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Sunday, December 9 , 2018, 7:23 pm | Fair 56º


Carpinteria School District Seeking Voter Approval of $90 Million Bond for Campus Upgrades

The Carpinteria Unified School District is pursuing its first general obligation bond initiative in 20 years, and officials hope local voters support the $90-million amount to upgrade aging facilities.

The K-12 district’s nine schools in Carpinteria and Summerland serve about 2,300 students.

“The need is very self-evident,” Superintendent Paul Cordeiro told Noozhawk.

“You’ve got old schools and you can’t have bake sales to raise the money you need to make the improvements — the only recourse is to go to the voters.”

The district studied its facilities for about 18 months and adopted a Facilities Master Plan that outlines all the needs, he said.

Most classrooms were built in the 1960s or earlier and fall short of today’s technological needs, with only two or three electrical plugs and low capacity for Internet access, Cordeiro said.

With the switch to Common Core State Standards, educational technology is given a central role in the curriculum, and students will be doing Smarter Balanced Assessments testing on computers, not with pencils and paper.

Bond money will also be used for “essential repairs and upgrades,” according to the ballot language, with needs such as fixing leaky roofs, tearing out asbestos, repairing broken restrooms and updating antiquated safety systems.

A large portion of the bond money will likely be used to remove the district’s 63 portable classrooms, which are in poor condition. A consultant firm recommended that 50 of them be demolished outright.

To replace them, the Carpinteria district has its eyes on modular classrooms, which are built offsite and then placed onto cement foundations on the school grounds.

They’re cheaper than traditional buildings, more energy-efficient than the portables and would be constructed with “green” building materials, Cordeiro said.

It would cost an estimated $24 million to replace the portable classrooms with the modular structures at $250 per square foot, compared to $13.8 million for the basic modular buildings or $33.5 million for traditional classroom buildings.

Another specific project is adding a science wing at Carpinteria High School and creating a space for the design and engineering program, Cordeiro said.

“This isn’t about extravagance,” he said. “This is about taking a facility built in 1962 and taking it into the 21st century. These buildings are old!”

Preliminary polling showed strong community support for the measure but advocates are still launching a full campaign, said Marybeth Carty, a board member of the Carpinteria Education Foundation.

“The basic infrastructure of the entire district needs an overhaul,” Carty said. “We haven’t floated a bond in 20 years, so this is the one that should be built to last.”

The proposed science wing and design/engineering space at the high school would replace the “really obsolete science lab that’s kind of a joke — it’s out of the ’60s,” she said.

“The marvel of all of this is, kids being as resilient as they are, it hasn’t inhibited their ability to learn. I think it’s inhibited their ability to compete.”

To pass, the $90-million Measure U on the Nov. 4 ballot needs 55-percent approval from voters.

Carpinteria residents Bernard Fink and Royce Stauffer wrote the ballot argument opposing the measure, but there doesn’t appear to be any campaign fighting the bond.

“It is remarkable that 63 individual buildings should all fail at once,” Fink wrote. “School upgrades should be limited to individual projects, as needed, that the public can monitor and understand.”

Stauffer said the bond was too large and the ballot wording is too vague, not tying the district to explicit projects.

The district estimates the bond will cost property owners $47 per $100,000 of assessed valuation for the first year after bonds are issued and will remain unchanged, but tax rates can’t be accurately predicted 10 years into the future.

School board member Alison Livett, a former physics teacher, said the high school science classrooms are so out of date she’s amazed the faculty can even teach in them.

Carpinteria Middle School was modernized with the last school bond in 1995, so students go from those facilities into “pretty bad facilities” at the high school, particularly with the science classrooms, she said.

Measure U ballot language says the bond-funded facilities improvements will help the district attract and retain teachers.

Livett says the nicer facilities will contribute to teachers wanting to work there and the upgrades will allow more money for salaries if the board isn’t using general fund dollars for expensive emergency repairs.

“We’ve realized that we needed to do a bond because the money we had in the general fund wasn’t even enough to really cover the basic maintenance at the schools,” she said.

“It sounds weird, but we’re the few people in California who hope it’s not going to rain, because when it rains, we know we’re going to have a lot of leaky roofs.”

Noozhawk news editor 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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