High schools are top priority for fixes

High schools are top priority for fixes

Michele Ellson
Historic Alameda High School

Alameda’s two high schools could be the focus of a bond the Alameda Board of Education is considering for the November ballot.

“Where I am leaning would be that high schools would be the major focus of the bond,” board trustee Mike McMahon said Tuesday, echoing the sentiment of his fellow board members.

The school district’s just-released draft facilities plan details $590.6 million in upgrades that families, teachers and community members say are needed over the next 10 to 15 years. The list includes critical fixes like new boilers and safety upgrades and others that will facilitate modern-day teaching needs, along with desired upgrades that could be left for a future date.

The maximum amount of bond debt the district could ask voters in November to allow it to incur is around $180 million, its bond advisor has said. The cost to renovate Alameda’s two main high schools could top $240 million – in 2014 dollars – if everything on the master plan list were sought.

Board members agreed that Historic Alameda High School should be renovated and reopened for use; in addition to restoring the campus to student use, it could also once again house the district office. Trustees Barbara Kahn and Trish Herrera Spencer said they’d like to see Encinal High School get a proper theater space – students there perform their shows in the school’s gymnasium – while McMahon and board president Margie Sherratt said they thought money should be directed to upgrading classrooms there instead.

A new theater at Encinal with seating for 400 to 500 people would cost $20.3 million, while enlarging classrooms to meet modern standards would cost $5.9 million. Upgrades to Kofman Auditorium, which Sherratt said she though shouldn’t be prioritized, would cost $14.6 million.

Other potential priorities for the first of what could be a series of bond measures included infrastructure to support the district’s upgraded technology, gymnasiums for Wood and Lincoln middle schools and upgrades to three of the district’s oldest elementary schools – Edison, Franklin and Otis.

Fixes at Edison – the district’s oldest elementary school – could top $21 million and at Franklin, and the price tag for fully modernizing Franklin is $17.8 million. The estimated cost of proposed upgrades at Otis is $14.7 million.

Constructing a new gymnasium at Lincoln would cost $7.6 million, the draft facilities plan says.

Tuesday’s discussion centered around changes board members would like to see in the plan and around the school board’s strategy for prioritizing work on the projects it contains. Potential strategies considered by the board included providing fixes at each school and “thematic” improvements that focus on a specific need, like technology or safety upgrades.

McMahon said he wanted the facilities plan to more prominently spell out how classrooms will be improved if voters okay a bond. He has criticized the 2004 Measure C bond, saying the district has little to show for the money it spent. But he said the new plan is different.

“There’s a perception or lack of trust out there in the public, what this is going to mean for our district. This plan is significantly different from what was done 10 years ago,” he said. “If we can show the public what the interior classrooms will look like, I think we’ve got a fighting chance.”

Spencer said members of the community want to know what they’ll get for their money if they are asked to approve a bond; she noted that property owners are already paying for Measure C and the district parcel tax. Sherratt said the money is needed to keep Alameda’s schools viable, something she said will maintain property values here.

The board will conduct a public workshop on Tuesday to prioritize projects spelled out in the plan, and will consider approval of a final facilities plan and the project list on May 27.

Comments

Submitted by Joseph (not verified) on Thu, May 15, 2014

Our children went from K-12 in the AUSD and got into good colleges, but the situation allowing increasing numbers of students from off-island to enroll just to fill seats got ridiculous, and clearly impacted student safety and academic focus. Why not consolidate our schools so that funding more closely matches the student enrollment population of Alamedans? With more upscale people moving here, they will certainly opt for private or parochial schools if this is not addressed, and we will be left paying for the education of kids from elsewhere. We value the diversity that our kids experienced, but at some point that is not sufficient cause to spend more money without honestly addressing this matter. The teachers unions undoubtedly have a different view.

Submitted by Betty (not verified) on Thu, May 15, 2014

At one of the master planning meetings, one architect said that if renovation exceeds a certain amount, the district would likely build a new school to replace the old one. I can't remember the exact amount--maybe it was in the low teens? Would folks be ok with razing Edison (and others) and building a new school? I'm not even sure how that would work logistically.

Submitted by DON K. Peterson (not verified) on Mon, May 19, 2014

For the amount of money they are talking about we could build a brand new High School on the

wood\Lum School site. We would finely have a High School that the entire City could be proud of and support. It would end the east v west and unite us as a city like ours should be.