The EUSD (Escondido Union School District) board last week looked to the next phase of the district’s capital expenditure projects, deciding that its top priority would be major improvements to both Mission Middle School and Del Dios Middle School, rather than doing “piecemeal” work at each school.
Both projects would provide new classrooms in two-story buildings, thus removing what the board refers to as “relocatables” (i.e. trailers.) Work on the two projects – including a variety of other upgrades — would cost a total of $37.5 million.
District staff offered two alternate proposals. One focusing only on Mission improvements and IT infrastructure upgrades (totaling $21.3 million), the other only on Del Dios (totaling $19 million), but these did not receive a great deal of board discussion.
“We have a great opportunity here,” said Board President Doug Paulson. “We put together the project list when we went out for our last bond issue, and we were very close. Instead of the smaller projects, let’s do something that will benefit the community, make a dramatic impact to the schools.”
In March of last year, the district sought a bond issue — titled Measure Q — for capital improvements. While it received 50.87% of yes votes (12,213) and 49.13% of no votes (11,797), it fell short of the 55% approval required for passage.
Paulson was emphatic about the benefits of proposal No. 1. “What a beautiful picture to show what we have done with our schools and how we care for them,” he said. “I just think it shows we have done something with the money. We have not piecemealed it here and there.”
He added, “I think it is a great idea to go sooner than later because construction costs are going up. My preference is to finish Mission and Del Dios.”
The board will hold a workshop on October 28 to look at the feasibility of a future bond issue. “We will go in depth into our facilities because we are at a crossroads,” Paulson said. “When you look at any potential future bond we want to get bigger projects out of the way because that means more allocated for other schools as well.”
Georgine Tomasi was the lone board member raising a concern about emphasis on the two middle schools, saying she was worried about the lack of attention on improvements for Lincoln Elementary School.
“I think everybody knows that not doing an upgrade of Lincoln; but not rebuilding Lincoln into a modern school has been a priority for a long time,” she said. “We need to do something big there to serve the community because it is a wonderful community and deserves something a little more updated in their school.”
Despite her concerns, Tomasi cast a vote for the No. 1 proposal, and it passed 5-0.
Besides offering the new proposals, district staff reviewed a variety of recently completed upgrades at several schools at a cost of $33.9 million.
Superintendent Luis Rankins-Ibarra also updated the board on the district’s plans for the hoped-for reopening of campuses to in-person instruction for the “21-‘22 school year, saying that “all staff members have had the opportunity to schedule vaccination appointments.”
He said that plans for development of a “Virtual Academy” — with emphasis on distance learning for students preferring that model – are underway, as well as for summer school. And it was suggested that the summer school program would provide a “pilot” program for the return to general in-class instruction.
“We’re getting staff in place,” Rankins-Ibarra said.