School board voices opposition to office purchase

School board voices opposition to office purchase

Dave Boitano

The Alameda Board of Education said Tuesday that they oppose purchasing the building that now houses district staff in a business park, with trustees saying they'd instead like to explore a retrofit of Historic Alameda High School.

District officials, who recommended buying the Marina Village building they're now housed in during an informational session on the proposed purchase, said they will now commission a detailed study to determine what it will take to restore 75,000 square feet of unused space in the Alameda High complex for possible use as the district’s central offices and classrooms. The study will cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

Staff had recommended buying the building at 2060 Challenger Drive at a cost of $5.8 million, approximately $3 million more than the district would pay in rent over a six year period.

The staff moved out of Alameda High at the beginning of the year because portions of the building are not considered earthquake safe. Classrooms in the section that contains the Kofman Auditorium have been retrofitted but the extent of the changes render what was office space uninhabitable, according to a district memo.

“Even when we complete the seismic retrofitting to save the building, it will probably never be habitable for district employees without great expense,’’ wrote Chief Business Office Robert Shemwell.

At the very least, it would cost $800,000 to move the staff and all its equipment out of the current facility and into other offices, Shemwell said.

But faced with community opposition to the purchase, board members made it clear that they will work to determine public support for an Alameda High remodel, possibly through approval of a bond measure in November 2014.

Trustee Mike McMahon had said purchasing the Marina Village offices was a “fiscal no brainer” but said Tuesday the proposal will not fly with the public. In addition to revitalizing Alameda High, McMahon said a bond could include money for improvements at Encinal High School, work on the auditorium and even fixes for aging swimming pools at both high school campuses.

But buying the Marina Village property would send the wrong signal to the taxpaying public, said former school board trustee Janet Gibson.

“If you do this, it’s the kiss of death for people supporting a bond measure,” she said.

Though previous studies have been done at Alameda High over the past few years, this project will use architects, engineers and other professionals to determine what physical improvements would be needed and at what cost, Shemwell said.

Any classroom space included in the remodel would be eligible for 50 percent in matching funds from the state Department of Education.

Board approval would be needed if the cost of the study exceeds $75,000.

In other action, the board approved relocating the Alameda Community Learning Center from the Encinal High School campus, its home of 17 years, to Wood Middle School this fall. Wood parents and students opposed the move, claiming that combining both programs could lead to overcrowding and lack of safety at the middle school.

Trustee Trish Spencer said the change would force many special needs students out of Wood and into the Junior Jets program at Encinal, while Trustee Barbara Kahn mentioned parent resistance as a major reason for her opposition.

“I would not like us to go through with this,” Kahn said. “Nobody’s happy about it … the board is not happy, the community is not happy, and the students are not happy.”

The final vote was 3-2, with McMahon and board members Nielsen Tam and Margie Sherratt voting for the move and Spencer and Kahn voting no.


Submitted by labryon on Thu, Jun 13, 2013

Regarding the District office purchase, it was on the agenda as an info item only. The BOE will actually be voting on 6/25 for the: Approval of Recommendation to Purchase 2060 Challenger Drive Facility (ACT/15 MIN)