HomeCity NewsSan Marino Unified School District Weighs Facility Needs, Funding Options

San Marino Unified School District Weighs Facility Needs, Funding Options

A Facilities Advisory Committee recently presented recommendations to the San Marino Unified School District Board of Education, which will consider drafting a potential $200 million bond measure to fund the necessary facility upgrades across the schools.

Of the $200 million potential bond amount, the budgetary cap the FAC is working with is roughly $135 million, or two-thirds of the total bond, with the remaining amount set aside for inflation and cost escalation that may occur over the years during construction.

The group made a list showing the investment per school, which estimated about $29.7 million for Carver Elementary, $18.2 million for Huntington Middle School, $33.2 million for San Marino High School and $57.5 million for Valentine Elementary. The grand total for the upgrade estimates would be about $138.6 million, which is about $3.56 million more than the cap amount.

“In this list, there is no prioritization,” said FAC chair Jeff Morris. “These are the projects we feel are the top priorities that a hypothetical $200 million bond should go to fund. … It was so difficult to drop [that number] so we started thinking about other potential funding sources.”

To fund the $3.5-million-difference, the FAC suggested a partnership with the schools’ PTAs to fund some of the smaller projects.

“PTAs have had really good success raising money for specific needs at their school sites,” said Morris, who added that the organizations could potentially help to cover projects in the $20,000-$50,000 range by bringing in private contributions to bridge the funding gap.

Morris, on behalf of the committee, identified the areas SMUSD should focus on funding first, which included equipment and facilities that are beyond expiration for repair. Falling under that category are heating, ventilation and air conditioning units (HVAC), roofs, painting, flooring, electrical gear and athletic surfaces. The repair of aging underground utilities was deemed essential after leaks were discovered at San Marino High School, faulty HVAC plumbing was found underground at Carver Elementary, flooding was seen at Huntington Middle School and other school sites experienced problems with storm drains.

Site utility replacements and upgrades were advised for all four campuses, specifically in regard to roofing and HVAC systems.

With security and safety in mind, the FAC report also prioritized repaving cracked playground surfaces at the elementary schools, addressing dim exterior lighting, repairing incomplete perimeter fencing on multiple campuses, repairing existing gates and fences, improving elementary drop-off areas and parking lots, incorporating ADA accessibility within those projects and installing electronic door locks.

Morris also reported insufficient assembly space at Valentine, where the multipurpose room only seats about 200 people for gatherings and school programs. This is not enough room to host special occasions, when entire families come to watch a child’s performance, he noted.

The school also has food service challenges and is in need of more library space, he said. Valentine, along with Carver, would benefit from expanding lunch courts to accommodate all students.

Morris continued to explain that there is insufficient permanent learning space at Valentine, Carver and Huntington, all of which rely on temporary, portable classrooms that are “way past their expected useful life,” Morris said.

At the elementary school level, improved spaces for wellness and counseling are also necessary, noted Morris, along with better shade equipment at all school sites. All campuses are recommended to build shade structures and install photovoltaic solar panels.

To keep up with the educational needs and programs going forward, Morris said the committee found future connectivity and classroom technology upgrades a necessity at all school sites, as well as “backbone” technology.

Some of the other projects deemed essential are modernizing some classrooms across the district, as well as a classroom upgrade to support San Marino High School’s medical arts pathway. Officials also said the high school requires tennis court renovations and expansion, and Titan Stadium will also need to undergo a makeover. Team rooms and a concession building will need to be updated, new field lights and restrooms need to be installed, and the track surface and field turf will need replacement.

The FAC relayed to the Board that a general obligation bond is the most reliable way to fund capital improvements of the district’s magnitude.

“We’ve heard presentations from the district’s financial advisers and from other funding source professionals and we see this — specifically a Proposition 39 general obligation bond — as the best method to meet the district’s needs,” said Morris, who recommended that the bond, if moved forward, should be put forth to voters this year.

Morris also proposed that SMUSD look to a secondary bond in the future to help focus funding some of the larger projects it has its sights on, like expanding athletic spaces at SMHS.

“We think the district, in several years, could consider a second bond,” Morris said. “This one would be focused on arts and athletics. It may take more time for the district to form a consensus to build support for these, but we think this is something that should be considered, at the very least.”

If a bond is the path SMUSD ultimately chooses, Morris said, a citizens’ oversight committee would be assembled, as is required by Prop 23.

Members of this committee would make up the diverse fabric of the San Marino community with parents and representatives from business and neighborhood organizations. The FAC encouraged continued community engagement, even if the potential bond in November is passed. This effort would include ongoing facility tours and town hall meetings.

First published in the May 9 issue of the San Marino Tribune


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