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Santa Barbara Unified Schools Make ‘Wish List’ of Improvements as Part of Facilities Master Plan

Next public hearing to discuss long-term campus planning is scheduled for May 19 at district headquarters

Each school has a proposed long-term site plan in the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Facilities Master Plan, including Dos Pueblos High School, with its existing facilities mapped here.
Each school has a proposed long-term site plan in the Santa Barbara Unified School District’s Facilities Master Plan, including Dos Pueblos High School, with its existing facilities mapped here. (Santa Barbara Unified Schoot District map)

With many local school facilities decades old and in need of modernization, the Santa Barbara Unified School District is in the middle of a process of allowing each school to craft a "wish list" of improvements that would allow them to plan for the future.

The Facilities Master Plan process will compile a complete, master list of needs at each school, which would then have to be prioritized and be paired with funding. The process has been under way for months, but recently reached a new level of attention when the reporting of a local high school's journalism program left many with the impression that the campus' demolition would be imminent.

Dos Pueblos High School news site the Charger Account posted a story about the facilities master plan, but it was removed from the website twice after administrators were concerned about inaccuracies, said Kelly Savio, the program's journalism adviser.

Savio said the students are following up on the story, but have removed it from the web in the meantime. It was a decision students made and Savio commended. She said they haven't had the chance to sit down with administrators yet, but she believes one of the main concerns was the story made the school's renovations sound imminent.

"This is definitely not the case," Savio said. "We'll be going over the story as soon as we can, making edits that are required to ensure the story is fair and accurate, and then we'll repost it."

The Board of Education has not made any decisions for any campuses or had any discussion about a new bond issue, board president Ed Heron said. 

The Facilities Master Plan is distinct from improvements made with monies garnered by the passing of general obligation school bond Measures Q and R in 2010. That funding was and is being spent on a long list of projects with immediate needs, many of which were safety-related such as replacing rotting support beams in the San Marcos High School Gym.

Those improvements have been made, Heron said, but, "we determined that there's way, way more needs to be done now and in the future."

The next public workshop to discuss proposed long-range planning for each site will be held at 5 p.m. May 19 at the district headquarters, 720 Santa Barbara St. 

Heron said he suspects that members of the public may talk about the demand to replace portables, the temporary classrooms that were installed decades ago but have become permanent fixtures on most campuses.

The district has 163 portables used for classroom space and about a third of them are more than 30 years old. Adams Elementary School has the most in the district, with more than 20 on site. 

Heron refuted reports that improvement efforts would be focused on a single school. 

"We're talking a lot of money and one school is not going to get $200 million," he said. After the plans are finalized, the board must determine whether the public has the appetite for a bond measure in the future.

"I don't think anybody knows the answer to that," Heron said. "But I think we'll be able to show the need."

Regarding the proposed changes, Noozhawk checked in with Dos Pueblos Principal Shawn Carey, who has been at a series of the meetings discussing the plans.

"Each school site in the district underwent a process that was very public that encouraged conversation," she said. That input was then provided to LPA, Inc, an Irvine-based architectural firm that created a site plan for each school

"We're years, and maybe even decades, from some of these plans," Carey said. "The spirit of this is about having one comprehensive vision for facilities in our organization. ... It's been a very thoughtfully intentional process."

It's a long-range plan, and Carey admits that the revenue doesn't exist to realize some of the plans.  

The process has given the school a chance to think about how the campus layout could better aid learning.

"For example, does it make sense for the wood shop to be near the theater department for sets that are built?" she said.

The proposed site plans would keep the number of classrooms on the schools campus at about 95, but would update buildings throughout the site.

"Some spaces on campus are state of the art, and the rest was built 50 years ago," she said.  

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper 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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