Letter: School district should prioritize safety over aquatics
To the editor,
– In November 2016, the citizens of Paso Robles voted to approve Bond Measure M-16. The ballot question asked: “To repair, acquire, upgrade, equip and construct school classrooms and facilities including science, technology, engineering, arts, and math classrooms; expand career technical education; replace aging portables, fix leaky roofs, repair deteriorating plumbing/ electrical wiring; and improve building earthquake safety, shall the School Facilities Improvement District No.1 of Paso Robles Joint Unified School District be authorized to issue $95,000,000 of bonds with legal interest rates, independent citizens’ oversight, annual audits, all funds spent on local schools and not for administrator salaries or taken by the State?”
The yes vote authorized the school district to issue $95,000,000 in bonds, with an estimated total debt service cost—principal and interest—of $163,477,337, the burden of which rests on the property owners residing within the elementary boundary limits.
Per the bond measure ballot description, “the Board evaluated the District’s facility’s needs and prepared a comprehensive “2016 Facilities Master Plan” to develop the scope of projects to be funded. The Board, in developing the project list and priorities, solicited input from community members, teachers, and staff.” “Proceeds of the Bonds [could]will be used to upgrade, repair, construct, renovate and equip schools, facilities and classrooms (as listed below) throughout SFID No. 1.”
The bond measure description went on to say that “the exact size, configuration and location of each project will be determined by the Board of Trustees based on the needs of the District,” and that “Major repairs, renovations, improvements, constructions and equipment acquisitions shall include but not be limited to:
- Constructing or renovating Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math (STEAM) facilities and classrooms
- Upgrading career technical education/vocational education facilities to align curriculum and facilities across grade levels
- Replacing portable classrooms with permanent facilities
- Repairing or replacing leaking roofs, deteriorating plumbing, heating and air conditioning systems, where needed
- Constructing new classrooms and classroom buildings
- Renovating and repairing existing classrooms and school facilities
- Updating safety, security and fire alarm systems
- Constructing or renovating multipurpose rooms
- Upgrading electrical systems to support demands of modern technology
- Constructing and improving school libraries
- Upgrading science labs”
“Shall” is an important word in this paragraph, and it is the only place in the “Bond Projects List” where it is used. “Shall” and “will” are common in legal language, but they have different meanings. “Shall” usually implies an obligation or a compulsion, while “will” usually implies a promise or an intention. The use of “shall” in the above paragraph implies that these are the mandatory projects upon which the bond measure money must be spent. We have an obligation to live up to the spirit of the bond measure and prioritize need over want. As part of our oversight responsibilities, the board of trustees has a duty to prioritize our remaining Measure M funds to ensure that these requirements are met first. Safety and security are paramount in them.
“To repair, acquire, upgrade, equip and construct school classrooms and facilities including science, technology, engineering, arts, and math classrooms; expand career technical education; replace aging portables, fix leaky roofs, repair deteriorating plumbing/ electrical wiring; and improve building earthquake safety.”
In 2016, Georgia Brown, Marie Bauer, Glen Speck, Lewis Middle School and Flamson Middle School all had buildings that pre-dated requirements for modern seismic retrofitting. As stated in the ballot measure “the Board evaluated the District’s facility’s needs and prepared a comprehensive “2016 Facilities Master Plan” and based on the recurring theme throughout the bond measure description, they confirmed the need for improved “earthquake safety.” The “Arguments in Favor” of Measure M, stated:
“Measure M will repair and improve Paso Robles Joint Unified School District by:
- Constructing career technical and vocational education classrooms
- Undertaking basic health and safety improvements at schools and classrooms built decades ago – including one that is over eighty years old!
- Repairing and replacing leaky roofs
- Installing Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM) labs at schools throughout the district
- Replacing aging portables with permanent buildings
- Retrofitting schools and classrooms for earthquake safety”
Although evident in 2016, in 2024, the status of seismic retrofitting seems to be unknown. In spite of multiple requests over the past few weeks to Curt Dubost and his staff, the board has yet to receive an answer as to which of our district properties do not have 21st century seismic retrofitting. If in 2016 the bond measure recognized and obligated the district to improve safety, then that, at a minimum, must take priority over an aquatics complex. Yet, we as a board have not received answers to these basic questions that are a must in order to make educated decisions.
Until the district provides us answers to these critical questions, I will vote NO on the aquatics complex. My bottom line has always been “Safety First.” As of right now, I believe that the majority of the buildings at Lewis Middle School and five buildings at Flamson Middle School do not have seismic retrofitting. Ignoring this and blindly voting for a want over a need is a “red line” for me. I cannot, with good conscience, vote to use $19+ million of our remaining $28 million Measure M funds to build the aquatic complex knowing that we did not, at a minimum, confirm that our building safety meets current standards.
We cannot allow the shameful conditions witnessed at Georgia Brown to ever occur again in our district. With the decision to reconfigure grades in our elementary and middle schools, other hard discussions must be had, but at a minimum we must ensure the safest environments that we can for our students and staff.
-Kenney Enney, San Miguel
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