Tuesday, March 20 , 2018, 11:01 am | Overcast 60º


School Board Gives $500,000 to Santa Barbara High’s MAD Academy Facility Project

Despite unanimous support, some members express concern about the expanding scope of the plan, now estimated at $3.4 million

The Santa Barbara school board on Tuesday night approved spending $500,000 toward Santa Barbara High School’s Multimedia Arts & Design Academy construction project in an effort to finally get it built.

Originally, the project involved renovating the current space and slightly expanding it, but now the academy plans to move to the former La Cuesta Continuation High School area for a larger facility. Even with $1.4 million in state grants and $1.4 million in loans, the academy’s foundation can’t fund the rest of the project, now estimated at $3.4 million, school officials said.

The $500,000 will come out of the district’s developer fees fund, which can be used only for construction projects and doesn’t include general obligation bond measure revenues.

With classes focused on web design, animation, photography, and video production and editing, enrollment in the academy has grown a lot in recent years, so the program needs a larger space, according to MAD Academy Director Dan Williams.

The move would free up the current classroom space for the new computer science program, and the new facility would provide a meeting area for parent groups and presentations in addition to being a studio for MAD Academy students.

The school board unanimously approved the $500,000, with member Susan Deacon saying it would bring a “cascade of benefits” by providing a new facility and more space at the main high school campus.

Board member Kate Parker said it’s the district’s responsibility to provide the best facilities to students regardless of the program, and the district is lucky to have outside resources such as the academies helping with that. She expressed some reluctance, though, if only because of the timing.

“It concerns me because it’s $500,000 of our funds when we started in 2008 and were assured there would be no cost to the district for this project,” board member Ed Heron said.

The board approved $70,000 last year to complete the planning and design for the project. Though it’s a “win-win” project, he said he was concerned that the project grew so much in scope without the board’s knowledge and had a funding request just a few months before the deadline for using state grant and academy foundation money.

He said it’s the process, not the result, that needs scrutiny.

“As a board member, I guess I resent it going from 4,200 to 6,000 square feet and never personally hearing about it,” Heron said. “I feel it’s our role as an oversight committee to hear about it before we get to the end result, not after.”

Board member Monique Limon agreed, calling the project itself a good investment but suggesting that the board think with “greater vision” about facilities funding, with more long-term plans.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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