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Wednesday, February 20 , 2019, 8:27 pm | Fair 48º


Thanks to the Community for Investing in our Schools

Bond funding ensured access upgrades across the Santa Barbara School Districts.

At first glance, adding elevators to a campus might not seem like an exciting project. But, for students, staff and community members at Santa Barbara High who have a physical disability that impedes their ability to reach their campus destination, six new elevators on the school’s multilevel, 40-acre campus significantly improves their access to education, school activities and opportunities. The elevators remove barriers, provide access and support inclusion.

Brian Sarvis

We would like to thank the community for making Santa Barbara High, and other campuses in the Santa Barbara School Districts, accessible to all as part of many projects funded by Measure V, a bond passed in 2000. The expense of six elevators, $5.3 million, is symbolic of the significant amount of bond funds used to provide Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA, handicap accessibility at our secondary schools. (Click here for a current article.)

We are proud to have school facilities across the district that are accessible to students, parents, staff and the public. Simply providing curbs, ramps and restrooms that are accessible to all does not seem like it would cost much. But, the increase from the initial cost estimate of $8 million necessary for ADA handicap accessibility to the actual cost of $30 million in both the elementary district (Bond Measure I-98) and secondary district (Bond Measure V), is an example of what happened to many of our bond construction projects.

At the time the districts anticipated refurbishing and modernization bond funding in 1998 (elementary) and 2000 (secondary), a number of needed ADA upgrades were already known. They were spread across classroom buildings and sports facilities throughout the districts. What was not known at the time was that increased state requirements over the next 10 years would add to the anticipated ADA upgrades.

Following a series of lawsuits against school districts across California (including our school district), the Division of the State Architect, or DSA, moved proactively by increasing its requirements on ADA compliance on renovation projects. Instead of requiring that up to 20 percent of a school project budget be allocated to ADA, DSA required districts to allocate whatever dollar amount was needed to complete the ADA portion of the project. The resulting impact on project budgets has been significant.

Finally, rising construction costs decreased the value of 1998 and 2000 bond money so that by the time of construction, the money bought only half of what it was initially expected to buy.

As a result of these factors, more than four years ago the districts scaled back bond construction projects to those that were necessary to obtain ADA access. Other projects were not completed at Adams, Cleveland, Franklin, Peabody, Washington, Goleta Valley Junior High, La Colina Junior High, La Cumbre Junior High, Santa Barbara Junior High, Dos Pueblos High, San Marcos High and Santa Barbara High. Although it was not my decision to scale back the other projects as I was not the superintendent at the time, it was the right decision.

Seeing students with disabilities use the elevators each day is a wonderful thing. The community deserves our heartfelt thanks for making this a reality.

Brian Sarvis is superintendent of the Santa Barbara School Districts.

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