The Election Night meeting of the San Juan Unified School District's Facilities Committee went pretty much according to plan - the school district's plan, that is. Their plan is the one where the public should be respectfully subserviant to the brilliance of school district staff. So when the staff showed the Committee the the done deal campus designs for both the Arcade Middle School and the Creekside Middle School, the Committee ooh-ed and ahh-ed and some public comments were heard but not listened to. The meeting minutes will reflect that the district's paid architectural firm explained the plans, the public commented, and the Committee feels good about the way things are going. It's just part of the game, you see.
Some key points that emerged about the Creekside site (and our comments, shown in italics):
- It is intended to prepare a "full EIR" (Environmental Impact Report) That's pursuant to a state law (the California Environmental Quality Act) the purpose of which is to inform the decision-makers (the school board) of their decision's consequences to the environment. A "full EIR" needs between 1-3 years for completion. Given the hasty schedule for the project, the statement is either unrealistic or the project managers are planning on a different approach for compliance with CEQA.
- The Creekside campus is on a fast track, with submittals set to go to the State Architect's Office of Public Schools Construction beginning in early August 2022 with construction to start in early 2023. Never mind that the fast-tracked schedule is utterly inconsistent with the statutory and administrative timeline associated with the required environmental analysis.
- The site, smallish to begin with, is further constrained by the flood plain. But it just barely squeeks by the state-required minimums. Diversity, equality and inclusion be damned. Students from privileged parts of the school district aren't crammed into too-small sites like this.
- Traffic and pedestrian access are concerns at the Creekside site and across all the neighborhoods that will be within the boundary. Well, duh! Traffic and pedestrian concerns could possibly bring the whole house of cards down.
What did they not talk about or not want to talk about?
- Are 3 middle schools needed, and in such close proximity?
- Were any alternative sites considered and, if so, which sites?
- Why aren't the 4 policy decisions (1 - get middle schoolers out of Encina, 2 - convert Arcade Middle School from a district-wide fundamental school to an ordinary, boundaried middle school, 3 - change the boundary of Arden Middle school so kids from poor neighborhoods to the west will go there, and 4 - use Creekside for the 3rd middle school) addressed in the school district's Strategic Plan?
- Why is the school district's Facilities Plan silent as to these new construction projects at Arcade Middle School and Creekside?
- Where are the millions of dollars for these projects coming from (since they aren't part of the Strategic Plan or the Facilities Plan)?
OK, onward to the next meeting. Unlike the Facilities Committee meeting, which is part of the official decision-making process of the Board of Trustees, the June 16th meeting at Creekside (see the "Save the Date" flyer) is a "community workshop". That means its not one of the Board's official public meetings and there is no obligation to receive public comments or even take and publish minutes. It's also part of the game. But you should go anyway.
Why should you go? Because its your community, your tax money, your kids and your government. Because they said they want your input. Because they said you could get your questions answered.
Someone has to tell the Emperor he is naked. Why not use the convenient location of the June 16th meeting to set that wheel in motion? Then, when the school board meets towards the end of the month (and thereafter) you can tell them about the other meetings you went to wherein the school district belittled or acted condescendingly towards anything the public said. If all goes well, a little bit of shame will start to dawn on the consciousness of the school board - maybe enough to get them to eventually say "time out, let's re-think this process".
Or not. They are the all-knowing school board, aren't they? Do you believe they really want you to "stay engaged and provide input into the process"? Remember, they work for you, not the other way around.