Report: Schools need $92 million in upgrades
Report: Schools need $92 million in upgrades
Alameda’s 17 public schools need $92 million worth of improvements, according to a long-awaited facilities report presented to the Board of Education on Monday night.
That amount doesn’t include the district’s pools, planned seismic upgrades to be conducted at Alameda High School or cost increases estimated by an architect who worked on the plan at $4 million to $5 million a year. Nor does it include Internet access or other technological upgrades.
“It is an overwhelming number. We will bring some logic to it,” Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell told the board, which met in the Alameda High School cafeteria on Monday. A second report prioritizing the district’s needs is due out in November.
The report lists a number of potential ways to cover the costs, including new school bonds, increased parcel taxes, philanthropic partnerships, state funding and shuttering schools. Voters approved a $63 million bond in 2004 that the district leveraged into $91 million for improvements with state funding and developer fees, and also approved a seven-year, $12 million a year parcel tax in 2011.
The report lists nearly $20 million worth of repairs needed at Alameda High School, not including a planned seismic upgrade intended to make it safe for students to enter and exit a seismically unsafe portion of the campus. Encinal High School needs $12.7 million worth of work, it says, and Lincoln and Wood middle schools, more than $7 million each. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges Elementary needs $736,944 in upgrades, the report says, while Washington Elementary needs more than $5 million and Woodstock Education Center, over $6 million. And that’s not counting additional issues as a dozen district facilities that need further investigation.
A team of architects and engineers visited the schools and interviewed staff in drafting the report, said an architect from Quattrocchi Kwok Architects, which conducted the facilities study.
The report recommends new boilers and fire sprinklers at the district’s schools, along with new windows and doors, better accessibility for the disabled, more energy efficient lighting and upgraded public address systems, telephones and clocks.
Proposed fixes at Alameda High included $1.3 million for new lockers at Alameda High and another $1.3 million to restore the front of Kofman Auditorium, while replacing the modular wings at Wood Middle School would cost an estimated $954,240 and demolishing modular at Woodstock Education Center and replacing them with permanent classrooms would cost an estimated $800,800.
Shemwell said the report would help the district plan to maintain its facilities properly instead of reacting when things break down. In addition to being forced to shut down its two high school pools, the district has in recent years traced a gas smell at what’s now the Academy of Alameda Middle School to a pipe with a big hole in it and had to make repairs at Encinal High when seawater eroded the school’s main electric trunk line.
“We deal with this every day,” Shemwell said.
Trustee Mike McMahon said that while the report provides a baseline for determining what fixes need to be made to keep the district’s schools operational over the coming decades, the board will need to decide whether it wants to keep all of its aging schools in place. The original portion of Alameda High was built in 1925 - eight years before the state law governing seismic safety at schools was even out into place - and many of the district's schools date back to the 1950s.
“We may end up with a $90 million price tag with a number of sites that look radically different if we do this a different way,” McMahon said. “It’s a conversation about whether spend $40 million to keep this building looking like a crown jewel of Alameda. I’d rather spend $40 million building new school sites.”
Trustee Niel Tam noted that the report doesn’t contemplate the cost of adapting Alameda’s schools to changing educational needs.
“We need to be mindful of what education will look like five years from now,” Tam said.
The report followed a more than two-hour discussion about plans to perform seismic work in and around Alameda High and a proposal to move the district’s offices from the school into a newly purchased building in Marina Village. District officials cast the proposed district office move as an effort to address the district’s most pressing safety issue without incurring long-term costs, though some members of the board and public wondered whether the district shouldn’t look more closely at less costly options.
Shemwell said he’d be recommending the district lease and then purchase a new office space in Marina Village for $5.3 million in order to accommodate its district office, which he said would need to move out of Alameda High before seismic work is done and would be unable to return. The architect working with the district said he’d “never seen a facility as structurally damaged in 25 years.”
An engineering study showed that the Alameda Adult School and portions of the building surrounding Kofman Auditorium could collapse in a major earthquake, prompting district leaders to move adult school classes out of the building, plan retrofit work to make it safe for students to enter and exit the building and begin searching for a new space for the district office.
McMahon and Tam said they supported the proposal to purchase a building, which Shemwell said might be sold at a profit at a future date. But Trustee Trish Herrera Spencer and Board President Margie Sherratt said they didn’t support buying a new building, with Herrera Spencer saying she wanted the district to spend the money on students instead and Sherratt saying district officials should look for other potential solutions.
“We need to still keep looking and keep figuring things out,” said Sherratt, who said she favors moving district staff out of the school. “So I’ll look forward to continued conversations on this.”
Chris Buckley of the Alameda Architectural Preservation Society said he wants to make sure the buildings don’t fall into ruin. “It’s considered one of the architectural crown jewels of Alameda, so we’re concerned that its future is in good hands,” Buckley said.
But McMahon said that voters who approved the Measure C schools bond, which paid for retrofits to Kofman Auditorium and the classrooms above it, said no to another bond that would have paid for seismic upgrades to other portions of the campus. He said the district had planned to tear the buildings down but the community protested.
Shemwell said all the district’s adult school classes will be on the Woodstock Education Center campus next year, except for adult high school diploma programs that had been held during the day. The campus already houses Island High School, the Bay Area School of Enterprise and a preschool.
The district has just begun the bidding process for a contractor who will build a tunnel through the seismically suspect portion of Alameda High to protect students and staff during an earthquake, along with eight-foot-high fencing around the seismically unstable portions of the campus. Work is expected to take place over the summer and be complete by mid-October.
Extra: You can check out Donna Eyestone's video of Monday's meeting on our brand-new Ustream channel.