There will be a public hearing tonight at the San Juan Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting on the subject of the large middle school being built at Creekside. Specifically, the school board is seeking public input on the draft Preliminary Endangerment Assessment (PEA) of the site. The hearing, agenda item I-3, a timed item for 8:05 tonight at 3738 Walnut Avenue in Carmichael.
As some people are aware, the Creekside site has a lot of baggage. The environmental impacts of the proposed project were supposed to have been evaluated BEFORE the decision was made to build the new school. The school district waited until 5 MONTHS AFTER the decision was made to begin the analysis and concluded 6 months later (in November 2022) that everything was hunky-dory and no mitigation was warranted. Well, of course they did; the process was dishonest.
Unbeknownst to the public, two months before approving the environmental analysis, the school district also moved ahead with steps to comply with requirements from the state office that oversees construction of public schools. One of those steps was to see if the current or past hazardous material management practices at the site had resulted in a release or releases of hazardous materials that pose a threat to public health or the environment. Wouldn't you think that would have been evaluated BEFORE the site was chosen? HaHa, silly you. No, the detailed hazardous material evaluation was performed this spring, more than a year AFTER the school board locked in the campus selection and design. You can see the draft report online. It shows there are some minor issues, nothing to write home about. Those findings will be sent to the state's Department of Toxic Substances Control along with any comments from the public; the Department will eventually issue a final report. The main point is that another evaluation will be conducted before the school is opened, to make sure the buildings are safe. Hmm. Let's take a guess what that later evaluation will conclude. Yeah, right. It's a game and we, the public, are being fooled again.
Nevertheless, it is important that the public will have a chance to speak up at tonight's public hearing, parrticularly given the uncertain future of the school board, which will be short of a Trustee until next December at the earliest. and for which three other seats will be contested in 2024. Two of the current six Trustees were not on the school board when the district approved spending upwards of $60,000,000 on the project. The District's Facility Master Plan, which is supposed to guide construction expenditures, was last approved in 2013. It is silent about the need for a middle school at Creekside. The project wasn't called out in the 2016 Measure P school bond, nor was it approved by the Bond Oversite Committee, as required by Measure P. Will pointing those things out make the regulatory eyes of the state pop open or glaze over? We'll find out.