Riverside STEM High School Could Rise in New Spot After Residents Pan First Proposed Spot

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This article was written by Ryan Hagen and published by the Press Enterprise on August 15, 2019.

When Riverside Unified officials proposed a new STEM high school on the UC Riverside campus, many community members said it seemed like a great idea — if it was put somewhere else.

Almost a year later, school board members have found “someplace else.”

The new location is still at UCR, a key part of the partnership between the school district and the university. High school students would be able to use university labs and other resources and could interact with university students.The proposed 6-acre site on the southwest corner of Blaine Street and Canyon Crest Drive that the school board decided Aug. 6 to “preliminarily explore” should also have less traffic than the previous planned spot — Watkins Drive and Valencia Hill Road — and work for much of the community, said board President Angelov Farooq.

“We’ve responded to a lot of feedback, and now we really need to get the word out (about the new proposal),” Farooq said by phone. “We are going to have additional community meetings to get input on that process, but so far the feedback has been very positive.”

Staffers from the Riverside Unified School District, UCR and the city of Riverside are further investigating the feasibility of the site. Community meetings will be held in the later summer, fall and winter, the release stated.

Initial plans call for a three-story building that will enroll about 800 students in about 30 classrooms, with labs, parking, a kitchen and outdoor learning spaces. Plans are to follow the same selection process as Riverside STEM Academy, which is designed to draw students from throughout the district in a way that mirrors the language, income and other characteristics of the district.

District officials estimate the cost will be $64 million, with about half coming from Measure O, a bond measure Riverside voters approved in 2016, and half from grants and state funds.Some residents remain opposed.

“If they hadn’t proposed putting it near my house, I might not have looked at it so closely,” said community activist Kevin Dawson. “But once I did, I saw that there’s more problems than the proposed location.”

Dawson said the district, which faces declining enrollment and a tight budget, shouldn’t spend money on what he called a “vanity project” that benefited a limited number of students. He also said helping high school students wasn’t part of the University of California’s mission and that UC Riverside shouldn’t give an advantage to students from one district.

“Students from other districts will be put at a huge disadvantage in competing with RUSD student just because they aren’t able to put on their resume, ‘I went to high school on a UC campus.’ The University of California belongs to everyone in California. There’s an issue of fairness.”Some residents remain opposed.

Farooq said other universities have partnerships with high schools. UCR Chancellor Wilcox said in a news release that he embraced the partnership.

“UCR is a research institution committed to science, as well as contributing to the well-being of this community,” Wilcox said.

Before the school opens, the site will need formal environmental review and approval by the University of California Board of Regents and the Riverside school board.