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By Stuart Soffer

For Whom Belle Haven Tolls

Uploaded: Oct 8, 2013

The Belle Haven School, part of the Ravenswood City School District, should be absorbed into the Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD). Whether it's absorbed entirely or transformed into a charter school, maintaining the present model has community consequences affecting more than just education. Understandably, there are complex issues for all stakeholders.

At a neighborhood meeting a few years ago with then-Superintendent Ranella, I asked "why not bring Belle Haven into MPCSD?" This question was not well-received. The superintendent and others offered several reasons why this was impossible. The Ravenswood district would not allow a school to secede, average test scores in the MPCSD would decline, and MPCSD schools are crowded enough already.

I have also heard that moving the Belle Haven school into the Menlo Park district would lead to gentrification of Belle Haven and consequent loss of lower cost housing. This logic leads to an ironic result: an implicit willingness to sacrifice a child's education to preserve inexpensive housing stock.

Realigning the Belle Haven School would enable the entire Belle Haven community to advance. The newest Belle Haven residents, including families that have moved into developments such as the one on Hamilton Avenue, are creating a new dynamic - and concerns. They are realizing that Belle Haven School will not meet their children's educational needs. I spoke with one parent living in Belle Haven who brings her child to a west side school where she teaches. We're going to see new demands for school district change.

We are facing a bond measure designed to restore the German-American School site as an MPCSD facility. One of the rationales is that a strong school system increases property values. Understood, agreed, and appreciated. But I can also argue that bringing Belle Haven school into the MPCSD will help our property values as well: improving the property values to the east will have a positive effect across our community. And it could lessen demands on other city resources.

In speaking with other friends about incorporating Belle Haven into our school district, some suggest that transferring the portion of Atherton currently in the Redwood City School district into the MPCSD would also be beneficial. The stronger property values in Atherton would provide increased property tax revenues to the entire MPCSD, offsetting the lower school district revenues from Belle Haven. Interesting concept.

No matter what I suggest, it's up to the parents of the respective localities to make their voices heard and move to make this happen if they feel strongly enough about providing an outstanding education for their children.

Should the Belle Haven elementary school join MPCSD? Should portions of Atherton currently in Redwood City join MPCSD? Discuss.