Alameda, CA

How Spirited Community Feedback Caused the Board of Education to Revise Its Bond Budget

Karin K Jensen

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Alameda High SchoolWikimedia Commons

On January 25th, the Alameda Board of Education finalized its budget for the bond measure it will place on the June 2022 ballot. If passed, the bond will fund Phase II repairs and upgrades to schools based on the District’s Facilities Master Plan.

Acknowledging significant public feedback received in meetings held on January 12th and 19th, the Board revised its initial budget proposal. The proposal now includes:

  • Funds for the renovation of Emma Hood Pool at Alameda High
  • Improvements to Kofman Auditorium and the Encinal High Theater
  • Improvements to the Alameda and Encinal High School track and field facilities

To fund these requested projects, the Board scratched its initial proposal to construct a new Joint Use Athletic Facility at the old Lum Elementary and Wood Middle School fields, which would have cost nearly $64 million.

Background

The Facilities Master Plan, created in 2014, identified $690 million (present value) worth of projects needed to repair, modernize, and renovate Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) facilities. That year, 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 Sample projects completed include replacing out-of-date plumbing and heating/cooling systems, security upgrades, and new classrooms.

Phase II Projects

Proposed projects for Phase II total over $324 million and include:

  • Otis Elementary: New building, demolition of the old building, interim housing, $62,217,430
  • Wood Middle School: New gym, classroom construction and renovations, and other improvements, $62,217,430
  • Lincoln Middle School: New gym, classroom renovations, and other improvements, $52,123,834
  • Encinal Junior and Senior High School: New gym, locker room reconfiguration, and other improvements, 44,849,410
  • Encinal and Alameda High School Athletic Facilities, $42,864,800
  • Alameda High School: Renovation of the west wing and technical arts buildings and other improvements, $39,193,481
  • Emma Hood Swimming Pool Renovation at Alameda High, $7,500,000
  • Kofman Auditorium Improvements, $3,000,000
  • Encinal Theater Improvements, $3,000,000

The athletic facilities project includes an all-weather track and synthetic soccer/football field with bleachers at Encinal High and improvements to the softball field and a soccer/football field with bleachers at Alameda High.

Improvements at Kofman Auditorium would include sound and stage lighting improvements and repair of dressing rooms. Improvements at the Encinal Theater would include sound and lighting improvements, dressing rooms, drama room restoration, improved seating, and an upgraded stage.

According to Susan Davis, the AUSD Senior Manager of Community Affairs, improvements would be designed in collaboration with the high school performing arts departments.

Emma Hood Pool

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Pexels

The Board did not initially include the Emma Hood Pool renovation in its proposed budget. However, the County has scheduled the pool to close at the end of May due to mechanical systems inadequacies. As a result, significant public comments asked that the bond budget include funds to renovate the pool, citing it as invaluable to the school and community.

The total cost to renovate would be $15,000,000. In its revised bond budget, the Board has budgeted half that amount with the expectation of funding the rest through a public or private partnership or possibly through state grants.

Shariq Khan, the AUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, said that the District hopes to secure a public or private partnership in the next few months. If they do, the District may get permission from the County health department to keep the pool open while the District goes through planning and approval of renovation plans.

If unable to secure a partnership, the District will still set aside the $7.5 million. If the state provides sufficient matching funds, the District will again bring the project before the Board for consideration.

Kofman Auditorium and the Arts

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Alameda Civic Ballet at Kofman AuditoriumAlameda Civic Ballet

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 removed, and its basement dressing rooms sealed due to safety concerns.

Shariq Khan said that Kofman would reopen after the pandemic is over. However, public speakers at the meetings on January 12th and 19th noted that students and the community can’t perform at Kofman without rigging, dressing rooms, or a curtain.

Others at these meetings decried a lack of equity between sports and the arts. The original proposal included $130 million for gyms and athletic facilities but only $17 million for arts facilities. The revised budget now sets aside about $117 million for gyms, athletic facilities, and the pool and close to $26 million for arts facilities, including $3 million for repairs to Kofman.

What’s Next

On February 8th, the Board will draft ballot language and the tax rate statement. Links to the agenda and to attend by Zoom are here. Go here to learn more about the proposed Phase II repairs and upgrades.

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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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