This afternoon - while many people were working, or dealing with their kids, or were otherwise engaged - the outgoing San Juan Unified School District Board decided to move ahead with the construction of a large new middle school on the marginal, smallish site of the old C reekside Elementary School. The Board heard a presentation by their slick staff and consultants, who said they did everything by the book. Then they took 2 minutes or less of comments from members of the public. Six people commented, mostly providing scathing comments indicting the school board for massive failure. The school board did not ask anyone for clarification or more information. No, they just moved on to their own, generally fawning, comments about the project. and in so doing, they demonstrated major ignorance about the situation in the impacted community and they ignored comments about how the school district has failed students in the west end, where academic performance results have been abysmal. They were told the Environmental Analysis was flawed. They were told the decision-making process was illegal, that it had put the decision months ahead of the required data collection with public engagement. They were reminded that most people don't know this project is in the works. They did not respond to the accusations. Their reactions were uniformly oblivious. Or maybe they knew but they just don't care. Either way, it's the same thing: they are brilliant and you are stupid, they know the right answer and you don't, and they get to play with your tax dollars whether you like it or not.
The Board members seemed mostly interested in the notion that the middle grade students at Encina wanted to have a school they could call their own. That's a reasonable goal, just not one that inevitably leads to "therefore, Creekside". Rather than revise the school district's Master Facilities Plan, instead of delving into analysis of all the school district's property options, the board took the easy route - we own it, so we get to do anything we want with it. Damn the citizen's torpedoes, full speed ahead!
The public review of the project's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) did cause a change in the project schedule, though. The draft EIR had blurted out that work on the project would start before the time to comment on the draft EIR was over. Oopsie! Big mistake to reveal that the EIR process was just a game. The "new and improved" project schedule will start work on portables at the Encina parking lot in January so the adult learners at Creekside can be moved to Encina by April. Who knows how much destruction (ripping out big trees and tearing down the old school) at Creekside will proceed while the adult learners are still on site at Creekside?
OK, what are the next steps? Within 5 days the staff will post a Notice of Determination saying the project will move ahead. That will trigger a 30-day period for objections, after which the project can commence. There are certainly grounds for objection, though the likelihood of an Angel with Money showing up to fund a challenge is very slim. That 30-day period goes beyond the seating of the new, 7-member board. The 2-3 new members might not be happy about being saddled with the $55,000,000 construction price tag and a law suit that will find the school district in court in January for its sweetheart financing deal. So you just never know. Bottom line: any way you look at it the current school board has failed to be transparent and has demonstrated they do not care about the community.