The Weaver Union School District’s three campuses are over capacity and thought is being given to seek state funds for expansion as well as to put a bond measure on the November ballot.
Superintendent John Curry said the district on the fringes of Merced has more than 2,500 students, 200 over the schools’ rated capacities.
Thirty percent of the classrooms are portables, some of them more than 20 years old.
Curry said the board will be asked at its May meeting to authorize launching the bond measure. The district qualifies for $16 million in hardship funding from the state, and the bond measure, if passed, could yield another $8 million.
“Now’s the time to get the ball started,” board vice president Harry Hose said. “It’s time to do it; we need to be forward-thinking. Right now we are in the preliminary stages of looking at what action to take.”
Trustee Karen Wallace said Weaver schools aren’t designed to handle that many students. The board will hear another presentation on the growth subject at next month’s meeting.
“It’s a difficult one for everyone in these economic times,” Wallace said. “It gives us an opportunity to capture some state aid that we need and we probably shouldn’t pass it up. There’s support out there already for us to go forward.”
Curry said state funding would pay for modernization of the middle school and construction of a new elementary school down the road. State hardship funding is based on detailed needs assessments that school districts forward to the state Department of Education.
“We feel it’s the right time to do it,” Curry said, “to get in line for funds. It will be three or four years down the road before a shovel is turned.”
The district has been using the Emeryville-based consulting firm of Caldwell, Flores and Winters to conduct a facilities assessment and implementation plan. The firm conducted a telephone poll of Weaver area residents that showed 62
percent support for some type of bond.
“Sitting and not doing any planning doesn’t seem like the responsible thing to do,” Curry said. “The board is excited about it and nervous at the same time with the economy.”
Trustees have discussed expansion at four previous sessions and three community meetings have been held to brief residents.
If a bond measure passed, it would cost $30 per $100,000 of assessed valuation, or less than $5 a month, according to Curry.
Curry doesn’t anticipate any conflicts with state tax initiatives on the November ballot and thinks voters will be able to distinguish the separate issues. No designs have been drafted for future school additions. If a bond is to be pursued, a select group of people will need to be chosen to help pass the bond measure, Curry said.
Trustee Robert Freitas said half of the Weaver classrooms are portables.
“We need it; kids are our future,” Freitas said. “We have to give them a better education; it’s something we have to do. Weaver is a district that’s still growing, although the growth has slowed down.”
Curry said $2.7 million is left from a 2006 bond measure that can be used in planning, environmental impact reports and engineering studies.
That bond saw construction of Farmdale Elementary School about six years ago.
If a bond doesn’t pass, the district probably could do 75 percent of what is being planned, Curry said.
Reporter Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or email@example.com.