Improving Oakland’s school facilities will be a major focus for the district in the coming months. The long-awaited Facilities Master Plan is up for a vote on May 23. Then, on June 13, the board reviews the proposed language for a $475 million bond measure that might go on the November ballot.
Gene Bregman, a market researcher hired by OUSD, reported at tonight’s school board meeting that he was “very encouraged” by the results of his firm’s telephone poll about a possible bond election.
Tim White, who heads the district’s facilities department (which has created this website for the master plan), said that, over the years, the district has received many millions of dollars for upgrades in addition to local taxpayer-funded bond money — mostly in the form of matching grants.
Maybe White can do that again if the bond is approved this fall, at least to some degree. But the fact remains that, despite the money Oakland taxpayers have already raised for capital improvements, the district’s list of needs totals $1.536 billion. That’s three times the amount of the as-yet hypothetical bond revenues.
Will Fremont High School in East Oakland get a football field with a full 100 yards, and building to replace some of its rotting portable classrooms? Will West Oakland schools — slated to be a hub for science, technology, engineering and math activity — be outfitted accordingly? Will the district create a new central kitchen and renovate smaller ones so kids can eat more nutritious food? Make its buildings better able to withstand a massive earthquake?
Nidya Baez, a 2003 graduate of Fremont High who became a teacher and recently returned to her alma mater to work, told the school board and administration that a beautiful new school would attract more students from the neighborhood; now, the majority of teenagers in the area go elsewhere. As I reported Tuesday, Fremont is undergoing an academic overhaul and simultaneously grappling with neighborhood violence and campus security. The dingy facilities and general physical environment, which some liken to a prison, is another concern.
“We need a modern library, we need a student center, we need a building to walk into (when you enter the school) … and finally we need a stadium,” Baez said. “We are not happy with our 90-yard football field; we cannot play like this.”
The district administration has identified $86.6 million in needed improvements for Fremont High. We’ll soon see which projects make the cut for the bond measure project list. Those recommendations are expected to be presented at the June board meeting.
You can find the list of projects (“Facility Master Plan Projects Pipeline”) here, as well as the master plan draft. Do you think the board should float a bond measure in November? What about an accompanying parcel tax to raise $2 million a year to maintain the new facilities? (I think it would amount to $20 per parcel per year, but that’s something else I need to check. It might be a moot point, as some board members were only interested in a bond measure.)