Money for Jackson, Howbert additions; D-11 boundary-change hearing April 15

       Planned additions at Jackson and Howbert elementary schools moved forward as a result of spending decisions by the District Board of Education April 8.

Howbert Elementary students in grades 3-5 perform "Dig It! A Musical Tale of Ancient Civilizations" April 7 in the Coronado High auditorium. In the song above ("In My Tomb," from Egypt, 2600 B.C.), mummies take the lead. Other tuneful archeological eras included Mesopotamia, Asia, Greece and Rome.
Westside Pioneer photo

       Also finding money during a series of votes were the needed renovations at West (which will be divided to add a separate elementary on its west end), Buena Vista (probable future home of the West Intergenera-tional Center) and Whittier (the future site of the Bijou Alternative high school).
       In other action, the board began consideration of new attendance boundaries for elementary and middle schools, proposed by administrators with assistance from a citizen/staff committee and public input at meetings in March and early April. The recommendations are similar to those initially presented for public review in late March, reflecting the board's February decision to close eight elementaries (four on the Westside) and one middle school.
       A public hearing is scheduled at the board's April 15 meeting from 7 to 8 p.m., after which members will talk about new boundaries in a work session. The board plans to vote on the matter at its April 22 meeting. All the meetings are tentatively set at the Tesla Center, 2560 International Circle.
       The construction timetable anticipates the renovations over the summer, the six-classroom Jackson addition to be built by the second semester of the 2009-10 school year and the four-room Howbert addition to be ready at the same time.
       None of these projects has an engineered cost estimate as yet, noted Mike Maloney of district facilities. He indicated a belief that costs should not be higher than estimated, but board members still expressed an apparent consensus to pull additional funds from reserve accounts, if needed, to get the work done.
       The board additionally OK'd $250,000 for the complex moving of equipment and staff materials - including the hiring of a moving company and a “moving czar” to coordinate the effort - in connection with the closures and several school and program relocations.
       With all these upcoming costs, the district's general fund contingency will drop to $86,000 for the final 82 days of the fiscal year ending June 30, Chief Financial Officer Glenn Gustafson told the board. Typically, the contingency is around $1.5 million. “This will scare and alarm a lot of people, me included,” he said. However, he explained that “these are one-time costs,” necessary to “ensure a successful transition,” while the $3-4 million the district will gain from having fewer schools to run and staff will be recurring for years to come. He also noted that the district has other reserves it could draw from and transfer to the general fund, if a large unexpected cost occurred before June 30.
       The board accepted his analysis although member Tom Strand asked for “another reassurance” that the plan was a good one, and Gustafson readily gave it to him.
       The money for Whittier and for the Jackson addition (estimated cost $1.5 million) will come from a combination of contingency funds still remaining from the 2005 buildings bond issue, plus savings from the $650,000 that was never spent on the current Bijou School site on North Walnut Street.
       According to district plans, Howbert will need an addition (estimated cost $1.2 million) to handle new students resulting from an expanded attendance area (part of what's proposed to the school board) that will give it a portion of the Whittier attendance area (east to 30th Street) next year. Whittier, Buena Vista and Washington are slated to close after this school year, with the remainder of those students (except those in BV's Montessori, which is moving to Washington) going to West. Jackson's space need will come from Pike Elementary students. Pike is also slated to close after this school year.

Westside Pioneer article