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Carlsbad Unified working fast to start bond projects

CARLSBAD — Now Measure HH has passed, the Carlsbad Unified School District and board of trustees have mapped out its plan.

The board, along with Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill, Assistant Superintendent Chris Wright and Director of Facilities and Construction Management Kelly Fleming unveiled many of the details for the first phase plus security and energy initiatives during the Nov. 14 board meeting.

The bond will secure $265 million for infrastructure improvements for every school in the district. The first phase will consist of about $82 million in improvements, followed by $71 million in phase two, $40 million in phase three and $72 million for the final projects.

The bonds are for 30 years and residents will pay $34 per $100,000 on the assessed value of their home to cover the costs.

Construction for several projects in phase one will begin in 2019 and the rest of the phases will be staggered through 2027. Wright said all phases should be completed in about 15 years.

“We have a very conservative plan,” he added. “We want to get the biggest bang for our buck.”

Magnolia Elementary School in Carlsbad is just one of several elementary schools to receive funds to help modernize facilities. File photo

While several other school districts also passed bond measures, including the San Diego Unified School District’s $3.5 billion measure, Wright said Carlsbad Unified’s advantage for contractors and architects is most of those bid processes are already lined up.

In fact, the district already released its request for proposals for phase one and approval of those contracts will be announced in several weeks.

However, Wright cautioned some costs may rise due to U.S. trade wars and rising tariffs. For example, Sage Creek High School came in about $2 million over budget due to new U.S. government policy decisions regarding the price of steel.

“We have our ducks in a row and we will get those good contractors,” Wright said.

As for the schools, Magnolia, Hope and Kelly elementary schools along with Carlsbad High School’s science and chiller plant are part of phase one. For the elementary schools, more than $60 million will be spent to modernize those facilities to include STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) labs, heating and air conditioning, security and energy solutions.

The security projects will feature all schools receiving 8-foot iron fencing, sign-in systems, security cameras, keyless entry locks and emergency lockdown systems, to name a few.

As for sustainability, Fleming said a feasibility study will be conducted for each site to determine where solar panels and battery storage will best fit each campus. On some sites, solar panels may be part of parking structures as the roofs would be damaged to the point of rendering panels useless.

The district currently spends about $2 million per year on energy costs, so the generating power and including battery storage could deliver savings of nearly $1.5 million, which would be redirected back into the schools, Churchill said in previous interviews.

“We will look at how much we used and where we use it,” Fleming said about energy uses. “We will identify areas to decrease.”

As for the oversight committee, the district is beginning those efforts. Since Proposition P is still underway, state law allows for the committees to be merged as one committee.

Another focus, meanwhile, is state matching funds and any federal grants Wright said. Proposition P received about $50 million in matching funds, and Wright said the district will seek out and apply for any additional state or federal funding.

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