LCUSD Hears Finance Plan, Agrees to Tackle Project Priority List

Photo by Mirjam Swanson / OUTLOOK
Superintendent Wendy Sinnette jots down ideas related to the purpose of learning spaces during a public brainstorming session at Monday’s La Cañada Unified School District study session about the recently passed $149 million school bond.

The La Cañada Unified School District seems primed to first tackle the topics of safety, security and sewers with some of the $149 million stemming from Measure LCF, the bond approved overwhelmingly by voters in November.
In a study session Monday, board members listened to a municipal market update and finance plan from Adam Bauer, president of Fieldman, Rolapp and Associates. He said current interest rates are favorable, but that board members shouldn’t feel rushed to act.
“There are times when I’m at this podium saying, ‘Move and move quickly,’” he said. “That’s not what I’m saying here. It would be prudent to move if you know what your projects are and you’re ready to do it, but this isn’t one of those situations where I’m saying ‘You have a once-in-a-three-year opportunity, don’t let it go.’ I say take your time and do what you need to do and it’s not going to be a dramatic impact.”
With that in mind, the district’s Chief Technology Officer Jamie Lewsadder suggested that before the district make concrete plans for classroom modernization that there should be brainstorming sessions and a pilot program that include 10 classrooms to test ideas.
She said her preliminary research indicates that classroom design can have a significant effect, for better or worse, on student learning and should be considered carefully.
“We’re about to play a very expensive game of Jenga, where we’re building something and potentially having to move parts later,” said Lewsadder said. “If we don’t do that right, our initial funding will be un-doing things later. So what I really want to talk about tonight is how do we slow down and come up with a vision, define our needs in terms of the learning spaces.”
In the meantime, board members suggested completing projects that might not need as much research and analysis — such as enhancing security at all of the district’s campuses and hooking up the sewer at Palm Crest Elementary School.
Even those projects, however, are not simple.
Architect Lindsay Hayward, of LPA Inc., said that it might make the most financial sense to package the sewer project with some of the other campus improvements planned at PCR.
And although board members agreed that security is a district-wide priority, board member Joe Radabaugh suggested an updated analysis of the proposed safety measures.
“I think people would like to see what’s under the hood in terms of our security plan,” he said.
Hayward said even the addition of a lunch shelter at Paradise Canyon Elementary School will require approval from the Division of State Architect, which has jurisdiction over access compliance requirements for all buildings in California (including schools) that are publicly funded.
After listening to the discussion, Mark Evans, LCUSD’s chief business and operations officer, said in addition to those safety and security measures, the sewer line, the lunch shelter and classroom pilots, he also would study potential improvements to the La Cañada High School stadium and report back on which projects would make the most sense for the district to pursue first.
Hayward reminded board members that not all of a $30 million issuance would go to materials.
“You want to target two-thirds of that for project costs and you need to leave one-third, because by the time we build, it’s going to be more than we said in the Master Plan,” she said. “You have to hire consultants, engineers, architects and provide possible interim housing.
“You have $20 million working on a conservative estimate; we’re seeing the bid market continue to increase. We could hit a recession, we don’t know, but something you may want to consider is packaging projects.”
Sinnette and board members also discussed plans to receive and certify the election results at the Feb. 27 and March 20 meetings, after which the district will have 60 days to establish and seat an Independent Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee.
Bauer suggested that the board then consider approving financing at its April 17 meeting, after which the district will wait for the L.A. County Board of Education to approve the financing in May.

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