Vote officially launches a 12-year building plan
With the passage of the $9 billion California Public School Facility Bonds Initiative in the Nov. 8 election, Madera Unified trustees took a bold step last week.
At its Nov. 15 board meeting, the board began the process of approving Superintendent Ed Gonzalez’ 12-year-plan for meeting the district’s long-range facilities needs, a plan that has been in the discussion stage for nearly a year.
Under the plan, Madera Unified School District will build two new elementary schools, three middle schools, including a concurrent enrollment tech middle school, and two high schools. It will also complete Madera South High School’s athletic facilities, build a new district office building, construct a new adult education facility, and purchase 160 acres for a new educational complex, which will contain one of the two new elementary schools, one of the new middle schools, a fourth high school, and a stadium.
The action represents the first time Madera Unified has reached so far out to systematically tackle the district’s building needs.
Gonzalez divided the plan into three phases and asked the board to give its immediate approval for phase one, to be accomplished in 2017, leaving approval for the other two phases to come later.
As Gonzalez laid out phase one, it was comprised of four points from the larger 12-year-plan:
The purchase of land for a future educational complex that would eventually include a new elementary school, a new middle school, a fourth high school, and a stadium.
Gonzalez said this would necessitate the reactivation of the site selection committee, which is made up of district staff, residents of the city, and residents of the county. In previous discussions, Gonzalez has suggested the complex would require approximately 160 acres and cost about $10 million.
Completion of athletic facilities at Madera South High School. In an attempt to create equity between Madera’s two high schools, Gonzalez asked the board to authorize the following at MSHS: creation of an all-weather, nine-lane track, an artificial turf field (Memorial Stadium already has artificial turf), additional bleachers, restroom and snack bar facilities, and fencing around the area.
Completion of Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School with funds from Measure U, passed in 2006.
Completion of the new high school at Martin Street and Road 26 with funds from Measure G, a $70 million bond, state matching funds from proposition 51, and set aside monies from the district’s fund 41 (building fund).
Before the vote on phase one, Gonzalez turned to phases two and three of the 12-year-plan, emphasizing that he was not asking for board approval for these portions at that time.
Place a $110 million general obligation bond on the ballot in 2018.
Modernize Memorial Stadium.
Purchase land for a new district office.
Move Adult Education to the site of the present district office.
Build three middle schools — two comprehensive middle schools and a concurrent enrollment middle school. This would give the district five comprehensive middle schools.
Convert the five comprehensive middle schools into grades 6-8 facilities.
Convert the elementary schools into K-5 facilities.
After Gonzalez’s presentation of the three phases of the 12-year-plan, the board turned back to phase one, which had been placed before it as an action item.
David Loquaci, the chair of the district’s parent advisory committee, came to the podium to inform the board that in an Oct. 26 meeting, the committee voted to approve phase one of the 12-year-plan.
“Planning like this is essential for the district to grow and to provide the facilities necessary to educate our kids,” said Loquaci. “When we don’t plan ahead, we are in the situation we are in now with outdated classrooms — classrooms that are not set up for today’s technology,” he continued.
Following Loquaci’s remarks, trustee Ray Seibert voiced support for putting the modernization of Madera High School on the fast track. He also indicated support for moving the innovative concurrent enrollment middle school from phase two to phase one.
Gonzalez offered a word of caution about moving the concurrent enrollment middle school to phase one. The superintendent reasoned that completing phase one as presented would allow the community to see that part of the overall plan built and paid for, which would enhance the likelihood the 2018 bond would pass.
Gonzalez told The Tribune, “It is my goal that both the Virginia Rose Lee Elementary School and the new high school will be completely paid off before we ask the voters for another bond in 2018.”
The superintendent further stated that whenever feasible, the district should “pay for projects as we complete them. Borrowing money to build schools is necessary sometimes, but we will minimize the borrowing if we continue to set aside money in fund 41 for new construction.”
However, trustee Ed McIntyre countered with his own idea of restructuring Phase One. He firmly argued for removing the search for land for the educational complex from phase one and replacing it with the concurrent enrollment middle school.
McIntyre insisted that the concurrent enrollment middle school should take priority over land acquisition for the educational complex.
When it came time for a vote, trustee Ricardo Arredondo made the motion to approve Phase One, with two modifications. His motion included moving the concurrent enrollment middle school from Phase Two to phase one. He also included modernization of Madera High School in his motion.
Trustee Brent Fernandes seconded the motion, and it passed 6-0, trustee Maria Velarde-Garcia having left the marathon meeting for a family obligation.
Gonzalez first unveiled the far reaching building plan to trustees in January 2016 after they had requested a long-range building needs assessment in November 2015. At the board’s direction, Gonzalez followed this up with a series of public meetings aimed at sharing and gathering input from the community.
Gonzalez applauded the board for making “great progress on improving the facilities in the school district.”