LCUSD School Board Talks Facility Plans, Bond Measure

On the verge of finalizing a Facilities Master Plan and voting to present a bond measure to voters in an election this November, La Cañada Unified Governing Board members worked Tuesday to refine the list of projects intended to improve district functionality.
They’ll vote on whether to approve a bond election for the facility plans that the money could fund at their next meeting, June 20.
The yearlong process of putting together the Facilities Master Plan resulted in a wish list that would cost $252.5 million to cover everything — and a more-realistic prioritized project cost summary of $101.1 million, LPA architects explained at Tuesday’s board meeting.
In the plan, each campus is scheduled to receive between $23.7 and $27.1 million, with the district office getting $191,363, mostly for technology upgrades. PCR is due to receive the most, partly to get the school off of its septic system and connected to the sewer.
The biggest expense — about $50 million — would cover the construction of new, two-story classroom buildings on each of the district’s three elementary school campuses.
Board member Ellen Multari and parent David Haxton both questioned whether constructing the new two-story buildings is the best use of funds — especially with a price tag of nearly $50 million.
“We got an opportunity to speak with our counterparts at Burbank Unified, and they talked about substantial savings with modular classrooms,” Multari said. “From what they described, it feels like new construction to them. I’m probably sounding naive, but is there an opportunity to look under that rock and see what’s there? Would that allow us to do a lot more?”
“You should rethink the wisdom of constructing two stories at the elementary schools,” Haxton said. “Fifty million is fully half of the budget; I don’t see how you can justify spending that much on those buildings as opposed to new portables or other alternatives.
“The question is why you need new classroom space if the student population is not expected to increase? What is the educational value of these two-story buildings that cost $50 million?”
Board President Dan Jeffries said more space is necessary to accommodate smaller class sizes, a community priority.
And Superintendent Wendy Sinnette suggested that the temporary structures currently in place did not turn out to be “temporary.”
“Would we just be reinventing that cycle and, at some point, having this same conversation down the road?” she asked.
Architect Rick Musto pointed out that the grading and space issues, especially at both Palm Crest Elementary School and PCY, limit the options for portable buildings.
Board members also suggested some other late tweaks to the prioritization of projects, including promoting additional building modernization at the La Cañada High School and LCHS 7/8 campus. In exchange, they agreed to demote a project that would have brought a new lunch shelter at Paradise Canyon Elementary School as well as a revamped, more-secure lobby entrance at LCHS.
“The lobby allowance is not as high a priority because we’re trying to focus on student impact,” board Vice President Kaitzer Puglia said. “I completely understand the need for security and safety, but I think we were trying to keep in mind that we were going to focus the work, especially in Phase 1, on students.”
Board members also expressed interest in refurbishing — but not replacing — the dilapidated wooden home bleachers in the LCHS football stadium. Restoring them would save about $1.5 million.
“That knocks the cost down by half,” said LPA project designer Lindsay Hayward, adding that the district would also need to make upgrades according to requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Plans for a new pool at the high school are not expected to cover a new, 50-yard length facility requested by Athletic Director Kristina Kalb, Jeffries said. But, he noted, Kalb suggested that donations might help cover an upgrade that would pay to make it 50 yards, a size that could create revenue when rented to outside user groups for competitions.
Board member David Sagal also pushed for improvements to the band room, where moisture problems have damaged instruments.
“They’re having issues with instruments having been lost because of the dampness,” he said. “And the carpet is the original carpet. It’s pretty scary, not to mention all the stuff that the trumpet players put there. I can’t characterize it as healthy.”

TEACHER CONTRACT

LCUSD and the La Cañada Teachers Association came to an agreement May 25 on more details for the 2015-18 teacher contract, Assistant Superintendent Jeff Davis said.
Included in the update is a 0.55% retroactive wage increase for certificated employees and an additional 1% increase that will be added to 2016-17 salary schedules for those employees. Also, a memorandum of understanding was reached on the new daily late-start calendar, Davis said.

ASSESSMENT REGULATIONS

The board indicated its support for a policy review that will require teachers to either hand out graded tests or make them digitally accessible to students and their parents.
“They will be accessible to parents yet it allows the teachers the freedom to specify which way those will be accessible, so each teacher can do what works for them,” Assistant Superintendent Anais Wenn said.

TEACHER HONORS

The La Cañada Educational Foundation recently named LCHS drama teacher Justin Eick and LCHS 7/8 math teacher Samantha Wright as the recipients of this year’s Rose Harrington Award, according to Sinnette. She also offered congratulations to La Cañada Elementary School teacher Mandy Redfern, who was honored as the district’s Teacher of the Year.

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