School district seeks community input on improving facilities, programs
Public invited to weigh in on school district’s facility master plan
As he enters his third year with the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District, Superintendent Chris Williams is reaching out to the community for input regarding ongoing improvements and upgrades that focus on the education, safety, and overall well-being of students, staff, parents, and visitors to school campuses. Implementation of recent initiatives include the new Early Learning Academy preschool program, supplying Chromebooks to all middle school students, and an expanded offering of dance and other performing and visual arts throughout the district.
“We have several schools that are decades old, with one being over 80 years old,” said Williams. “What we have been working on is being in alignment with a major facilities plan regarding safety improvements that are needed such as repairing and replacing school infrastructure including deteriorating classrooms, restrooms, leaky roofs, and plumbing systems as well as retrofitting older buildings and bringing them up to current building codes. The implementation of the plan is crucial in providing the basic necessities that our students, staff, parents, and community expect.”
With these objectives in mind, Williams and a select group of district staff held over 30 meetings with stakeholders in the local school district including individuals from various school sites, the community, and staff members over the past several months. As they walked each campus, they reviewed and assessed the needs of each site. With the understanding that several projects have taken a back seat for various reasons, Williams and the stakeholders soon realized that a lot of work needed to be done.
Facilities master plan
Thanks to the district’s first capital investment plan, several improvement projects have already taken place or are currently underway including: new paint, carpet, flooring, and more at most school sites; Culinary Arts expansion for student opportunity such as hospitality and catering; a Career and Technical Education Pathway (CTE); increased connections to the community and Cuesta College, and the re-cabling of the entire school district to allow for better Wi-Fi capability for students and staff.
In addition, the installation of synthetic turf at War Memorial Stadium and Paso Robles High School is expected to save over six million gallons of water annually. It will also increase opportunities for district students by providing the ability to hold additional local and state band, dance, cheer, and athletic competitions; provide new revenue for the district and community, and reduce maintenance and employee costs, according to Williams.
Solar projects – set to begin in the 2016-17 school year at six different sites – are expected to provide a cost savings of up to $280,000 the first year, and over $4 million over the next twenty years, Williams said.
“Even with a number of our projects being funded with grants, one-time funding sources, and new revenue streams, we will continue to seek additional grants and funding resources for the additional renovations and upgrades still needed,” said Williams.
With this in mind, the PRJUSD Facilities Master Plan (FMP) was developed and discussed over the course of more than eight district school board meetings. The board also held a study workshop to assess feedback that came in from the school sites. Additionally, a selection of architects brought in designs of each of the sites to help Williams and the board with determining which projects would fall into the A-priority and B-priority lists.
The FMP represents the culmination of this months-long process and includes a five-year projected facility needs assessment, including estimated cost of the plan in today’s dollars and a list of potential bond projects. Presented to and approved by the board of trustees on April 12, the FMP may be found online at www.pasoschools.org/domain/42.
“We invite everyone to take a look at the Facilities Master Plan,” Williams said. “It includes what was assessed and what the site needs are. When you look through the plan, you can see the costs factors and an itemized list of potential projects.”
Creating the FMP, the district originally looked at qualifying for an assessment of approximately $135 million based on the first survey and feedback from families and community members. Although the needs remain the same, the dollar amount has been dropped from $135 million to $95 million.
Crucial school board meeting, August 2
At the Aug. 2 school board meeting, Williams and his team will present their priority list of needs in order to obtain what they hope will be the board’s resolution on a bond that would be placed up for vote by the district’s constituents on the November ballot.
“It is our intention to review the bond resolution and request that the board approve the resolution in order for it to be placed on the November ballot,” said Williams.
Reviewing the FMP, the school sites, and the infrastructure of what is needed to fulfill needs within the district, a survey was mailed out and an independent research firm made 500 phone calls – with 95% response rate – to registered voters within the community to get their feedback.
With nearly 400 surveys completed and mailed back, the district is gaining a better understanding of which projects the community supports. Find and complete the survey online at www.pasoschools.org; click on the Give Us Your Feedback link.
In addition, in the past week, over 12,000 mailers were mailed to every resident in Paso Robles. Another 500 phone calls went out to survey members of the community in an effort to help Williams and his team gain more feedback.
“Our goal and intention is to be very collaborative and communicative,” said Williams. “We want to get feedback from the valued stakeholders in our organization and community. As that information comes in, we will continue to prioritize what projects need to be completed.”
Give your feedback
Williams values the feedback and input of the community that he serves. Earlier, he sent out letters to a number of community members that he has connected with on a personal level, providing his cell phone number and asking for the opportunity to meet with constituents. He encourages the community at large to view the FMP, fill out the survey online, and contact him personally with any questions at (805) 769-1000 or firstname.lastname@example.org before the Aug. 2 board meeting.
“I would love to sit down and share our Facilities Master Plan and answer your questions,” said Williams. “Whether it’s meeting someone one-on-one or in a group, I want to work with whatever meets peoples’ needs and I would love to be able to connect with those within our district.”