CARLSBAD — Exploring their options on how to spend the remaining $33 million in Prop P funds, the CUSD (Carlsbad Unified School District) Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 23 to construct a new performing arts center at Sage Creek High School.
Other options they had to use the funds included building an aquatics complex or dedicating all of the funds to upgrading campus facilities to meet current state safety and handicap accessibility building codes.
“We felt it (a performing arts center) was in the spirit of the bond measure,” said CUSD Superintendent Suzette Lovely.
Passed in the November 2006 election, Prop P issued about $198 million in general obligation bonds to pay for the construction of Sage Creek High School as well as repairs and improvements to district facilities.
“When we asked voters to approve the Prop P, we included in the bond language that the second high school would include an auditorium and there isn’t one yet,” said Board President Elisa Williamson, who voted in favor of the performing arts center.
The vote aligned with CUSD staff’s recommendation, which asserted that a performing arts center would be less expensive to operate, aid students in meeting their graduation goals, and used by more students throughout the district.
District staff explained that the annual operating expenses of a performing arts center would range from $210,000 to $260,000 while the annual operating expenses of an aquatics complex would range from $295,562 to $878,847. They based these estimates on information from similar performing arts and aquatics facilities in Southern California.
Williamson added that all CUSD high school students must complete one year of visual and performing arts, which includes dance, drama, theatre, and music.
The performing arts center won on a split 3-2 vote with Trustees Williamson, Claudine Jones and Ann Tanner voting in favor and Trustees Veronica Williams and Lisa Rodman voting in opposition.
Williams and Rodman cited not wanting to increase operating costs for the district until class sizes in the district were lowered, according to Williamson.
Trustees did have the option of postponing both the Sage Creek High School performing arts center and aquatics complex in favor of dedicating all of the available funds to campus improvements to meet the latest state building codes.
But, the most imperative building improvement projects are not left out by the Board’s decision. All Prop P funds leftover after the new performing arts center’s construction are allocated for top priority CUSD infrastructure improvement projects.
With the tentative price tag of the performing arts center’s construction set at $12 million, CUSD predicts that at least several million dollars will go towards campus facility upgrades.
When the project proposals were brought up at the Sept. 11 Board meeting, Gafcon senior project manager William Morrison pointed out that there are CUSD several facilities that that exhibit safety and disability issues.
He explained that all of CUSD’s buildings are in compliance with state standards because they meet the building codes that existed at the time of their construction, but there are still issues.
He specifically mentioned that CUSD’s Cultural and Performing Arts Center is in need of safety and accessibility improvements. He said that currently there is no way for a person in a wheelchair to access the orchestra pit; the counter height of the ticket booth needs to be fixed, and the fire suppression system requires upgrades.
“Basically when you walk into the entrance, that’s about as ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant as it is,” he said.
District staff is currently working with Gafcon staff to assess the primary infrastructure needs throughout CUSD and ultimately update the Facilities Master Plan.
Lovely acknowledged that spending the entire $33 million on campus infrastructure improvements could cover all of the top priority projects as well as some of the lower priority projects throughout the district.
But she pointed out that it is unlikely the district would have substantial enough funds to pay for a major construction project like a performing arts center or an aquatics complex again unless another bond measure was passed.
“The likelihood to have enough funding to building something larger is pretty minimal,” she said.
As far as the campus improvement projects, she added, “We can’t do everything. There’s not enough money to do everything.”