2017-05-19 / Front Page

Officials spell out spending priorities for Measure X

SVUSD Classroom renovations on the list
By Hector Gonzalez

MODERN CLASSROOM—Measure X, passed by voters in November, authorizes the district to sell $239 million in general obligation bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements and technology. 
ACORN FILE PHOTO MODERN CLASSROOM—Measure X, passed by voters in November, authorizes the district to sell $239 million in general obligation bonds to pay for infrastructure improvements and technology. ACORN FILE PHOTO Simi Valley Unified School District officials want to use roughly $135 million of the $239-million Measure X bond funds on improving infrastructure and investing in technology.

In a PowerPoint presentation given at a special meeting of the school board Tuesday, officials outlined four main priority areas of spending for the general obligation bond that got more than 64 percent support from voters in November. Those areas are classroom renovation, fencing and landscaping, security and lighting, and technology.

Thus far, the cost estimate for newly planned improvement projects— including remodeling 1,000 classrooms, constructing new fencing and landscaping at 10 campuses, and adding security cameras and emergency radios at all 28 schools—amounts to about $94.4 million, officials said.

On top of that, SVUSD will need to spend $41 million on “deferred maintenance,” or badly needed repair projects the district has put off in the past but can no longer afford to postpone, said Pedro Avila, facilities director for the district.

For example, about $25 million of that $41 million will go toward repairing and replacing asphalt at schools over the next two decades. The district also needs to replace about 1.2 million square feet of aging roofs at a cost of approximately $12.8 million. Officials anticipate needing another $3 million to install air conditioning at eight campuses, Avila said.

“These are (maintenance projects) we believe are sitting out there and need attention,” Ron Todo, associate superintendent of business and facilities, told school board members at Tuesday’s meeting.

Although $25 million for asphalt sounded “astronomical to me at first,” Todo said, a paving company brought in by the district to provide a professional estimate verified the amount.

The least expensive of the four priority areas of spending is landscaping and fencing, which amounts to about $300,000. Most of the district’s 28 campuses already received new fencing and landscaping paid for by the $145-million Measure C4 school improvement bond approved by voters in 2004.

Modernized classrooms

District officials estimate it will cost about $35 million to remodel and modernize 1,000 classrooms across SVUSD. Furniture, walls, floors and ceilings would be completely replaced, following the design of a prototype classroom officials experimented with recently at Royal High School to gauge responses from students and teachers.

Instead of plain walls, the redesigned classrooms’ walls will be fitted with a special cushion-type material that allows teachers to post assignments and other information, as well as glass-surfaced white board projection screens. Movable chairs and tables would let students work on projects in small groups, Avila said.

School board trustee Eric Lundstrom said he thought the new material for classroom walls was “too gray” and “dull.”

But Superintendent Jason Peplinski said students who previewed the prototype room at Royal were impressed by its modern look.

“All the teachers want to know when they’ll be able to use the classroom,” Peplinski said.

While they asked for clarification on some priority items, school board members did not vote to allocate any funds after the presentation.

Todo stressed the presentation was only a preliminary step in planning how to spend the bond funds. Officials still need to gather input from teachers, administrators and residents before formalizing any spending plan for the bond, which will be paid off by taxpayers over 30 years.

The funds cannot be used for teacher or administrator salaries.

An Independent Citizens Oversight Committee that includes residents will be responsible for overseeing the money spent on each project and making sure the district stays on budget and in line with the intended use of the funds.

The committee is scheduled to meet next in August, district spokeswoman Jake Finch said.

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