Since a burst of activity six years ago, our school board has made remarkably little progress in building a new middle school. In 1996, the board adopted a Facilities Master Plan, and received & approved the report of a Site Selection Committee. In June, 1996, the District voters approved a $35M bond issue for construction.

Six years later, the middle school is mired in controversy, and tied to an environmentally destructive coastal development boondoggle.

Build at Cunha

We already have a middle school site: Cunha. Building a new middle school at Cunha removes our school district from the business of developing coastal open space. Infrastructure is already in place.

Myth: the Cunha site is too small

You'll hear the claim that the Cunha site is too small for a middle school. This is simply not true.

With over 17 acres, the Cunha site meets state site analysis guidelines for a middle school serving grades 6-8. Why the confusion? State guidelines also allow for larger sites (20+ acres) with more extensive football fields. Cunha already has playing fields. Surprisingly, the Wavecrest plans show only one baseball field, one softball field (they overlap) and one soccer/football field surrounded by a track.

When the Site Selection Committee applied the existing state selection criteria to the sites under consideration, Cunha ranked #1 out of five sites; Wavecrest ranked next to last. With size a significant factor in the rankings, Cunha scored 90 out of a possible 100 points, the highest of any site.

In his analysis of potential middle school sites in May, 2002, Superintendent John Bayless did not find size to be a problem with Cunha; in fact, Dr Bayless lists "size and shape" as one of the benefits of the Cunha site.

The Cunha site is so large, in fact, that our school board plans to convert six acres of the site to 76,992 square feet of commerial development. Does that come as a surprise? Read section VI of the Facilities Master Plan to see how the board plans to develop its two other sites in addition to a big piece of the Cunha site. Perhaps it's only a coincidence that the board-appointed committee that came up with the Facilities Master Plan was stacked with real estate development interests, including the current General Partner of Wavecrest Partners.

Myth: Cunha Middle School is getting more & more overcrowded

» See Graph

It wouldn't be surprising if you have this impression. The Facilties Master Plan informs us that our middle school enrollment will be 1,161 this year. In fact, the actual enrollment was 866. That's nearly 300 fewer students than projected, representing 10-15 fewer classrooms.

The undisputed fact is that Cunha Middle School enrollment reached its peak in 1997, the year after the Master Plan was approved, and has been shrinking every since. State projections for San Mateo County suggest that our enrollment will be even smaller in 2010.

Cunha is more centrally located

District policy, as adopted in the Facilities Master Plan, is to disperse elementary schools into neighborhoods, and to centrally locate the middle and high schools to make them, as much as possible, accessible to the entire district.

With much of the district's population living north of Half Moon Bay, Cunha is a more central site than Wavecrest.

Cunha is a poor site for a new elementary school

We already have the largest elementary school in the district, Hatch, across the road from Cunha. A new elementary school should be sited so as to serve neighborhoods not served by an existing elementary school. One such location would be a southern site, serving Moonridge, Ocean Colony, and families south of Half Moon Bay.

If Hatch needs to be expanded, the Facilities Master Plan suggests one approach. Move the district offices to some other location (administrative offices are much easier to relocate than schools are), and use the freed space to build a new K-2 facility, using a refurbished Hatch for grades 3-5. This makes efficient use of the site, keeps the individual schools small, and expands their overall capacity.

As a small but significant improvement: build a pedestrian and bicycle bridge across Hwy 1 between Cunha and Hatch.