(Editor's Note: Sweetwater Union High School District is completing the first phase of its modernization of the district's schools. During this phase the community started raising issues to La Prensa San Diego about how the monies were being spent. We posed the communities' questions and concerns to the Superintendent of Sweetwater, Edward Brand. The following are his responses.)
Question: Proposition BB is a $187 million bond. How much of that total funding is available now?
Answer: Although the total bond is for $187 million, that revenue is generated over 15 years, and is tied to bond language and the district's commitment to cap taxes at $27 per $100,000 of assessed value. The money is available over 15 years and therefore, the Sweetwater District must phase in school modernization projects.
The amount available for the first round of funding is $38 million. Nearly the entire sum will go to modernization projects at Chula Vista Middle, Mar Vista High and Sweet-water High. The remainder-a little over $2 million-will contribute to construction of the first-ever high school on Otay Mesa.
Question: How were first-phase schools identified and who prioritized the work to be done at those schools?
Answer: Sweetwater High, Castle Park Middle and Mar Vista High were selected because they are among the district's oldest schools-built in 1922, 1937 and 1951 respectively-and because they represent different, major geographic areas of the district, e.g. National City, Chula Vista and Imperial Beach.
Prioritizing and planning the work to be done was decided by facilities planning groups at each site. These taskforce groups included community representatives, teachers, school administrators, architects, planners and district decision-makers. They conducted lengthy discussions to identify and rank the needs of their individual campus. The Sweet-water District proved to be far-sighted in completing this process before passage of Proposition BB and ensuring the district "hit the ground running" when the funds did become available.
Question: Will any Proposition BB money be used to build new schools?
Answer: Up to $12.2 million of funding will support construction of a high school campus serving the San Ysidro community as identified in the district's Facilities Improvement Plan (FIP). Over 80% of the resources to build this long-awaited school come from state aid and fees generated by new housing developments.
Question: What is the current scope of work at each school?
Answer: Upgrades at each campus were determined during the planning discussions and much of this effort will involve infrastructure improvements not readily visible-electrical retrofitting and sewer systems. Above-ground construction includes the following:
Chula Vista Middle Mar Vista High Sweetwater High
· New humanities wing;
· Multipurpose classrooms ;
· Multipurpose classrooms and;
· Front office upgrades new gymnasium new gymnasium
Question: Why are gymnasiums, rather than classrooms, being built at Mar Vista and Sweetwater high schools?
Answer: The planning committees at both sites set the priorities for school improvements. They identified a particular need for a facility to serve teens, house the entire student population and provide general community meeting space. The gyms will help enhance students' connection to school by being a venue for athletics, cultural presentations, schoolwide assemblies and neighborhood events. Because of direct benefit to so many students and community groups, the school planning groups included gym construction in first-phase improvements. Future improvements will be completed in installments over the life of the bond, and will require state funding in addition to Prop. BB funds.
Question: When will the next phase begin?
Answer: The next bond sale-which will address facilities needs at National City Middle, Southwest Junior and Chula Vista High-cannot occur before August 2003. As in the first phase of Proposition BB, the Sweetwater District will initiate planning efforts at each school within the next year to outline construction priorities on each campus, and reconcile those priorities with the available funds. The district will also make applications to the state for funding under the State School Facility Program.