Close to Home: How schools are benefiting from 2014 bond vote

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Perhaps you’re reading this newspaper on a mobile device with a wireless internet connection. Two years ago, that would have been nearly impossible at most of our Santa Rosa City Schools sites. Today, students and teachers at all 26 schools are accessing the internet and staying connected. Upgraded equipment and cabling has improved technology access throughout our schools and has opened up new possibilities for teaching and learning.

Why should you know about that? Because you paid for it. In 2014, Santa Rosa voters passed Measures I and L, approving the sale of $229 million in bonds to repair and modernize our school sites.

Belt-tightening during the recession had left our schools with a long list of needed repairs, such as leaky roofs and outdated heating and air conditioning systems and crumbling pavement.

Each school site also had its own list of long-awaited improvements to things like eating areas, labs and fields. Schools also needed an immediate boost in technology for 21st century learning.

Just as buying a laptop is easier than remodeling a home, upgrading access to technology in schools is a process that moves much faster than building renovations. Shortly after Measures I and L passed, the work began to improve technology access on every campus. Bond money provided new laptops for every teacher, new computers for classified staff and 3,000 Chromebooks (laptops) for students.

Technology improvements have dramatically changed the classroom landscape in Santa Rosa City Schools during the past two years. These tools are helping to bridge the digital divide between students who have access to technology at home and those who do not.

The digital world is exciting students and has given teachers more tools to adapt instruction to meet the needs of individual learners.

Unlike technology, improvements to our school buildings and campuses have a longer path to completion. School renovations might seem similar to home remodeling, but they have far more state regulatory requirements and necessary approvals.

A major expansion of the Charter School for the Arts was already approved by the state in 2014 but had been on hold waiting for $6 million in local funds to match a state grant. Your bond dollars allowed the project to begin. When the campus is completed, it will have a new two-story classroom building with a dance studio and theater space.

To get a big picture of our other schools’ infrastructure needs, the district spent 18 months working with architects, school principals, teachers, students and parents to complete a facilities master plan. That plan outlined a long-term vision for our schools, with improvements that would total $1.2 billion. The bonds provide $229 million toward that vision. The projects of greatest need were selected for the bond implementation plan.

Bonds are sold in increments and require that the funds be spent within three years. Project time frames, potential disruption to classes and availability of contractors are all considerations when projects move forward.

This summer, we were able to repave parking lots and blacktop play areas at six schools. Many roofing, heating and air conditioning projects are next up and will affect every school site. Classrooms at Montgomery High School and Comstock Middle School are in the planning stages, as is a turf field at Maria Carrillo High School and stadium lights at Piner High. Other projects from the implementation plan will be brought to our school board.

It is ultimately up to the board to decide what gets funded.

If you would like to learn more or get involved in our Citizens Oversight Committee, please visit our website: www.srcsbond.news. Thank you for making this investment in the future of our community.

Donna Jeye is president of the Santa Rosa City Schools Board of Trustees.

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