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PUSD hoping to restore buildings, morale with Measure J
Numerous buildings cracked, rusty, peeling, leaking and cramped
This is the first of two stories looking at what Measure J will do for the Porterville Unified School District. Part 2 will look at needs at Porterville High School.
Crowded rooms and outdated, rusting and leaking classrooms were some of the areas of concern pointed out during a Porterville Unified School District Media Tour Thursday on the District’s facilities needs — something that could be resolved with the passing of Measure J, a $90 million general obligation bond on the Nov. 6 Tulare County General Election ballot.
The tour began at Monache High School with PUSD Superintendent John Snavely, Board President Hayley Buettner, school site principals, parent volunteers and student leaders on hand to guide the tour.
“These are the portables we got from the state,” Snavely said as he pointed to several relocatable buildings the district has used for 20-plus years. “We’re thinking of pulling out all these portables and building a nice two-story educational complex here to meet the education needs of our Pathway and to accommodate a number of classrooms.”
The school’s MTA — Multimedia and Technology Academy — is a perfect example, Snavely pointed out, of a crowded room that would benefit with the new building.
“Here we have a premium program in the district, cramped into this tight facility. This is a lot of technology in approximately 800 square feet,” Snavely said.
Each year the program turns away 30 to 40 students due to lack of space.
“A new building would allow us a higher number of students in the class and we can get more students exposed,” said Greg Snyder, MTA instructor.
The room is continuously getting redesigned but there is only so much they can do and space remains an issue, Snyder said.
“These rooms were not designed for this. The building was not designed for today’s technology but we’ve made it work,” Snyder said, pointing to numerous power strips and cords. “There’s been so many times when we have blown out a transformer. It just couldn’t handle it.”
On hot days, the air conditioning, not designed to handle the heat generated by the numerous computers and so many students cramped into the small rooms, is ineffective and so intolerable when school began in August, school officials moved the students to the cafeteria for two weeks.
When it comes to technology, students also suffer. The school has five or six donated older cameras students can check out overnight and on weekends, for assignments.
But with the passage of Measure J — one that would supply students with laptops or iPads — that would all change.
“Students could use their iPads as cameras. For the Multimedia and Technology Academy, it would be a perfect fit,” said instructor Anthony Gale. “We wouldn’t have to buy cameras and video equipment for the students.”
With the right equipment and a proper classroom setting, students would be better prepared for college.
“In college, they take a lot of their tests on their smart phones — similar to our Clickers here — but we have students without smart phones, without that access,” Buettner said. “Yet, they’re expected to know how to do it when they get to college. We need to prepare them. Having kids able to access the internet from home is an immeasurable benefit.”
Of 30 students in the class Thursday, only 12 said they had a laptop computer, 10 did not own a smart phone, seven didn’t own a cellular phone at all.
“And this is a high technology classroom,” Snavely said and indicated that the numbers would be higher in some of the other classrooms.
Another benefit of Measure J would be the addition of a small theater to the campus — one that could be used for meetings, rallies, guest speakers, premier showings, award assemblies and other gatherings.
“We like to put on rallies and assemblies but its difficult with P.E. Sometimes we can’t set them up. Having a smaller auditorium would open more opportunities so we can be more creative,” said Mary Crocker, a senior and ASB president.
Shannon Kaye, a junior and an ASB representative, agreed, adding that the theater will help raise spirits.
Towards the south side of the campus, Snavely pointed out cracks and water stains on buildings. Inside the band room, there was little room for more than the students and instruments. A new band room would have racks and lockers for instruments. Another row of 10 portable classrooms, at Monache since the 1970s, appeared more decrepit with exposed rusting steel beams peeling paint, cracks and water stains, than the first sets on the north side of the school.
“We try to maintain them as best as we can,” Snavely said. “These were just painted last year. They’re just tired.”
Inside the building, students sat beneath water spots.
“That’s one issue we have,” said principal Richard Smithey. “Water can’t seem to keep out. We get moisture in here.”
And because the portables have open space under the flooring, possums and insects are also a problem.
“When it rains, we have to move our desks and mop up the floors,” said teacher Kathi Barraza in one of the portable classrooms as she pointed to the rusty water spots splashed across numerous areas of the building. “The problem I worry about is [potential for] mold. The room gets really musty. It leaks when it rains in the corners and in the middle of the room.”
Henry Franco, a teacher who has been at Monache since 1987, said the time is perfect to support Measure J.
“The state has money now but requires a local match and we don’t know how long the state money will last,” Franco said. “People say it’s not a good time for a tax — it’s never a good time. But its cheaper now to pay than later. The kids here in Porterville deserve the best possible facility. Fifty years ago, a bond was taken out. Now it’s our turn to pass the torch — pass a bond. It’s the right time to do the right thing. The state has money to give us if we match it. If we want to have a modern school facility, Porterville has to step up and do it.”
If passed, Measure J will cost homeowners $45 per $100,000 assessed valuation, remaining at the same rate until paid in full in 25 years.
“The money will only be spent on the project list included in the original resolution adopted by the Governing Board,” Snavely said. “The District has an oversight committee to ensure the funds are only spent on the specified projects. The cost of the bond will be determined at the time the bonds are sold, but PUSD has an excellent bond rating of A+ and that along with the excellent interest rates available today should realize a very low interest rate.”
There is no bond debt for the entire high school attendance area and there has not been a bond for more than 32 years.
“Records show the last bond was paid off in 1979,” Snavely said. “The former Strathmore High School attendance area currently has a bond of approximately $3.5 million and the former Porterville Elementary District area has a bond of approximately $25 million. Both of these outstanding bonds were for 30 years and are about 10 years into the issue.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.