On June 30, 20122, the San Juan Unified School District held a "Scoping Meeting" for the public to listen to community and student concerns in preparation for the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed large new middle school at the site of the former Creekside Elementary School.
The audience was smaller than the one that showed up for the community meeting on June 16th, a meeting where school district staff told the larger crowd that the campus site plan and building designs would not be changed, no matter what. Many people went away from the June 16th meeting wondering what was the point of asking about potential problems if the school district wasn't being entirely honest about mitigating impacts. The audience that did show up at the Scoping Meeting was from the immediate area of the site. Mostly missing were parents from the neighborhoods currently involved with the middle school at Encina and neighborhoods that will eventually be assigned to be in the Creekside school boundary. The lack of public knowledge about the school district's proposal was readily apparent.
At the Scoping Meeting, disregard for the public was again on full display, albeit in a polite, professional-seeming way. It was pretty clear that most people did not know what a Scoping Meeting was or that it's purpose was to hear public input. So it was no surprise that the meeting was mostly about the school district telling the audience of the wisdom of its prior decison-making. The consultant they hired to write the EIR for the project seemed to go along with the concept, until the audience said some things that sort of caught him a little like a deer in the headlights. Things like:
- Won't the local traffic be a nightmare?
- What about safe routes to school for students who must walk 1 .5 miles to the school and don't have resources to be driven?
- Since public transportation isn't available, can school buses mitigate the traffic problems?
- Isn't the threat of wildfire relevant, particularly given the fire at the homeless camp on the school property next to the creek the day before?
- What is the plan to handle flooding, which seems to be a bigger deal with climate change?
- Can the noise (yelling, screaming, etc.) associated with outdoor play be abated for nearby residences?
The basic response from the school district was, "Blah, blah, blah, no big deal." Take, for example, the response to the noise abatement question, when the public was rebuffed for objecting to kids having fun. In essence, they said they had heard it all before and, besides, they know what's best for you. They asked people to sign up on the email list - a ploy to give the impression the district "understands" people's concerns, despite easily dismissing them in the EIR. Still, it was pretty clear that the public has serious concerns and that the site has some significant issues. And, to the school district's credit, they did say that there would be another public meeting in August (date unsaid).
Ultimately, though, it was obvious that the schedule, which calls for the EIR to be finished between September and October, is absurd. It is beginning to look more and more like the notion of "a modern school that kids can be proud of" is just a PR slogan for a construction project at Creekside. We shall see, of course. Oh, and remember: in addition to the Scoping Meeting on June 30th, written comments could be sent to the school district by July 11th about what the EIR should cover. We will, of course, post something about the comments that were sent in, so everyone can know what to look for in the EIR.