It was 8 p.m. on Nov. 8, 2016 and I was standing in the Mariposa County Elections Office with butterflies in my stomach, anxiously awaiting the results of Measure L, the local school facilities bond measure.
It needed 55 percent approval to pass. Mariposa County Schools desperately needed this $24 million to fund the modernization of its aging classrooms and facilities. Just then, Mariposa County Registrar of Voters Keith Williams approached me with a copy of the absentee ballot results. I feverishly tried to make sense of the numbers before my eyes. It just couldn’t be true — 70 percent approval?! But it was true and that number held as each precinct reported their results. Mariposa County voters had spoken loudly in support of their students and schools!
Fast forward to today.
Where are we with your
Measure L money now?
MCUSD staff has been hard at work developing and implementing modernization plans on school facilities. To date, $8.5 million of bonds have been sold and of that, $2.1 million have been spent or encumbered on facility projects.
When Measure L was presented to the voters, the list of projects read as follows, directly from the ballot, “…repair/replace leaky roofs; upgrade deteriorating plumbing and sewer systems; update inadequate electrical systems; replace outdated heating and air-conditioning systems; and modernize, construct and/or renovate classrooms, restrooms and school facilities.”
The board of trustees approved a Long Range Master Plan that included input from a diverse group of stakeholders. The Master Plan is a living document that includes short-term and long-term facility goals. The board then approved a list of prioritized projects, based upon most urgent needs. Simultaneously, district staff are working on longer range modernization plans.
Modernization work that has been completed or that is currently in progress includes six re-roofing projects at MCHS, Woodland, Lake Don Pedro and Catheys Valley (SFCS); the redesign, repair/replacement of Woodland septic system; replacement of numerous outdated heating ventilation air-conditioning (HVAC) systems (some isolated and some within the scope of re-roofing projects); and replacement of antiquated phone systems under school safety priority.
In addition, energy audits have been conducted in preparation for redesign of lighting and HVAC control systems as modernization projects move forward. Safety audits are being conducted in preparation to enhance school safety. Topographic surveys of athletic fields have been conducted in conjunction with engineering and architect evaluations to make short and long range plans for those spaces.
Long range master plans right now are focused primarily on Mariposa County High School. It was the consensus of the Superintendent’s Facility Advisory Committee that MCHS should have its own master plan because it is really the hub of the community and nearly every student in Mariposa County enters its doors.
District staff are working with an architectural firm to finalize the MCHS Master Plan. It includes several phases of modernization and will likely span 20-30 years to complete, pending funding. If the entire $24 million were allocated just to MCHS, this timeline could, of course, be shortened, but the dollars need to be distributed to the district’s other eight sites also. More about this later.
So, what is included in the MCHS modernization plan?
While not finalized, I’ll share some draft information (did I emphasize draft?) Phase 1 could include replacement of portable classrooms with two-story classroom building(s). Mind you, this is extremely exciting to me because I sat in some of those classrooms as a junior high student in the late 1970s! They really must go. Our students deserve so much better.
Another aspect of Phase 1 could be modernizing the main building that was built in 1936. In addition, Phase 1 may also include renovation of the gym and locker rooms. Finally, addressing campus security through lighting, cameras, fencing and notification systems is important in Phase 1. These are not listed in any prioritized order. Cost projections are currently underway and will be brought to the MCUSD governing board soon.
Looking forward into the draft (again, did I emphasize draft?), MCHS modernization plan, Phase 2 may be an athletic stadium and Phase 3 could be a new gym.
These are exciting times and Mariposa County voters made it possible to finally look into the future of what our schools can become. Rather than only focusing on the much needed repairs and modernization work, we can also dream and plan for the larger ideas that have been discussed for so many years. We are just beginning on the path of a long awaited journey and I am so pleased to have you as my traveling companions.
In upcoming bond matters I will discuss:
• So, why is it taking so long to get things done?
• What about those promised matching dollars from the state?
• What about all of the other school sites? What modernization projects are planned for them?
Robin Hopper is the superintendent of the Mariposa County Unified School District.