Pleasanton Unified staff presented a surprising picture of isolated decay and troublesome security holes at some schools due to a lack of funding to update buildings.
The reports were made as part of a board discussion on how best to pursue a bond measure this fall.
The school board is considering asking voters to approve a bond measure during the Nov. 8 elections. The bond would likely be used for facilities construction and upgrades and for technology enhancements.
At Saturday's special board workshop, district staff and experts outlined schools' immediate needs and described a plan to pass a bond of $312 million. A bond of that amount would mean an additional property tax of $60 per $100,000 assessed valuation -- a rate that polled above the needed 55% voter threshold.
Pleasanton Unified has not passed voter-approved funding since 1997, when voters approved a $69.8 million bond measure. Pleasanton property owners are currently paying $23.90 per $100,000 assessed valuation, which gives it the second-lowest bond revenue among Alamada County school and community college districts, according to a presentation from financial advising firm Keygent Advisors.
Staff described how the district's phone system lacks the ability to make district-wide intercom announcements in an emergency, how the fire alarms don't alert all classrooms in some schools and how strangers are able to walk on some campuses because they aren't fenced in. Staff stated the problems range from leaking roofs to playground tripping hazards from cracked asphalt.
Board members said the reality is the district has scrimped and saved to avoid the disastrous cutbacks that occurred at some districts during the recession, and needs like paint and new pavement took a backseat to employee salaries and challenging student programs.
"Clearly, there are huge needs. There's no way we are structurally, facility-wise, matched with any of our neighbors," board president Jamie Hintzke said in an interview after the meeting.
Of the $312 million, $283 million would be used for facilities and $29 million would be used for technology. The final amount, along with ballot text that would include an itemized list of projects, is expected to be approved in a June or July board meeting ahead of the August 12 deadline.
During the three-hour meeting, district interim director of facilities, maintenance, operations and transportation June Rono said security concerns are the most urgent.
While fire alarms work in all classrooms, some schools' systems aren't connected campus-wide, he said.
"The problem is when you do have a major fire, it is possible there are wings in that campus that wouldn't know," he said.
The district's phone system is 26 years old and lacks basic modern capabilities, like the ability to make a district-wide emergency alert over the intercom. Voicemails aren't even able to be forwarded on some phones, Pleasanton Unified director of technology Amy Nichols told the board.
"The only way we can buy many parts for our phone system is to go on eBay and cross our fingers, and I am not kidding," Nichols told the board.
Staff said there had been situations where students and staff had been minorly hurt by cars in parking lots due to inefficient traffic flow. Romo mentioned the roofs on some school are still made up of gravel and tar, and some schools' security cameras are failing or broken.
In general, schools said these were their top priorities for facilities improvement:
-Reconfigure parking with new canopy and access driveway
-Multipurpose room expansion for music, physical education and lunch
-Classroom buildings to replace portables
-New lunch shelter
-Reconfigure rooms into science labs
-Repair skylights, new lighting, HVAC
The district is also looking at getting overhead projectors and better audio systems for classrooms, Nichols said. The projectors would provide a clearer image and the wires could be installed under the floor and behind walls to eliminate tripping hazards, which are especially a problem in elementary classrooms.
She said the estimate also includes the possibility of providing a device -- perhaps a Chromebook or a tablet -- to each teacher, each student from fourth to 12th grade and enough devices for younger students to share.
Board members said they'd need to work out the details around giving every student a device, such as a rollout schedule and considerations about allowing students to bring their own devices.
"Over the long haul, we would hope this would replace the need for school sites to come up with innovative ways to fund," Nichols said.
Nichols said the benefits are that it allows teachers to incorporate digital studies into each subject and testing can be done online. She also said providing the right type of furniture is critical because teachers need to be able to move desks and chairs easily for certain lessons, and some types of furniture use space more efficiently than others.
Board member Chris Grant said since many Pleasanton Unified parents work in Silicon Valley or in the technology sector, they expect their schools to teach critical skills related to computers and innovation.
"Our community is very technologically advanced and we as a district aspire to have kids who can compete anywhere in the world, and part of that is learning in an environment that is conducive to group thinking, to critical thinking skills and to utilizing technology," board member Chris Grant said.
The board didn't make any decisions at its Saturday meeting since the meeting was arranged as a workshop but asked staff to bring back more information at upcoming public meetings.