VISTA — The Vista Unified School District wasted little time breaking ground on the first phase of its aggressive and needed renovation and improvement projects.
Last year, voters approved a $247 million school bond, Measure LL, which features more than 100 projects throughout the district. Much of the work centers on demolishing and replacing dozens of portable classrooms with permanent structures, said Superintendent Dr. Linda Kimble.
Some of those sites include Beaumont Elementary School, Rancho Buena Vista and Vista high schools in the first phase. Five phases are scheduled and is expected to take between 10 and 15 years to complete all, Kimble added. Also, the district is eligible for at least $21 million in matching money from the state.
“The overall thought for this project is to remove our portables that are over 25 years old,” Kimble said. “In this district, there were right around 150 that were 25 years old. Cleary, beyond their usable life.”
The bond received 62% of the vote and will cost property owners about $0.03 for each $100 of assessed value of their property, or about $108 per year for the typical home owner, according to the district’s website.
On Aug. 23 Rancho Buena Vista Principal Joseph Clevenger gave a tour of several projects slated for upgrades, including a new softball field and expansion of the gym to include two restrooms, which the old gym did not have.
But the biggest upgrade at Rancho Buena Vista will be the construction of a two-story structure with more than 30 classrooms to the portables, Clevenger said. A modern classroom is needed to give students the ability to have more access to better technology and learning environments.
Although it is not scheduled until phase two, the project is estimated to cost $24.7 million, with an additional $7.6 million for other classroom modernization, according to the district’s project breakdown.
“The big ticket item is we’re looking at a two-story, 36-classroom state-of-the-art facility for the students,” Clevenger said. “It would also allow for the removal of portables.”
One reason for the reduction and demolition of the portables, Kimble said, is the district’s drop in enrollment over the years. In 2000, Vista Unified had more than 28,000 students. The 2020-21 projection is for just 20,276 students.
Kimble said the goal is to create the right size for each campus to compensate for enrollment.
The biggest project in phase one is the $34 million in new construction for the V, S, T and R wings at Vista High School. The district will demolish 53 portables and replace with new buildings.
Other projects throughout the life of the bond are upgrading infrastructure, becoming complaint with the Americans with Disabilities Act and new surfaces, to name a few.
“We’ll be adding the most up-to-date science equipment and then the kids will move into facilities like that,” Kimble added. “The overall concept is building for the next 50 years, nothing niche.”
Another possibility for the bond is the state of a proposed project labor agreement, which goes before the board of trustees for approval on Sept. 12. According to Sarah Polito, an attorney for the district, she said during the board’s Aug. 15 meeting a PLA could cost the district up to $59 million from the bond due to higher costs, thus eliminating much of phase five. The estimated cost for the fifth phase is $51.1 million.
Photo Caption: New restrooms are being constructed at Rancho Buena Vista High School as part of Measure LL, the $247 million school bond passed last year. The Vista Unified School District has more than 100 projects scheduled for the next 10-15 years to upgrade facilities. Steve Puterski photo