TUSD board members voted unanimously Feb. 11 to ask voters for an $82 million bond, now called Measure B, to upgrade Central, North, South/West Park, Villalovoz and Jacobson elementary schools. The bond would also pay for improvements to the former Clover Middle School campus, now home of Tracy Learning Center.
“We have to finish what we started,” Dr. Casey Goodall, assistant superintendent for business services, said.
The Press toured two school sites in need of upgrades, Central and North schools, on Feb. 18 with Goodall and a group of seven other district administrators, board members and principals.
Central Principal Nancy Link said structural problems at her school sometimes interfere with learning: “We have to evacuate the class because we smell something funny, be it the sewer lines or whatever. (Or) the teacher has to move a bucket because the roof is leaking and move another bucket. (Kids) are getting an amazing education here, but those are distractions that they shouldn’t have to have.”
Anthony Continente, project manager with RGM & Associates and consultant for the district on school modernization, said the surface problems at Central are indicators of deeper issues.
“Those are just leaks from around the mechanical system coming down through the roof over time as things tend to rot,” Continente said. “Most all of it, especially underground, is going to be in that shape.”
Continente could not say whether the school needed modernization or complete reconstruction.
“We have to do more assessment,” he said. “We have to really start to dig into the walls and see what’s there.”
Such assessment, Goodall said, is expensive and extensive.
“Until we really take it to that next step, in terms of evaluation, we won’t really know,” he said.
That next step is included in the $82 million bond the community will consider in the June 3 election.
Voters approved Measure E, a $51 million bond, in 2006 and two years later voted to give the district an additional $43 million in Measure S.
In 2008, the district told voters Measure S money would be used to renovate, modernize and reconstruct the older elementary and middle schools. Central is the oldest elementary school in the district.
“We’re asking for less money (than in 2006), and we’ll be able to fix up more schools,” board president James Vaughn said June 24, 2008, before voting to put Measure S on the November 2008 ballot.
Goodall said Feb. 18 that most of that money went to modernize Monte Vista and McKinley.
“We wanted to do the project right rather than say, How much money do we have?” Goodall said. “Do we cut back on what McKinley and Monte Vista have so that we could now include North and Central and South/West Park? You really dilute the project dramatically and you end up with a project you’re not proud of, and the community asks, ‘Why did I spend all my money on that?’”
Board of Education member Ted Guzman, who was on the Feb. 18 tour, said that the district staff had done a great job using the bond money well.
“Our sales pitch is, go by Tracy High School, go by McKinley, go by Monte Vista,” he said. “Check the numbers and how well we used the numbers and how well the sites were built, redone and remodeled. The job that was done should be our sales pitch for everyone to see. We do it right.”
Guzman added that a piecemeal approach to school modernization might not be in the best interests of anyone.
“You just don’t get funding for facilities like you used to. It’s all built in the general fund now,” he said. “We really don’t want to put a million dollars at this school, then go over here and put a million dollars at this school. As the year goes on, it drains your general fund.”
Records of maintenance costs for each school were not immediately available from the district, but Continente said that according to his research, the last modernization of Central School occurred in 1990.
Link said she just wants to give her students a place to learn that doesn’t have 75-year-old plumbing, sagging soft spots in the wood floor, and asbestos on the walls.
• Contact Michael Ellis Langley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 830-4231.