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New classroom building planned for McSwain

The McSwain Union School District is getting $750,000 from the state to replace a portable classroom wing with a permanent building. The state also is helping the Merced County Office of Education with several modernization projects.

McSwain Superintendent Stan Mollart said a modular building will be in place this fall at the district's west campus off Scott Road. Within 90 days the district will solicit proposals for a lease-leaseback option to erect the new complex.

"It's an awesome deal for us," Mollart said, "with tax money coming back to McSwain. It has been approved but on the unfunded list for a year and a half."

Debbie Denney, McSwain's chief budget officer, was elated with the mid-December announcement from Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, that all the project costs would be covered with state funds. The McSwain district qualified for what is called hardship funding.

"We're very excited," Denney said. "It's been a long time waiting for this project to happen and we're looking forward to it."

Mollart said the new four-classroom project is shovel-ready. The new modular building will be brought in and set in place. Existing portables were installed Dec. 8, 1996, and will be sold or demolished.

Denney said the old portables are in fairly good condition and would be great for offices. The McSwain district has 860 students in kindergarten through eighth grade.

Torlakson said $923.8 million was dispersed from the State Allocation Board to school districts, county offices of education and charter schools for construction and modernization of 377 schools.

The priority funding program requires school districts to have the project under construction within 90 days, as opposed to the 18 months typically allowed for construction projects.

Jaime Quintana, facilities planner for the Merced County Office of Education, said $1 million in earlier state funding went toward remodeling a classroom wing at the Schelby Center special education complex on Sultana Drive in Livingston.

Quintana said construction was just completed on the six-classroom facility, called Building A, which is more than 25 years old. The remodeling includes new fixtures, finishes, lighting and bringing the building up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Another $600,000 in state money paid for a face-lift at the Danielson School for the deaf on the county schools' Merced complex. Classroom and restroom upgrades were provided along with a new kitchenette, according to Quintana.

State construction funds also were used for a five-classroom addition at Merced's Valley Community School complex on Wardrobe Avenue, another new classroom wing at Schelby School as well as the new $19 million Valley Community School complex in Atwater, Quintana said.

Torlakson applauded the allocations board's quick action to continue the popular priority funding program created to fast-track school construction projects while stimulating the state's economy.

"Our schools and California's budget are in a state of financial emergency," Torlakson said. "These funds will give districts some of the resources they need to construct or rebuild our schools, create jobs in the community to help the state's economic recovery and provide students with more modern facilities that advance their academic achievement."

Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at

(209) 385-2407 or