Correction 11/10/2021: “The board allocated $1 million for planning, but we have not accumulated $1 billion in billable time. The project is currently in the CEQA phase.”
UCR is partnering with Riverside Unified School District to construct a STEM Education Center that will be located on the east campus. The proposed school facility will stand at three stories with state-of-the-art facilities. The building will have approximately 30 classrooms, commons, labs, parking, a kitchen and outdoor learning spaces. It is expected to accommodate approximately 1,200 part-time and full-time students with a capacity of 800 students at any given time.
The STEM high school will be a specialized school with an equitable selection process where only students who meet certain high academic standards will be accepted. The school will include defined selection terms through a weighted point system with opportunities for all students at every RUSD school. Transportation will be provided originating at each of the five comprehensive high schools.
RUSD is the developer with project approval over programming, funding and operations. UCR is the property owner and has approval over use of the land, and its Board of Regents is the approving entity for the environmental review. RUSD will be required to obtain development permits to build the project in order to meet off site improvement standards.
The project is part of the district’s STEM Initiative Plan and has a projected cost of around $64 million. UCR is leasing the land to RUSD, which saves the district significant land acquisition costs. Approximately one-half of the project cost is expected to be covered by the funds from Measure O, a bond passed by voters in 2016. Measure O allows school site acquisition and construction; thus, the project fits within the bond measure’s funding. The remainder of the STEM Education Center funding will be through Career and Technical Education grants and state funding.
The STEM Education Center is an unprecedented project in Riverside for a public university campus. It, however, follows other examples of school district and university partnership: International Polytechnic High School at Cal Poly Pomona, California Academy of Mathematics and Science at Cal State Dominguez, Geffen Academy at UCLA, The Preuss School at UCSD and University High School at Cal State Fresno.
On Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021, former ASUCR president Aram Ayra and University Neighborhood Association member Rich Davis presented to the Associated Students of UCR their concerns about the addition of a STEM high school. Davis listed several reasons in the University Neighborhood Association site that explains why he and his associates oppose the STEM Education Center development.
According to the University Neighborhood site, a district manager stated at a community meeting that in 50 years, the STEM building would be obsolete and will probably be demolished. If agreed upon, UCR is expected to be the sole owner of the building. The lease agreement gives UCR ownership for 50 years with the option of two 10-year extensions. Davis stresses the need to fund schools that are already well-established in the district and that are still fully operational.
So far, RUSD has accumulated more than $1 million of billable hours from UCR. RUSD is billed for any time spent by UCR employees working on this project. The District will be solely responsible for the expenses associated with the proposed facility. This includes the design and construction, purchasing of land rights owned by the city of Riverside, relocating all cell towers on the property, paying for the fiber cables for UCR baseball field, environmental impact study, costs of resolving all issues found in the environmental impact study and daily maintenance and upkeep. UCR assumes no liability in any future lawsuits.
Students will not be required to live in the district in order to attend the STEM High school. The school will not be a comprehensive high school where students attend based on their address. This has become a point of concern as those who reside and attend outside of the Riverside district will not pay property tax.
According to Davis, the Measure O property tax was expected to invest more in schools like Fremont, Ramona, Poly and North High School: to remodel and renovate needy schools that were already established in the district.
During the ASUCR meeting, Ayra raised concerns about the complications of equitable distribution of resources to the new facility and brought attention to how the location of the new facility may impact traffic and parking.
RUSD anticipates that a Transportation Management Plan will be developed to include parking policies and expanding busing options. Other concerns raised by Davis and Ayra are under evaluation by RUSD.
As of now, four sites have been presented by UCR for consideration by RUSD. Preliminary due diligence is currently in progress on the six acres of land on the cross of Blaine St. and Canyon Crest Heights.