Menlo Park’s $91M school bond

Support appears strong for a bond measure that would raise $91 million for four local elementary schools.

A poll among local voters in mid-May showed that 70 percent supported Measure U, 5 percent opposed it and 25 percent were undecided, according to campaign chairman Mark Box. The 35-year bond, which requires 55 percent approval to pass, would fund the constructionof new buildings to accommodate the district’s burgeoning student population.

The campaign has raised approximately $45,000 in donations, all from local parents, according to finance committee member Jeff Child. The bond would cost homeowners $28 per $100,000 of assessed value, or $231 per year for residents who bought homes at Menlo Park’s average price, $820,000.

Already, 311 kindergartners are signed up for the 2006-07 school year, while 220 students are graduating from eighth grade this year, according to Menlo Park School District Superintendent Kenneth Ranella. “Just from the size of that kindergarten class, our student population is increasing 4.5 percent.”

A demographer commissioned by the district predicts that enrollment will continue to rise. In addition, the district’s retention rate — students who stay in its schools from kindergarten through eighth grade — has risen from 77 percent to 97 percent, Box said.

So far, the district has coped by adding portable classrooms to its small campuses while hunting for space to build a new school, but no suitable land has been found. Residents who have criticized the bond measure say they worry that bringing additional students to existing schools will worsen neighborhood traffic.

“We’re going to have kids on the campuses we have, and denying the money to address the needs in a rational way is not a good solution,” Box said. Some of the bond money will go toward improving the schools’ parking and traffic configurations.

bwinegarner@examiner.comBay Area NewsLocalPeninsula

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