CARLSBAD — Last week, the Carlsbad Unified School District approved a $265 million bond question to put on the November ballot.
The district needs 55 percent of Carlsbad voters to approve the measure, which Superintendent Dr. Ben Churchill and district board of trustees President Ray Pearson said is for needed facilities upgrades.
Two of the other primary focuses, they said, are upgrading school security including fence lines and points of entry and energy costs. Pearson said the recent school shootings is a concern for the district, and noted Carlsbad suffered tragedy in 2010 at Kelly Elementary School when two children were shot. The students survived.
Pearson said safety concerns also center on natural disasters, a nod to the 2014 Poinsettia Fire where Aviara Oaks middle and elementary schools were evacuated.
“We’ve had a shooting before,” Pearson said. “There is a heightened concern and awareness for the safety of our students, staff, guests and administrators on campus. We want to make sure that our campuses and our facilities are as safe as possible.”
Churchill said another focus is on incorporating solar power and sustainability measures to tackle the district’s second-largest line item, energy use. Currently, it pays more than $2 million per year on energy costs, and with the bond money and sustainable strategies, would pay off those solar costs in seven years.
Also, Churchill said, once the solar panels recoup their original costs, preliminary estimates predict the technology would save the district $1.5 million per year on power costs.
“We’ve written into the plan a combination of solar and battery storage, so that we could generate the amount of energy equivalent to what we use on an annual basis,” Churchill said. “It’s smart environmentally and financially. We can then recapture a large amount of that expense and repurpose that into the classroom.”
Both said the district and board have been analyzing a bond measure for nearly one year. Churchill said state funds do not cover costs for facilities upgrades and the district identified dozens of projects through its Long-Range Facilities Master Plan, which was approved in January.
In addition, Carlsbad Unified commissioned test polls to gauge support for a new bond. Churchill said the results of two surveys, conducted last year and in June, were between 63 and 66 percent in support.
For example, Magnolia Elementary School, which was built in 1959, has never undergone major renovations. Churchill said these improvements will cover at least the next 15 to 20 years and include upgrading labs, heating and cooling systems, plumbing and other infrastructure.
Magnolia, Kelly, Valley and Carlsbad High School have the largest price tag, according to the priority list on the district website. Each renovation is more than $20 million, while every school in the district will undergo renovations or upgrades, if the bond passes.
“That process is not done in a vacuum,” Pearson said of the decision to approve the bond. “How are we going to fund that? The only real way to do that for public schools in California is capital bonds.”
The cost of the 30-year bond for taxpayers, meanwhile, is about $34 per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value. For a $500,000 home, it would be about $170 per year.
The district recently finished all projects, including the recent Sage Creek High School Performing Arts Center, from Proposition P, a $198 million bond approved by voters in 2006. Most of Proposition P, Pearson said, was used to construct Sage Creek High School.
The district was able to secure about $52 million in matching state funds as a result of Proposition P. That strategy, Churchill and Pearson said, will be implemented with the new bond.
The priority list shows the projects scheduled for five phases, although the work will take several years to complete. Churchill said some projects are being addressed this summer as stronger fencing is being installed at several schools.
For more about the bond and projects, visit www.carlsbadusd.k12.ca.us.
Steve Puterski covers Carlsbad and Vista. For tips or story ideas, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @StevePuterski.