Election 2014: $13.5 million in bonds for Woodside School? | May 14, 2014 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


News - May 14, 2014

Election 2014: $13.5 million in bonds for Woodside School?

by Renee Batti

When people pass by Woodside Elementary School, they see a well-manicured campus with attractive, recent-vintage buildings. They could be forgiven, then, if they wonder why the one-school district is asking voters to approve a $13.5 million bond measure next month to fund campus modernization and repair projects, and the replacement of Sellman Auditorium.

"If you drive by the school, you think it looks so beautiful and modern," parent Heather McLeod Grant said, adding that the glancing impression could be deceptive.

What the casual passerby cannot see are the leaky roofs and other problems resulting from deferred maintenance; the lack of facilities for students to eat lunch; classroom space that hampers the type of instruction schools are widely adopting to adapt to the changing world; and the deteriorating — and seismically unsound — condition of the auditorium.

Ms. McLeod Grant, who chairs the community-based Yes on Measure D committee, noted in an interview that if Measure D is approved, the bond revenue raised would fund "really bare-bones projects," and private donations are being raised to pay for any "extras."

Measure D on the June 3 ballot would raise about $13.5 million for the Woodside Elementary School District in Woodside. The nonprofit Woodside School Foundation has launched a capital campaign to raise another $3.5 million for the campus modernization project, according to district Superintendent Beth Polito.

If passed, Measure D would tax district residents at a rate of $24.05 per $100,000 of their property's assessed value per year. This would be in addition to what property owners already pay annually for previously approved bonds: a total of $34.50 per $100,000 of assessed value for bonds passed in 1999 and 2005, according to Robin Wasco, the district's chief business official.

School board members Wendy Warren Roth and Rudy Driscoll, along with community members Frank York, Charline Quist Douty and Erika M. Demma, signed the ballot argument in favor of the bond measure.

Mark Hinkle, president of the Silicon Valley Taxpayers Association, wrote the ballot argument against Measure D, challenging the use of bond revenue to pay for safety projects and technology rather than using "dollars already in schools' budgets."

With enrollment at around 450 students, the cost of the bond "could exceed $29,500 per student — not counting interest and administrative expenses," he wrote.

Mr. Hinkle also signed arguments against Measure A, the Sequoia Union High School District bond measure; and Measure AA, the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District bond measure.

Ms. McLeod Grant noted the extent of work needed after years of state budget cuts that led to deferred maintenance. A school board "that has been really fiscally conservative" decided during those years to delay facilities maintenance projects so that classroom programs wouldn't suffer, she said.

What would it pay for?

If the measure passes, bond revenue would fund the repair of "critical school facilities, including sewer, lights and leaking roofs; upgrade classrooms and other facilities to meet current health and safety codes, and replace two aging portable classrooms with permanent facilities; and replace older heating and electrical systems to save on utility bills," according to the ballot argument in favor of Measure D.

The bulk of the bond revenue would be spent on rebuilding Sellman Auditorium, built in 1940, according to Ms. Wasco. Some improvements to the building were funded by previous bond measures, but they were "mostly superficial in nature," Superintendent Polito said. And if the auditorium remains in use, it would need major retrofitting to meet seismic and other building code requirements.

The facilities plan outlines a project that would replace the auditorium with an 8,560-square-foot building that would include a permanent stage and added storage. It would connect with the campus' music room, a new food-service area, and restrooms. That project is estimated to cost $7.67 million.

Bond revenue would also pay for construction of a 1,000-square-foot flexible classroom space to accommodate project-based learning and other teaching strategies that are becoming the norm for the modern classroom.

"Teaching is changing," Ms. McLeod Grant said, and school facilities that accommodate those new practices are critical if Woodside Elementary hopes to maintain its status as one of the highest-achievement schools in the state.

"As a community, I believe it is important to support our local award-winning public school," she said in an email. "It benefits our children, provides assets for community use — such as our sports fields and auditorium — and helps boost our property values. I really hope local citizens ... will come out and pass Measure D in June. All the money will be locally controlled and used for basic infrastructure repairs and upgrades."


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