High school students in Visalia could soon be getting a little more elbow room.
On Tuesday, June 26th, the Visalia Unified School District Board (VUSD) unanimously approved the adoption of a general obligation bond for the November 2018 ballot. According to a presentation given to the board by VUSD Superintendent Dr. Todd Oto, the bond would include $109 million allocated for the building of a fifth high school and modernization/safety upgrades for eligible school campuses.
Before his presentation, the superintendent prefaced, “Our purpose with facilities is to keep pace with growth throughout the community through new construction. It’s also to modernize instructional space… and to keep pace [with the growing advances in learning]. Which leads us to the third and most important purpose here which is for equity, access, and opportunity for all of the children.”
This is the second bond proposed and approved by the board within six years.
In 2012, Measure E was pushed through and allowed the district to borrow $60.1 million which modernized many elementary schools, allowed for a new middle school, two new elementary schools, and a new wing for the Redwood High School campus. Measure E will continue to be paid with property taxes within the district boundary lines until 2041.
If the new bond measure is passed by voters this November, there would be a tax impact on property owners.
As it stands now with Measure E, the payment is $18 for every $100,000 assessed value (AV). The November bond would see that price increase to $57 per $100,000 AV as the new bond compounds upon Measure E. This price would vary for each individual owner.
For example, say a certain house’s AV is at $150,000 (which is the median house price in Visalia), the tax payment would be approximately $85. If we break it down in monthly payments, that would be around $7 or $8.
This begs the question: what do we, the average citizens, get for our contribution?
Modernization efforts, for instance, would include 70-inch and 50-inch monitors used in lieu of projectors, removal of carpets and installment of polished concrete flooring, painting, and other general maintenance procedures according to the Visalia Times-Delta interview of VUSD Facilities Director Gerry Lemus.
This is what the school board likes to call “21st-century learning” which integrates contemporary technology into the classroom in order to enhance learning.
Safety improvements would be made alongside these modernization upgrades. Board member Juan Guerrero confirmed that a safety oversight committee would be implemented.
This committee would be responsible for determining what the next level is for school safety beyond the single point of entry which is already used at most, if not all, schools.
The committee would be made up of teachers, classified staff, and administrators working alongside city professionals such as police and fire officials. Altogether, the safety and modernization would contribute to $34 of the estimated $109 million needed by the district.
The rest of the bond would go towards building a new high school near the newly built Ridgeview Middle School.
The money would go toward a full set of facilities including modern science labs, a point stressed by Dr. Oto in his presentation, alongside facilities for arts and sports.
Visalia has a rather lopsided high school population right now. As the north and west sides of the town expand and the population grows, Redwood and El Diamante high schools become more top-heavy with students.
A new high school would relieve much of the pressure on these two schools and not only give good opportunities to the students who move to the new high school, but give the existing schools a manageable population.
This is an important decision that will decide how the district will proceed with school populations and deterioration of certain campuses.