When I returned to Mariposa and became Superintendent of Schools over four years ago, it was like going back in time.
As I walked onto the campus of Mariposa County High School (MCHS) memories of my high school days there flooded my mind. It was as if I had never left. Everything was nearly the same as I remembered it in 1983, although aged and weathered through many seasons.
While I enjoyed the nostalgia, I was shocked to see the same old portable classroom buildings over 35 years later, and I was fairly certain the very same dirt my young feet pounded was still on the track in the upper field.
With the help of Measure L bond funds, MCHS will finally get a major face lift. Last Thursday, the Mariposa County Unified School District (MCUSD) Board of Trustees voted to move forward with Phase 1 of the MCHS facility master plan. This includes constructing a brand new building containing five classrooms with student and staff restrooms on the lower campus. The new classroom building will replace seven old, dilapidated portable classrooms.
Here are the keys to the abbreviations in the chart: VOIP – Voice Over Internet Protocol; HVAC – Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning; MOTFW – Maintenance Operations Transportation Facilities Warehouse.
Other projects in the MCHS campus Phase 1 modernization plan include: main building exterior restoration; boys locker shower roof; gymnasium HVAC system; gymnasium/locker shower building exterior restoration; upper and lower campus safety and security systems including fencing, lighting, surveillance cameras, campus-wide fire alarm upgrades and intercom systems; replacement of walkways, landscaping, irrigation and storm drainage improvements.
The cost for this construction and renovation is estimated at $10 million. The projects must be submitted to the Division of State Architect (DSA) for approval and to also be eligible for possible matching state bond funds.
Completed and current MCHS restoration projects are a new roof on the auditorium building and a campus wide new phone system (paid with non-bond dollars), new roofs and HVAC systems on the entire main building, new roofs on the science wing, gym and girls locker room and new basketball hoops in the gym.
Additional MCHS projects that will be planned separately and will not necessarily need to go through DSA are: auditorium seat restoration, wall finish repairs, painting and lighting control system improvements; gym floor replacement or restoration, wall finish repairs and painting; campus-wide building exterior restoration; and Grizzly Field storm drainage improvements and DSA closeout projects.
Also under consideration are improvements to the upper athletic field in preparation for the 2019 football season. Longterm, preliminary drafts of the MCHS facility master plan Phases 2 and 3 call for a stadium, a new gym and a new kitchen/ cafeteria.
Now that Phase 1 of the high school plan is moving forward, additional projects for every other district school will soon be developed. The goal is to have facility modernization projects planned and approved by the MCUSD Board of Trustees for all school sites by June 2019. Furthermore, it is expected that construction will begin at a minimum of half of the district’s sites by June 2019.
As district facility projects are submitted to DSA, they may qualify for the 60 percent modernization matching funds from Proposition 51 state facility bonds. The MCUSD Board and staff have done everything required to be eligible for the state’s facility bond funds. It’s now all about getting the district’s facility projects through the very convoluted process of state approval in order to break ground here while also gaining a place in line for the match. To date, Gov. Jerry Brown has only authorized $640 million of the $9 billion in Proposition 51 funds.
Meanwhile, district funds are being set aside and spent on capital improvements to supplement bond dollars. A portable building replacement plan will soon be developed to eventually remove all of the district’s outdated relocatable classrooms and replace them with new, modern classrooms. Since Mariposa voters passed Measure L in November 2016, over $1 million of other district monies have been directed to projects improving the condition of school facilities and increasing students’ safety and security.
Four years ago I actually laughed out loud when I saw the antiquated switchboard phone system still being used in the MCHS attendance office. But it was no laughing matter as the phone system began to fail with no means to repair it…again.
Major safety and security issues at the high school were eminent. In fact, all of the schools’ phone systems were quite out of date and could no longer be supported through the district’s telephone technology funding source. Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone technology was installed to replace the aged, failing and soon-to-be-more-operationally-expensive phone systems. These systems, along with urgent roofing and other pressing facility issues, were paid for with district funds outside of bond dollars.
When I returned to Mariposa as Superintendent of Schools in 2014, one of my first priorities was to pass a facility bond measure. With many thanks to the voters of this county, that goal has been realized. At this time, over $2 million in Measure L bond funds have been spent and encumbered, with an additional $1 million in district funds used to upgrade schools across the county. (See related chart.)
Through careful, frugal planning, the MCUSD Board and district staff have now approved plans to proceed with new construction and continue improving and modernizing its existing buildings in order for students to have the best learning and extracurricular environments possible.
I am excited to think what the new face of each campus will become in the near future. .
Robin Hopper is the superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District