Merced school board: $50 to $60 million bond feasible for modernization needs

12/13/2013 8:24 PM

12/14/2013 12:02 AM

Between $128 million and $138 million in modernization needs have been identified at Merced elementary and middle schools and a bond measure of between $50 million and $60 million is feasible, Board of Education members learned Tuesday night.

The Merced City School District governing board got its first look at a long-range facilities master plan that has been in development for more than a year. The report, likely to be adopted in January, sets in motion planning for a June 3 bond election and an expansion of Rivera Middle School to include kindergarten through fifth grades.

Adam Cox, elected to the board in 2009, called Tuesday’s business meeting one of his best nights in four years, as upgrading needs for the district’s 17 campuses were prioritized and a 2014 bond issue was deemed feasible.

Along with bond funds, the district should be able to use funds from Proposition 39 passed last November, state school modernization funds, developer fees and money from a state school bond to be scheduled in either 2014 or 2016 elections, Cox said.

Greg Spicer, the district’s associate superintendent for administrative services, said the consistent needs shown in the master plan are modernization, safety and security, as well as classroom upgrades to accommodate 21st century learning and technology.

Modernization of classroom buildings typically includes repair, upgrade or replacement of outdated electrical and mechanical systems, interior-exterior finishes and textures, consultants told the board.

More than 200 people have taken part in 52 master plan meetings, including five focus group sessions, a community town hall, 17 meetings with school site committees, and seven executive steering committee sessions.

Board member Jessica Kazakos said she is very excited to move forward with expansion of Rivera Middle School to include elementary grades, something that has been in the planning stages for some time.

“It will be real nice to get modernization done throughout the district,” Kazakos said. “I feel good about the plan we have. It will be wonderful.”

Board member Darrell Cherf was named board president Tuesday night for the third time since his election in 2001. He said the 15-year time frame is realistic, and that many of the district’s 17 schools will be eligible for state modernization funds.

“We’ve got to modernize, get ready for common core and information technology requirements,” Cherf said. “The master plan looks good. It won’t be cheap but we’ve got to look at all possible funding sources. We’ve got to get a bond passed but I think we’ve got the support out there.”

Board member Susan Walsh said this is a very exciting time for the community and the district. She said development of the facilities master plan was a long community process and the district is asking the community to partner with it on necessary modernization.

“When Fremont School was built, there was no such thing as an interactive whiteboard,” Walsh said. “The world of teaching and learning is so different today. Our newer schools are 20 years old.”

Board member Gene Stamm said many district schools are between 50 and 60 years old. He said sales of bonds authorized by voters would be phased in over a 15-year cycle.

When the new gymnasium/multipurpose room at Rivera was designed five years ago, plans were drafted to expand Rivera to a kindergarten through eighth grade school. These plans can be updated to incorporate a new kindergarten through second grade classroom wing, relocation of the administration building and adapting present classrooms to accommodate third through fifth grade students, Stamm said.

Costs of Rivera expansion, pegged at approximately $8 million, would come from the last of Measure S bonds approved nearly a decade ago.

The most pressing modernization needs must be addressed at all schools before new buildings are approved, Stamm said.

A proposed timeline shows the Lew Edwards consulting group meeting with district employees and the community this month and in January to drum up support. At a Jan. 28 meeting, team members promoting a bond measure campaign would be appointed, and the project list and bond measure language would be developed in January and February.

Board members would call for a bond election at a Feb. 25 meeting. The district has until March 7 to submit the bond measure paperwork to the Merced County Registrar of Voters for a June 3 election.

Project costs at individual schools include Burbank Elementary School, $7,218,000; Chenoweth Elementary, $5,548,000; Franklin Elementary, $5,561,000; Fremont Charter School, $5,814,000; Givens Elementary, $5,800,000; Gracey Elementary, $4,822,000; John Muir Elementary, $4,783,000; Peterson Elementary, $5,390,000; Reyes Elementary, $4,932,000; Sheehy Elementary, $7,728,000; Stefani Elementary, $564,000; Stowell Elementary, $1,607,000; Wright Elementary, $8,823,000; Cruickshank Middle School, $10,362,000; Hoover Middle School, $17,348,000; Rivera Middle School, $14,788,000; and Tenaya Middle School, $8,337,000.

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