Posted 5/21/12 – According to the group Organize Sierra Madre Schools (OSMS), self-described as “a group of concerned parents and citizens fighting for the future of Sierra Madre Schools,” some good news has been received regarding the long awaited review and approval of the plans for the Sierra Madre Middle School by the Office of the State Architect. According to OSMS, following a meeting on May 17th, the district representatives report that: 1) Back-check will begin for the middle school project the first week of June, 2012 and 2) Fire / Life / Safety final comments will be given through the Los Angeles office and final approval stamped through the San Diego office as part of the entire package approval (Editor’s Note – there has still not been a commitment made for a final date to complete the reviews/approvals).
However, this is a separate issue from the reduction of construction funds from this and other projects, which is not going well. According to a May 1st Pasadena Sun article, “Statewide bond money controlled by the state Office of Public School Construction has all but run out, with new projects being put on a waiting list for funds that may never arrive.”
The article continued, “Pasadena schools had also planned on $13 million in deferred maintenance funds that were completely wiped out by state budget cuts, and $25 million in school facility modernization grants that were shaved to $10.2 million, according to a statement by the district. Funding generated by the 2004 Williams Settlement — an agreement reached after a lawsuit alleged that low-income public school students throughout the state had unequal access to proper facilities and supplies — dwindled from $15 million for Pasadena-area schools to just $1.8 million. Local-government fees paid by developers to benefit school renovations have also fallen short with a slowdown in local construction. The school district had budgeted for $20 million in fee revenue the past four years, but has only received about $4 million, according to the statement.”
What does that mean for Sierra Madre’s Middle School? According to OSMS, at an April 25th meeting of the School Site Council, Mr. Robin Brown, Bond Program Manager proposed a straight, across the board, 20% cut to all facilities projects in the Pasadena Unified School District.
According to OSMS, this results in a reduction to the Sierra Madre Middle School projects of $2.7 million and $900,000 at the elementary school. For the Elementary school, this eliminates the upgrades to the kitchen (intended to allow us fresh, in-house food rather than the packaged, reheated food now coming from the district) and eliminates most of the improvements to the auditorium, including air conditioning to the cafeteria and rest of the wing of the school. For the Middle School, the cuts eliminate an entire four-classroom building, any and all re-grading/improvements to the field, and an unspecified $600,000 dollars from building costs.
Again, according to OSMS, the main impact to the Middle School, in addition to the loss of a safe playing field, would be a decrease in the proposed enrollment capacity from 550 to approximately 430. Mr. Brown contended that such cuts would be reasonable, especially to the Middle School, since there would not be a reduction in capacity for the cafeteria, gym, library or other areas.
There will be a PUSD Facilities Sub-Committee Meeting, tomorrow, Tuesday, May 22nd, at 3:00pm at the Education Center’s Lower Level Conference Room in Pasadena (351 S. Hudson Ave.). At the meeting, counter-proposals to the District’s 20% across the board cuts will be considered. OSMS has been attempting to prepare a counter-proposal for presentation, however, they have been unable to get numbers from PUSD that are necessary to produce a proposal that properly responds to what is currently proposed. Since it appears this may be the only opportunity for such a counter-proposal to be presented, OSMS is asking that parents and supporters attend not only the Facilities Sub-Committee Meeting, but also, tomorrow night’s PUSD Board of Education meeting, at 5:30pm, Board Room – 236, also at the Education Center.
Also on the agenda for Tuesday’s Facilities Committee is the approval of a $300,000+ salary for the consultant who is overseeing this bond-reduction project and $239,000 for the architects.
As one supporter stated “Even if you don’t plan to say anything, plan to come to the meeting to show you care about Sierra Madre Schools!”