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Measure J can offer safety
Bond would pay for needed improvements
Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts on Measure J.
Seth Hancock and Jasmine Vasquez, seniors at Porterville High School, walked around the school Thursday, pointing out concerns that they are hoping will be addressed if Porterville Unified School District’s general obligation bond — Measure J on the Nov. 6 Tulare County General Election ballot — passes.
The two students walked around campus Thursday with PUSD Superintendent John Snavely, PHS principal Steve Graybehl, and Ruby Horta, program coordinator with Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc.
“This will be one of the biggest things they will improve on,” Hancock said as he pointed out several old portable classrooms. “These are not just an eyesore, they hurt students. They are crumbling and falling apart. All these have to come out. They plan on making a grass court yard area here and placing a two-story building for academics — Pathways, math and sciences and English.”
But the portables are just the beginning, they said. The two students pointed to the girls’ locker room and to the path students follow to the gym. The narrow cemented path uneven — with numerous cracks, grooves and raised areas that have been responsible for breaking one student’s bones after falling, Hancock said. To the side of the walkway is dirt, which turns to mud when it rains.
“It’s a big muddy mess. This is not enough room to accommodate all the students,” Vasquez said about the narrow pathway. “They walk on the sides. It’s dusty, and in the rain, a mess. It’s a big hazard.”
The portables on the south side of the softball diamond were also identified as hazardous.
“You can tell by the smell that hits you when you walk in that they are falling apart,” Vasquez said. “It’s not good for the students. It’s moldy looking.”
The air conditioning in the portables is also pathetic, Vasquez said. And because the vents won’t always stay open, teachers find they have to improvise, occasionally sticking a soda can or other object to keep the vent open.
But the air conditioning problem is not limited to PHS, Snavely said — Monache, Granite Hills and Strathmore High School are also in dire need of upgrades or replacement.
At PHS, like Monache, possums and rodents occasionally crawl under the portables and die.
And, Hancock added, it is not uncommon for the units to blow cold air in the winter, prompting students to keep heavy jackets on during class, and hot air in the sweltering heat of summer.
“I was in here my freshman year. There were 45 people all cramped in here. It never works properly,” Vasquez said. “But it’s not just the portables. The heat is a problem all over the school. Last summer I was taking a Summer Skills lab in the health academy. It was 92 degrees in there. We had to come early, at 6 a.m., keep the lights off, and be out by 11 a.m. — otherwise it was intolerable. In that heat, no one could work.”
The current Health Academy building also needs help, said Snavely.
“If we can build a new education complex, it will benefit the Health Academy,” Snavely said.
“This is OK but it is an old home economics room that have been transformed. If we can build a true health clinic environment that mirrors what you see in doctor’s office, that would be great.”
No bathrooms past the main school structure is another concern.
There are only three sets of bathrooms for the 1,900 students, Graybehl said — and they are all on one side of campus.
But Measure J will do more than just build and modernize, Graybehl said.
“After the facilities and modernization of the buildings, we’ll start looking at the athletic fields. They are so compacted and we hope to some day be able to make them right,” Graybehl said.
Randy Quiram, Monache athletic director, talked about the need for another stadium for the five high schools in the District.
“I recognize it is a technology-base measure, but if there is any money available to athletics in the district, we need another stadium,” Quiram said. “Tonight is a good example. We are having a varsity football game on a Thursday night.”
Thursday night games are needed to accommodate all the teams but interrupts school for the athletes, cheerleaders and student spectators.
“We need another stadium. Football and soccer season, and in the spring, track and field, takes a toll on the field,” Quiram said. “We all share Granite Hills High School right now and it requires pulling students out of class with more time before going to the event. A new stadium would be huge for us. We would be able to get off the Thursday night schedules.”
Quiram said he also hopes there is money for lights and refurbishing the tennis courts at Monache High — something that has not been done in 10 years.
Lighted courts would relieve any concerns about completing a tennis match before daylight hours are gone.
“We had to postpone two matches because of darkness. Economically, that’s hard on visiting schools. They have to make arrangements to return just to finish playing,” Quiram said.
“Once Daylight Savings Time [ends,] it will be darker even sooner and we will be hit by that.”
The public also tends to use the Monache facilities extensively.
“If we had lights, it would benefit the community,” Quiram said. “The public uses our [Monache] facility more than any other — from sun up to sun down. This would have such a huge impact for the city which is still struggling with Porterville College’s run-down facility.”
The passage of Measure J, he said, would benefit the students and the community.
Parent Elizabeth Keele, who has had three foreign exchange students, and three of four of her own children — the youngest is in fifth grade — go through Porterville High School, agreed and said she’s a strong supporter of Measure J.
“We need to put our money where our mouth is,” Keele said. “Education is our priority. Children are our future whether you have them or not. This is still the initiative to support. It needs the support of every person whether you have a child or not.”
Measure J will appear on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot. It is slated to cost homeowners $45 per $100,000 assessed valuation annually until paid in full in 25 years, with the interest to be determined at the time of sale of the bonds.
MHS teacher Henry Franco said the time is perfect to support the bond because there is matching funds available from the state.
“The kids here in Porterville deserve the best possible facility,” Franco said. “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.”
Fifty years ago, a bond was taken out, he said, and added that it is time to do the right thing and pass the torch by passing the bond.
“Without Measure J, we will not have the match required to access the $34 million in state funds,” Snavely said. “In my 25 years of working with the State program, we have never failed to receive the funds of which we were eligible. We either received the funds at the time of the project or the District received reimbursement for the project.”
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.