New deal opens communication paths in Burlingame

The Burlingame City Council and school district reached a new agreement Monday they say will help avoid future problems between the two groups and assist in saving services such as parks and recreation programs.

The two-year deal replaced an existing informal document that dates back to the 1930s in which the two sides essentially argued over who owes whom money for shared programs each year, which led to fighting and audit requests.

This newly formed relationship created two new liaisons — one from each side — who will report to the opposing group at meetings twice per year. It also establishes guidelines for what each side should pay for and how to settle disputes.

“It’s no longer a territorial thing of ‘that’s ours and you can’t use it,’” said Mayor Terry Nagel, who is on the current liaison committee between the school and the city. “We’re opening our relationship up so we can have a better give-and-take for when we need each other’s help.”

The biggest shared services between the groups are park and recreation programs, which include after-school classes and sports leagues. The city spends $350,000 to maintain facilities for classes during non-school hours at Burlingame Intermediate and Franklin schools while receiving $250,000 for class fees.

A past disagreement over water charges at these fields helped spark the discussion over the new agreement. The school district did not want to be charged by the city for water used on its fields, which the city agreed to under the new deal.

There was also a past battle over which side should pay for crossing guards, and later over which group should fund a janitor, which are also both shared services.

“We just wanted to start anew,” said Councilmember Ann Keighran, also a liaison committee member. “We’ll have a better understanding of each other’s wants and needs.”

Under the agreement, during nonschool hours the city will be in charge of all outdoor school facilities, such as fields, while the school district will control all indoor facilities, such as classrooms and gymnasiums.

The city does have an existing liaison committee consisting of two representatives from each side, but School Board President Dave Pine said that process alone was ineffective.

The agreement also includes a formal process to settle disputes between the groups. If the liaison committee cannot settle the argument, it will be examined during a joint council/school board meeting.

“If we hadn’t signed an agreement of this kind we would have continued to work together but we wouldn’t have been as productive,” Pine said.

Fees to rise for district’s after-school programs

Rising costs faced by the Burlingame School District have forced the city to increase fees by 10 percent for after-school programs used by more than 300 kids each year.

The school district cut $700,000 from its budget last year and now it’s asking parents to chip in a little more to keep alive their after-school sports programs, enrichment classes and other activities for kids. The fee increase should impact about 30 classes, Parks and Recreation Director Randy Schwartz said.

Mostly volunteer parents who have kids in the programs run the classes, but costs for materials have gone up.

“Schools are underfunded, and because they’re underfunded it always ends up that we have to cut programs or increase costs,” Superintendent Sonny Da Marto said. “To the community I think [after-school programs] are very important.”

The city’s Parks and Recreation Department organizes the programs that take place on the school sites for grades K-8. Popular programs include after-school flag football and volleyball (now $83 for six weeks) and basketball (now $105 for four months) at all five elementary schools.

“By keeping this to a 10 percent increase, I don’t think this will hurt attendance,” Schwartz said. He added that more information on how much of an impact the fee increase would have on program success would be discussed during a Parks and Recreation Commission meeting tonight.

Other after-school activities include language, art and chess classes. Keeping them around despite the rising costs has been well worth it, Schwartz said.

“The idea is to do these at the school sites so that when the kid gets out of school there’s an activity right there for them to do that’s fun, that’s supervised, healthy and enriching,” he said. “And working parents know their child can be safe for a fun productive activity.”

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