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CSM Prepares to Close Half Moon Bay Campus

Community college seeking partnerships with local agencies to keep classes in town.

It’s a brave new world in Half Moon Bay as the to outside providers for its , , and services.

Now, the San Mateo Community College District (SMCCD) is asking local agencies to share resources to help keep their program alive on the Coast.

Lack of funding is forcing the College of San Mateo (CSM) Coastside out of their Shoreline Station space. The mini-campus was nearly closed when the lease came up last December.

This year they won’t be so lucky: the plan is to shut it down when the lease expires on Dec. 31, 2011.

“We just can’t afford $8,000 a month for renting the facility when — because of budget cuts — we can barely afford to run the program,” said James Keller, executive vice chancellor for the community college district. “Clearly the state is funding us with the ability to provide for fewer students. Here’s the money you get, now serve the number of students you can.”

Three years ago, CSM began offering classes from two classrooms and a computer lab at Shoreline Station in Half Moon Bay, serving at the peak up to 400 students and running 15 to 18 classes a week. CSM Coastside also offers placement tests, academic counseling and admission and registration assistance services for students.

The facility is used for community education classes as well and local organizations such as the and the use the conference room and computer lab for meetings and classes.

Yet budget cuts forced SMCCD officials to cut the number of community college classes that are offered in Half Moon Bay this year. The program has been downsized to only three sections this spring and five for the fall.

Keller said the San Mateo County Community College District has cut classes across its campuses to accommodate $20 million in cuts in the past few years.

“At this point, it looks like the lease will not be extended,” said Keller. “We’d like to keep it going, but the economic times are making it difficult," he said. "Worst case, we’d have to shut down the entire program, but no one is talking about that yet.”

Instead, the San Mateo Community College District has approached the , its library, , and San Mateo County about building a shared facility in Half Moon Bay.

The idea for a mixed-used space was hatched at a recent event.

“I was sitting next to Jim Keller, and he told me that CSM was looking for something new and larger,” said Annie Malley, Half Moon Bay Library’s branch manager.

“The library has been since we’ve outgrown our space years ago," Malley said. "Sharing resources makes good economic sense and just seems like a natural partnership. The community college district is great at getting bond money and building facilities and we’re great at staffing facilities, and since we serve a lot of CSM’s students, it’s a great fit.”

Still, it’s a dream in the making. "We’re just in the talking phase,” said Malley. “If there will be bond money at some point and when and how much, that’s all up in the air.”

Architectural drawings for the proposed building have been drafted pro bono by a firm that contracts with SMCCD at the request of Keller.

There’s a need for about 100,000 square feet, Keller said. The building would include a large new library as well as classroom space, and possibly office space for the county and city.

Katherine Russell Becker, CSM Coastside’s business development officer, forges partnerships and contract education opportunities with local businesses and organizations. She has experienced firsthand the need for more meeting, classroom and library space in Half Moon Bay.

“Many organizations and agencies in Half Moon Bay have outgrown their existing facilities, like the library for example, so they use this space for their meetings and classes,” said Becker. “So without it, where will they go?”

The project would require a bond for financing.

“Some sort of future bond that we could go for,” said Keller. “The county has their own possibilities and so does the library for what would work, not just for the building, but financially in regards to a partnership.”

It would also entail support and authorization from the Coastside community to make it a reality.

“The goal is to create a space that has an identity to it, that could be uniquely coastal, that people here could say, ‘That’s ours,’” said Keller.

The dream plan could take anywhere from five to 10 years to complete, he adds.

Until then, SMCCD program officials will have to cobble together a new plan to keep the existing downsized program intact.

“I suspect some sort of presence will be maintained here on the Coast whether we continue in the existing space or use a classroom. Something will continue on the Coast,” said Ron Andrade, program services coordinator for College of San Mateo.

Moving the classes to San Mateo will make it harder for many students to attend, said Andrade, so the goal is to look for other options on the coast so residents don’t have to travel farther to go to school. A shared space, classroom setting or outreach office are all ideas on the table at this point.

“We’re looking for a one-off space, a room here or there, that we can get access to that is far cheaper than what we are having to pay in rent right now,” said Keller.

In the meantime, the aspiration of SMCCD, the Half Moon Bay Library and the city and county pooling their resources together and planning for a new building will be further explored.

“We’ve had some great ideas presented to us, and we’d like to expand and think about things,” said Keller. “The SMCCD board and chancellor are still thinking long-term, and we’d like to have a permanent presence in Half Moon Bay. We’ve been exploring shared resources in Half Moon Bay, and with that you just have to keep the dream alive and keep the faith that something will happen.”

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