Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 10, 2014

A bit of a fixer upper

Filed under: Alameda, Election, School — Tags: — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

Tonight the School Board is going to reconsider what the school bond will cover, the last time around when the work was mostly going to be concentrated at the High Schools there was, rightly, some push back.   Although after mulling over the last proposal and talking to some folks, it made more sense as to why they School Board initially wanted to start with the high schools.   Given that this whole fixing of Alameda school facilities will not be a one bond fixes all proposal, the commencement of the high school would at least have some tangible and highly visible improvements that the School District could point to and say “see look what we did with your money.”   The problem with the last facilities bond it was a lot of tape and bandages to stem the worst of the bleeding but there was never one marquee project that “touched” a significant portion of the school population.

Anyway, now the School District is considering spending a little bit of money at all of the schools instead of a lot of bit of money at the two largest schools.   The breakdown by numbers:

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 3.24.26 PM


But of course the high schools are where the bulk of the dollars will be going:

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 3.46.29 PM


But this is the only way that the Historic Alameda High School can be converted back into a classroom use, which I believe the majority of those that want to preserve the HAHS want.  So this is the time to support a bond measure if folks want to see the fence removed and kids back in those classrooms, otherwise the School District will have no money to ever rehabilitate the HAHS buildings.   So folks can talk about not trusting the School District or use whatever rationale they want to in order to not support the bond measure, but it’s pretty simple, if you love the HAHS more than you distrust the School District then this should be an easy vote because the likelihood of the School District finding magical money to fix it without this bond or without just selling to some developer to take care of is slim to none.

The School Board will also be taking a first look at language to move forward with a bond measure for the November ballot.   Appears the magic number is $179,500,000.



  1. Glad to see a bond measure that addresses more of the problem and has fixes for all of the schools.

    Comment by Karen Bey — June 10, 2014 @ 6:20 am

  2. people I have talked with are not very interested in rehabbing old structures. I seem to be hearing a lot more of the new one High School opinion. Throwing money at HAHS isn’t going to get Alameda a new state of the art high school. Sorry but it is just another band aid solution.

    Comment by John P. — June 10, 2014 @ 8:11 am

  3. too bad there couldn’t be an election which polled bond issue in general along with sorting use for the money, but I understand that a bond which doesn’t spell out a budget has absolutely no chance of passage. If the bond fails there is a good possibility the district will have to try again with different content. But it seems to me that the possibility of a second campaign, if this fails, depends on the nature of the opposition, i.e. how much they can tar the district as completely unworthy of handling the funds. The extreme NO TAX ever for anything people are not that appealing. It seems that infrastructure warrants some kind of fiscal transfusion for the schools to remain operable. We did have back to back parcel taxes with the first failing by a hair and the second passing by slim margin also. It’s not that I have decided to vote no, but after all those parcel tax campaigns I don’t think I’m going to be active in this campaign.

    Comment by MI — June 10, 2014 @ 8:46 am

  4. How has the amount of money allocated to each school been determined? I know there was a needs assessment, but I find it noteworthy that the best-performing schools (in terms of API) seem to have been allocated the largest amounts. I’m not suggesting that this is *necessarily* unreasonable; I’ve only lived in Alameda since 2010 so have little sense of the histories of the different schools. Are the discrepancies solely accounted for by the age of each school’s facilities? Are the East End/Gold Coast/higher-performing schools a lot older and genuinely in need of greater facilities investment?

    Comment by Sarah — June 10, 2014 @ 10:03 am

  5. I know people will hate me for saying this but we are not voting for any more bond measures. Get rid of prop 13 and problems solved. CA. used to have some of the best schools in the country and know they don’t. Everyone knew prop 13 would hurt CA…it doesn’t effect large communities as much as the small communities and be it what you ay Alameda is one of the largest communities in California

    Comment by Joseph — June 10, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  6. To follow up on my #4 post, I looked through the BOE presentation slides. It appears that “site specific demographic growth at 5 years (2019-2020)” was taken into account in determining fund allocation. How is this calculated? Is it taking into account people zoned for lower-performing schools who are fleeing to East End or Bay Farm schools? If so, I worry that targeting these most “desirable” schools with even more funds is creating a self-fulfilling cycle. The schools with declining enrollment will have the least investment, leading to more and more parents opting for transfers, leading them to fall even farther behind. My daughter is beginning kindergarten at Paden this fall. As a fairly numbers-focused person (I’m a statistician), I agonized for a long time over the question of opting out. We went to the last Paden Family Fun Night, and I know now that we made the right decision for our family. However, I am concerned about possible inequities within the district, as far as having decent and modern facilities. When it comes to building science classrooms for the high schools, for example, will Encinal and Alameda High have an equivalent number, at least on a per-student basis?

    Comment by Sarah — June 10, 2014 @ 11:12 am

  7. Sarah: I believe that the discrepancies do largely reflect the age of the school. Hopefully Board Member Mike McMahon will drop by to give more detail, but off the top of my head I believe that both Franklin and Edison are two of the oldest schools in the district. Ruby Bridges (my school) is getting the least amount from the bond money because it is the newest school.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2014 @ 11:59 am

  8. Here’s an budget breakdown based on enrollment and year the school was built:

    And the general Facilities Master Plan doc it was pulled from.

    Comment by Lauren Do — June 10, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  9. I agree with John P about the one high school. It is time to come clean about why we have two high schools in Alameda. It was purely to keep the haves and have nots away from each other. Read into this what ever you want. The school boundaries were set in a manner that proves this. From the corner 8th St and Central Ave south ( see Gold Coast) as far east as you could go was zoned for Alameda High. The north side and middle of town up to Grand St was zoned for Encinal High. It is high time to unite our city with one great high school and make it the focal point of pride. We could have a state of the art school with a much improved scholastic schedule and a sports complex the whole city could take proud of. Lets bring our city together and forget the past. Don P

    Comment by Don K Peterson — June 10, 2014 @ 3:01 pm

  10. I also love the idea of a single high school. Neighborhood elementaries are wonderful, but by the time kids get to high school, it is more equitable and efficient to have a single, cutting-edge campus that makes use of the economy of scale. Every time I hear that Alameda High has a theater and Encinal uses their gym, I cringe (is that true?!). I grew up in Piedmont and know all about the haves and have nots (or as George Bush would say, the haves and have mores). In Piedmont, we funneled from 3 elementary into a single middle school and single high school. Had there been two high schools in Piedmont, I’m sure some creative person could have come up with zoning similar to what exists in Alameda today, creating upper and lower-tiered schools.

    Comment by Sarah — June 10, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

  11. 9

    The border runs roughly along Union St, placing the Gold Coast in the Encinal zone.

    Comment by dave — June 10, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

  12. Dave, that school zone was not in place when Encinal was built. I believe that is what Don P. was referring to. Originally the Gold Coast down to Washington Park was Alameda High, and the North side way past grand was Encinal High. Anyway the point is one school would be far superior to the present plan.

    Comment by John P. — June 10, 2014 @ 4:07 pm

  13. In the 80;s, I tried to get the district to put the freshmen and sophomores in one campus and the juniors and seniors in the other. One of the main objections was there would only be one quarterback. I came from a town that did that and it worked very well.

    Comment by dbvaughn — June 10, 2014 @ 4:56 pm

  14. Actually ACLC/Nea has a current enrollment for next year of 850 students, the year they take over the facility. Yet again the charter students most of which are Alameda residence get the short end of the stick. Typical – both schools have two of the highest API scores on the island. The school facility is the same age as Edison. My understanding from the architects who did the reporting for the district is that Woodstock needs 6 million in fixes, that’s not even improvements, just neglected fixes. I have to agree it seems to be a East end preference.

    Comment by AlamedaMama — June 10, 2014 @ 5:02 pm

  15. 12

    Interesting, John, thanks. Do you know approximately when the current border was implemented?

    Comment by dave — June 10, 2014 @ 5:12 pm

  16. If this survives appeal, it will do more for CA education than if every one of the school structures were replaced with state-of-the art facilities.

    Comment by Jack — June 10, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

  17. 14, tired of hearing about charters, which creams off the top of the system to get their stacked API scores, complaining about the supposed short end of the stick. Don’t know about one high school but we should have one real public system ( boat) and be pulling together instead of public schools having to cater to special interest which undercuts services to most at need in the system.

    10. Encinal theater is not just in the gym, their sound equipment was falling apart for production of Hairspray. A note on that is that if you consolidated the theater programs at one school it would be hard to give parts to all the talent unless there continued to be dual programs under one roof.

    Comment by MI — June 10, 2014 @ 6:20 pm

  18. I support the general thrust of the AUSD’s Facilities Master Plan if they add a major commitment to solar and other renewable power.

    2, 9, 10: Sorry, but some otherwise smart people seem to be infatuated with the idea of a “bright , shiny object”–a brand-new, “state of the art” facility: spending up to $200 for an all-new high school leaves *nothing* for all of the other campuses and all the other kids. That is just nuts.

    (It’s almost as nuts as the Facilities Master Plan’s bureaucratic and noncommittal wording that practically excludes solar panels with its “greenwashing” boilerplate-style language–words that could just as easily be used against installing solar panels as in favor of them:

    “Alameda Unified School District is committed to energy efficiency and minimizing their carbon footprint.
    To that end, each improvement project will seek to take advantage of available energy and cost saving
    measures whenever possible. During programming and schematic design, photovoltaic systems will be\
    evaluated for their initial and long term cost savings potential.”

    Besides, placing a new HS out at AP isolates it from most of Alameda’s homes, raises AUSD’s and Alameda’s carbon footprint (all those car trips taking kids to and from school and activities), and takes a major community center (HAHS) away. That’s bassackwards environmental and social engineering, like the disastrous urban renewal projects of the 1950s and 1960s that wiped out entire neighborhoods and created “bright, shiny objects” –instant slums without cultural and neighborhood rootedness.

    Anyone who has spent 5 minutes around environmental and resource conservation knows that reuse is better than recycling: renovating and re-imagining the AHS campus is the smart way to go, even if the campus is smaller than we would like or the renovated facility might not be as “bright and shiny” as the HS in the district next door.
    And AUSD has LOTS of older facilities that need significant upgrades–are we going to leave them to rot in order to buy ourselves one high school? Where is the equity in that?

    I graduated from Sequoia High School in Redwood City: the “new” campus opened in 1929. The physical plant has a history, is rooted in the community, and has a far more gracious and green layout than any more modern campus could be. Historic AHS is a similar facility with strong and deep community roots–and those roots have real, tangible value to students, parents, and the community. (I’d wager that the “economic” value of that historic rootedness would outweigh the “value” of a bright, shiny, and unconnected high school, if we could measure such things decently in our private-enterprise-biased economic system…)

    Comment by Jon Spangler — June 11, 2014 @ 8:13 am

  19. Wait, didn’t we just pass a school bond? When is enough ENOUGH?

    Comment by Big Johnson — June 11, 2014 @ 12:44 pm

  20. The last school bond was about a decade ago.

    And since AUSD’s per-student funding is approx ~75% of the national average, even less in real terms considering the high operating costs of the Bay Area, we’re nowhere near enough.

    You’re welcome, always happy to help.

    Comment by dave — June 11, 2014 @ 1:16 pm

  21. In last year’s meetings, on the renovation vs new construction, the architects were clear that new school construction would cost $400 to $500 per square foot, not including land costs or demolition costs for land that has to be cleared for new construction. I think the figure was 75,000 square feet to house just AHS students. That works out to $30,000,000 on the low end for a completely new school, up to $37,500,000. And then there would be land costs– Rittler, Lum, Wood site is too small a site. The only place big enough for a new school would be at Alameda Point. Does that make sense to have the entire town commute to the far end of Alameda to go to high school? Instead, what is planned is going into the walls to do the seismic work plus prepare the school for modern education with new HVAC and electrical/technology infrastructure. The old high school is so much better built and logically laid out (with opening windows) than the now crumbling new AHS building. Why should we add so much concrete to the landfill when it will cost the same or less to have a modern high school in a historic shell? Because of the history of gerrymandered districts, I agree it would be healing in some ways to have one large high school for the whole town, but there just isn’t a logical site for it. Berkeley High has also struggled with this even though they have always had one high school, but at times the 9th graders have had to attend a school at another site.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 11, 2014 @ 6:26 pm

  22. Hi Kevis, In the Facilities Master Plan, the architects estimate that the cost of building a new high school is $180-$200 million – not including the cost of land. (See page 21 of the plan’s Introduction/Executive Summary here:

    Comment by Susan Davis (senior manager, community affairs, AUSD) — June 11, 2014 @ 7:11 pm

  23. 22. Thanks Susan, I knew that I had read a complete figure somewhere.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 12, 2014 @ 6:21 pm

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