Alameda, CA

Alamedans Have Strong Opinions On Proposed School Bond Measure

Karin K Jensen

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Alameda High SchoolZFA Structural Engineers

On January 12th and 19th, the Alameda Board of Education held special meetings to receive community input on its proposal to place a bond measure on the June 2022 ballot. If passed, the bond would fund Phase II repairs and upgrades to schools based on the District’s Facilities Master Plan (FMP). The community debated what to include in this phase.

Background

In 2014, the FMP identified $690 million (present value) worth of projects needed to repair, modernize, and renovate AUSD facilities. As a result, Alameda voters approved a facilities bond that authorized $179.5 million to complete the first phase of repairs and modernization. Sample projects completed include replacing out-of-date plumbing and heating/cooling systems, security upgrades, and new classroom buildings.

Proposed Projects for Phase II

The Board has identified $538 Million in projects needed to fully complete renovation, repair, and modernization of school district facilities. However, the District is limited by its credit rating to propose a bond measure for $349 million. The top proposed projects by dollar amount are:

  • Joint Athletic Facility, $63,864,800
  • New building and demolition of old building at Otis Elementary, $60,541,952
  • New gymnasium at Wood Middle School, $27,534,817
  • Renovation of West Wing building at Alameda High School $26,677,081
  • New gymnasium at Encinal High School, $21,180,991
  • Classroom modernization at Lincoln Middle School, $18,783,584
  • New gymnasium at Lincoln Middle School, $18,034,988
  • Classroom modernization at Wood Middle School, $14,861,316

Community comments focused on support for classroom modernization and objection to the lack of funding for the renovation of Kofman Auditorium and Emma Hood Pool at Alameda High and for the athletic fields.

Kofman Auditorium and the Performing Arts

Kofman Auditorium, a historic 1500-seat theater that has been home to the community’s performing arts groups, has been closed to the public since 2016, its rigging and stage lighting removed, and its basement dressing rooms sealed due to safety concerns.

Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) Chief Business Officer Shariq Khan said that Kofman would reopen after the pandemic is over. However, numerous speakers such as JaYing Wang noted that students and the community can’t perform at Kofman without rigging, lighting, dressing rooms, or a curtain. Zora Brinkley said that only about one-third of the stage is currently usable. AHS student Henry Mills described the auditorium as currently just "a stage and seats."

Numerous commenters decried a lack of equity between sports and the arts. Bill Schroeder asked why there was $141 million allocated for sports facilities and nothing for arts facilities.

Alice Chan said she would like to see a theater update for at least one middle school so students interested in performing could choose a middle school that meets their needs. Sarah Olaes, president of the Encinal Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) requested that performing arts be considered as part of the Encinal gym renovation if there isn’t a theater in the budget.

Emma Hood Pool

Numerous commenters noted that failure to budget for renovation of Emma Hood Pool would result in its closure because the County has targeted the pool due to mechanical systems inadequacies.

Owen DeCourcy noted that the pools of Alameda provided swim and water safety lessons for thousands of residents last year and summer jobs for teens. Natasha DeCourcy added that even with two pools, space is so limited that kids wait to get lessons. Speaker Judy noted that water safety is paramount to prevent drownings on an island surrounded by water. Dr. Barry Parker noted that Alameda needs its pools more than ever with the new housing boom on the island.

Many commented on the physical and mental health value of the swim and water polo teams to students. They noted that Emma Hood needs modernization as its current dimensions preclude it for swim meets and water polo games. Alameda High students have to compete at the Encinal pool; when they do, Encinal students lose a day of practice.

Several commenters said that the City should contribute to the restoration of Kofman Auditorium and Emma Hood Pool since they are invaluable community resources.

Other Issues

Many commenters applauded the allocation of funds for classroom modernization, noting issues ranging from a lack of working windows and sinks at Otis Elementary to 38 teachers sharing three microwave ovens at Lincoln Middle School because of a lack of electrical capacity.

Some speakers noted the poor condition of the athletic fields. Speaker Keith, a football coach, said the Encinal field was covered in holes and goose feces and desperately needed reconditioning. He noted that the proposed joint-use athletic facility doesn’t work for football.

Speaker Chris said that the fields at Alameda High and Encinal are an embarrassment and dangerous. She appreciated the new athletic facility but asked that the fields also be improved to improve safety for students.

AUSD Chief Business Officer Shariq Khan noted that if the bond measure passes, he anticipates 8-10 years before the District proposes another facilities bond measure. He bases this estimate on the District’s credit limits and bond capacity. Consequently, improvements not funded in this Phase will likely not be funded for 8-10 years unless other sources of revenue are found.

How to Comment

To learn more about the proposed Phase II repairs and upgrades, go here: Community members can submit written comments to the Board by email. Board email addresses are here.

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Writing About Asian American history, arts, and culture. Author: The Strength of Water, an Asian American memoir due out 2022. linktr.ee/karinkjensen

Alameda, CA
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