At a public hearing Tuesday night at Rollingwood Elementary School in San Bruno, about 50 people gathered to discuss the petition from San Bruno residents to transfer students from the South San Francisco Unified School District to San Bruno and San Mateo districts.
Representatives from all three districts, as well as the 10-person San Mateo County Committee on School District Organization and dozens of petitioners from the disputed property, the Merimont subdivision, were in attendance.
“Our entire community identity is based on the fact that we’re residents of San Bruno,” a lead petitioner, Rino Benenati said during a presentation to the county committee.
Throughout the hearing, speakers provided pieces of information about the decades-long chronology of events regarding the disputed property. But as of yet, the committee must still clarify exactly why the Merimont subdivison is currently paying property taxes toward South San Francisco Unified while in the city of San Bruno, but with no voting rights in any of the 3 school districts affected.
According to several residents at the hearing, they were not able to vote on the $162.5 million bond measure that passed in South City in 2010, and still are not included in school district elections.
Over 20 parents with children in the disputed property said their real estate agents told them when they purchased their homes that the property was within San Bruno and San Mateo districts.
At the hearing, the residents explained the stress of applying for inter-district transfers each year in order to keep their kids in San Bruno Park district schools. Several speakers said that they decided to send their kids to private schools to avoid the transfer process.
According to South San Francisco Unified Superintendent Alejandro Hogan, 8 students from the subdivision attend South City schools, 8 attend in San Bruno Park and at least 8 more attend private schools. In addition to those students, there are many young children living in the subdivision that will begin attending school in the coming years.
According to Benenati, as well as San Bruno Park School District Superintendent David Hutt, South San Francisco requested no increased traffic when the subdivision access roads were originally built in 2008. As a result, there is no direct vehicle access to South San Francisco, and residents are fully integrated into the larger San Bruno community.
"It is at one level a no-man’s land because South San Francisco didn’t want additional traffic to go through," Hutt said.
The committee chair Robert Stelzer asked Hutt whether the school districts had tried to resolve the issue among themselves, as things began to heat up in the past 2 years. Hutt responded that San Bruno Park district staff did once request South City's agreement to transfer the neighborhood in 2010, but that South City had rejected the idea.
According to presentations Tuesday evening, the site where the subdivision now sits was formally the Carl Sandburg Elementary School within the San Bruno Park district, which was an unincorporated area within San Mateo County, until 1977, when it was annexed into the city of San Bruno.
Superintendent Hutt said that at that time, the municipalities of San Bruno and South City seemed to agree that it would not be problematic that the area was technically part of the South City district. Now that there is a 70-residence community on that site, the inherent problem with annexing a property into a city without also addressing its school district affiliation is rearing its head.
"We'll get to the bottom of this," Stelzer said.
The subcommittee has yet to confirm what financial or other other impacts such a transfer would have on all parties involved.
The next public hearing will take place on Dec. 6 at Monte Verde Elementary at 2551 St. Cloud Drive in San Bruno, at 7 p.m. A third hearing will be held in the San Mateo Union High School District, the details of which are yet to be announced.
The committee will take no action on the petition request until after the New Year.
Editor's Note: An original version of this story said that the second meeting would be held at the SSFUSD Board Room, but the meeting location was changed to be held at Monte Verde, which this story now reflects.