 5 p.m. Thursday