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District Explores Options for Opening Agnews Schools Behind Schedule

Discussion regarding construction delays, which impact the Agnews elementary and middle schools opening, dominated the Sept. 12 Santa Clara Unified School District (SCUSD) School Board Meeting.

 

Temporary Village or Delay a Year?

The School Board heard more details on their options to open the Agnews elementary and middle schools from Eric Dill, the SCUSD’s Chief Business Official. SCUSD hoped to open the schools a year from now, in August 2020, but a host of factors led to delays, making that opening date unattainable.

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The first option is building a temporary village on the Agnews site and then moving the students into the permanent buildings when they are completed — best case scenario, at the end of September 2020. The classes could relocate to the permanent buildings during fall break or, more realistically, during winter break. This would cost the District an estimated $6 million, which would come out of Measure H contingency funds — this temporary village is not in the budget, but would be within the budget, according to Dill.

The second option would be to delay a year. This would keep students at their current schools until August 2021. This would cost the District nothing.

Each option came with its own pros and cons, for example, the temporary village would not have play structures or an alternative recess space in case of bad weather. On the other hand, the schools’ principals and an administrative assistant have already been hired, but they have to hold off on hiring teachers.

Board President Dr. Michele Ryan said she was initially a supporter of the temporary village, but that was before the Board knew what the cost would be. Board Members and staff expressed concerns about diverting the bond money to the temporary village, when that money could go towards other projects throughout the district.

“[The other risk would be] fewer Measure H funds for the Agnews construction and what we would have remaining to devote towards the high school,” said Dill. “[This] could cause a downstream risk to other projects… You need to be conscious of what that could mean for projects down the road.”

Less Measure H funds for the Agnews high school means the District would have to tap into Measure BB funds to complete the Agnews projects and may have to use even more Measure BB funds for projects like New Valley, Westwood, Briarwood and Braly reconstruction; or fencing and gate upgrades.

“Those projects are just as important to the other communities as this project is to the northern part of our District,” said Dill.

Further, Dill warned that diverting resources to creating the temporary village could cause additional delays to the permanent campus construction and would definitely delay the middle school fields, because that’s where the village would be located.

Board Member Jim Canova said he was for doing a temporary village. He said the District is already overdue to deliver on their promises.

“From the perception of the community, we are way overdue… this has been over 15 years and they are really fed up and they have a right to be fed up,” said Canova. “They have been there for us every time we go to them for bonding to get this through.”

A few members of the public expressed disappointment with the District. They asked for more transparency and accountability regarding the Agnews situation. They wished the District had put a communication plan in place to inform the community prior to this meeting.

However, another member of the public pointed out that the Board is discussing options for the Agnews schools at this meeting, not making any decisions yet. Dr. Ryan said the District staff will reach out to the community to gather feedback on the options.

“I want to know what the community, who will be going to that school, wants,” said Dr. Ryan. “That, to me, is the most important thing.”

This topic will come back to the Board meeting on Oct. 10. 

Additionally, the School Board heard the plan for creating an Ad Hoc Committee to gather potential names for all the schools on the Agnews Campus. The Community can contribute ideas through Oct. 15 through the Name Our Schools Online Form.

 

New Strategic Plan

A contract with Prospect Studio San Francisco was approved to develop and design SCUSD’s new Strategic Plan, but not before some hesitancy around the cost.

Since their last meeting regarding the Strategic Plan, the Board gathered more information from the firm and also got cost details.

The firm will help the District develop a 10-year vision and a three- to five-year strategic plan. The project is not included in the 2019-20 budget — the cost would be $273,500 using one-time funds from the District’s special reserve.

Board Member Vickie Fairchild was concerned that the firm was over-charging the District compared to work they did for other agencies. She and Board Member Andrew Ratermann also pointed out that this process would cost about four times more than the last time they developed a Strategic Plan.

“I agree, it’s a lot of money,” added Board Vice President Jodi Muirhead. “I remember what we did last time and I feel like we’re getting a lot more this time.”

A motion to approve the contract passed 6-1, with Fairchild voting no.

 

Other Business

Aryav Ahuja, a student at Don Callejon, was recognized by the Board. Ahuja submitted his book, Tibetan People Love YVONNE, as part of the Footstep2Brilliance National Writing Challenge and was nominated to get his book published. The winner’s books will be placed on an online bookshelf for other students to read and learn from within the Footsteps2Brilliance program. See Ahuja’s book on the Footsteps2Brilliance bookshelf here: https://myf2b.com/cab2s/304215_1546882339529.

The Board also approved the 2018-19 Unaudited Actuals Financial Report and Updated 2019-20 Budget and approved a resolution to signal the District’s support of the Santa Clara Parade of Champions. Their 2019-2020 Governance Handbook was approved with some changes. Ratermann abstained because he liked most of it, but said he wasn’t quite ready for some of it.

Board Members Canova and Mark Richardson were absent for parts of the meeting.

The School Board meets again on Sept. 16 at 6:30 p.m. There is also a Board Policy Committee Meeting on Sept. 16, 4:30 p.m. and there is a Work Study Meeting on Sept. 26, 5 p.m.

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