Village High culinary building proposal put on hold

District abandons project after funding, bidding issues

With the new school year getting underway in Pleasanton on Monday, many families can expect to hear about the $270 million bond measure on the November ballot and the list of facilities improvements it could fund.

But there are likely some students, parents and staff district-wide disappointed that one proposal up for consideration looks unlikely to proceed anytime soon.

Among the items that didn't make the final school board-approved bond project list was a new multipurpose building at Village High School for district-wide culinary classes.

The school district offers culinary arts classes for middle and high school students as part of a career pathway program that also offers study in business, health and bioscience and engineering. Village High has hosted its own catering business with students from the culinary program cooking up food for local businesses, community groups and the school district.

In the wake of the school board's decision to formally nix the project late last month, school district spokesman Patrick Gannon said in an email Wednesday that the district remains proud of and committed to the Village High's culinary arts program.

"The program provides students with valuable vocational experience and instills professional skills such as collaboration and accountability," Gannon wrote. "We will continue working to build on this outstanding program."

The proposed culinary arts building had state backing in the form of a years-old grant.

In 2008, the district applied for and received approval for a state career technical education grant for the project. Four years later, the district received the $2.4 million in state bond funds. The grant required matching funds from the district, but no funding opportunities were identified.

In February, administrators updated the school board about the status of the project and indicated that the district needed to enter a contract for construction by July 12 with matching funds provided in order to be able to use the grant money.

Recognizing the approaching deadline, the board approved a funding plan for securing the matching amount needed for the multipurpose building in March. It agreed to commit $3.4 million from a successful bond measure toward the project, with initial funding coming from the district's sale of property known as the Sycamore fund.

PUSD would reimburse that fund using bond dollars, and no construction would start until after the November election, under that proposal.

The district opened eight bids on June 23 and initially thought the low bidder had submitted a responsive bid. But on closer examination, administrators noticed that every bidder included at least one subcontractor that hadn't been prequalified in time a requirement because of the cost and use of state funding.

PUSD officials deemed all submitted bids non-responsive as a result and could not recommend the award of the bid to any of the applicants. With the July 12 deadline from the state, there was insufficient time to re-bid.

At its July 7 meeting, the school board discussed the district's options. It heard from administration that appealing to the state for a time extension to re-bid the project would likely be a lengthy process with associated legal fees. An alternative scenario would entail rushed negotiations with a contractor that could result in disadvantageous contract terms and prices for PUSD.

In the end, the school board directed administrators to return the state career technical education funds and advised them not to appeal the matter. At its July 30 meeting, the board formally rejected all bids for the building and approved a final bond project list that had nixed the $6.7 million proposal.

School board Jamie Hintzke said it was disappointing to have to return the state funding, as she said Village High does need the new facility. However, she said there was not much the board could do. An alternative funding source would have to be identified for the project to move forward.

"It's very disappointing we had to give back the money because past administration didn't do good planning and discussion about how we could be getting matching funding," she said, adding that the board wasn't made aware of the looming deadline until last school year.

She added that the district's culinary program is a valuable asset for students.

"We have a very robust culinary program that has really helped a lot of kids at Village find something they can be passionate about," Hintzke said.

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10 people like this
Posted by Parent of Student
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:04 am

As a parent of a Student there I can tell you that school and the grounds are a total disaster and the School District should be ashamed of themselves. Just because there are struggling students there does not mean that they should go to school everyday looking at a Junk Hole. The should be proud of their school. Pleasanton? Please go walk around those school grounds and see for yourself. Shameful for our City.

1 person likes this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:19 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

I'm sorry, Parent, but the proposal for the gym/kitchen wouldn't have fixed the grounds or classrooms. And the district needs to do some long-term planning for the entire Bernal site. I think Village has an amazing program for students needing a different learning approach, smaller campus, or to resolve a variety of issues. Rich Puppione used to have a wall of photos his graduates sent him over the years of their successes. It is a school that deserves a learning environment "worthy of our students' promise."* The bond is the first step in bringing all our campuses up to that ideal. (*Borrowed from a superintendent I know.)

6 people like this
Posted by Long Time Local
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2016 at 10:38 am

This is such a shame as the culinary world is of interest to many students who would not, do not particularly do well in typical school academics. Our PUSD (including board) has AGAIN failed when it comes to our students.

3 people like this
Posted by local
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Aug 11, 2016 at 11:34 am

That whole property is really a mess and under-utilized. There are the district offices, Village, Horizon, and the upper Bernal Fields (which is actually owned by the school district). The new multi-purpose room that this is about would be a band-aid and that money could be better spend at that facility. The culinary program has some fairly new commercial cooking facilities. I would rather see a technical area for technology/IT for our students. the culinary program is good but honestly it is really a program to build discipline, teamwork, etc. Great life skills but not sure how many of them go onto a career in culinary (especially one that allows them to to make enough money to be independent). Having the money of a MP room go towards career training for technology, networking, Databases, IT, will be much better job training for our kid's future. I am sure there are some local tech companies we could partner up with. We need to be thinking about career skills for the next generation.

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