"We're thrilled that over 57% of the voters in Pleasanton agreed that there were some significant needs at the school sites that they were willing to help fund," PUSD Superintendent David Haglund told the Weekly. "It's nice to have that level of support from the community."
According to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office final election results, Measure I passed with 57.20% (15,710 ballots) voting Yes, and 42.80% (11,757) voting No. The bond measure needed better than 55% of the vote in order to pass.
It is the second bond that Pleasanton voters have approved since 2016, when the $270 million Measure I1 passed that November. PUSD had previously attempted to pass another bond in 2020, but the $323 million Measure M bond fell short with a final tally of 52.40% Yes votes and 47.60% No.
"We had a failed attempt a few years ago at the start of COVID, which was unfortunate, but not surprising, given the state of the economy and the rise of the virus at the time," Haglund said. "So bringing another one back as quickly as we did was a little bit nerve racking for me, but the community came through and we're really pleased."
Measure I will help fund the first tier phase of the district's Facilities Master Plan, which was approved by the school board in June.
It will utilize a tax rate of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value for Pleasanton property owners to fund that first tier round of projects which includes gym and theater constructions at both Amador Valley and Foothill high schools as well as new classrooms at Vintage Hills Elementary.
The second tier of the master plan will focus on deferred maintenance, restructuring of the visual performing arts in high schools, cafeteria and air conditioning and heating equipment.
But before any real design plans for those rebuilds can be drawn up, PUSD assistant superintendent of business services Ahmad Sheikholeslami told the Weekly that having an implementation plan is crucial to make sure the bond goals are met with fidelity.
He said the district has already begun looking into and interviewing different design firms that specialize in creating these types of implementation plans.
"We're excited to be bringing forward to the (Board of Trustees) a contract on the 19th and selection of a firm that will help us put that plan together," Sheikholeslami said. "That will probably be about a three- to four-month process in which we work on a lot of the details." (The outcome of this week's school board meeting occurred after the Weekly went to press.)
Some of those details include verifying the total estimates for the construction projects, refining the scope of work and phasing for those projects, building budget plans, analyzing cash flow and putting together a program management plan.
"Obviously we'll see the board's approval of (the implementation plan), but it will also help us with the timing of the bond sale, which we anticipate will be in the late spring, early summer timeframe," Sheikholeslami said.
But after the bond sale, the district will have a lot more work to do before any real construction can begin. Especially for the big gym and theater rebuild projects.
"These projects are marquee. They take somewhere from six to eight months to design ... another six to eight months for (Division of the State Architect inspectors) to review and approve them and then you've got construction that could take one to two years, depending on these projects," Sheikholeslami said.
He added that the district also has to take into account that these are active school sites, which means that they will have to figure out where to temporarily move these programs while construction is underway.
But Haglund said that even though it will take a long time to get to the construction phase, it's important that the district takes its time in gathering community and stakeholder input so that these projects can reflect what the students and residents want to see.
Sheikholeslami added that while the site planning process and getting the input will extend the timeline, it's important to get that input.
"It would be somewhat easy for the district to push forward plans that we design in a bubble, but that's not what the community deserves," Haglund said. "When Ahmad is talking about the community engagement process, that really is because we have a desire to have the community participate in the design phases of this, (but) that will make it take a bit longer."
However, Sheikholeslami did mention that there will be some "quick-start" projects, which will be prioritized for construction before those marquee projects. These quick-start projects include moving the long-running Horizon Early Education Center and STEAM Preschool program to Harvest Park Middle School and replacing all of the middle schools in Pleasanton with artificial turf.
"Those are kind of lower-hanging fruits that we could package up so that we know what the scope (of work) is going to be," Sheikholeslami said. "We really need to get them into a new good space and so those are the projects that we probably can kind of quick start as we allow some of the planning work right now to go forward."
He added that the Horizon and STEAM programs are being moved to Harvest Park because the current facilities which they operate from are outdated and aging and the middle school already has a preschool program operating from there.
"That was where we had recently built the all-purpose or inclusionary type of playground for them and so it really makes sense to kind of create a hub in that location with all our programs so they could take advantage of the playground space and really build a great program," Sheikholeslami said.
But throughout the Measure I election cycle, many residents went on to comment on several online forums criticizing the district saying that they don't trust the district will appropriately handle the bond dollars. Many referenced information from the Vote No on I campaign which stated that the district did not do well in managing the previous bond because they did not deliver on building a new elementary school that was promised in 2016's Measure I1.
Both Haglund and Sheikholeslami said the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, which looks for any potential misallocation of dollars on any of the related bond projects and an auditing process that goes on related to the bond, all showed no misappropriation of funds.
"Every single time since we had the Measure I1 dollars allocated, we've received a clean audit," Haglund said.
He added that the group of people alleging these misappropriations are, "a very small group of the same people that keep saying the same things over and over again and they're not basing their opinions on the facts, including the audits and the role of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee."
"There are times when you have to pay attention to legitimate trust issues because of an issue that occurred, and you have rebuilding of trust that you have to do within the community," Haglund said. "But there are also times when people shout about trust issues that are unfounded."
Sheikholeslami also pointed out that the district estimated about $7 million of savings from Measure I1 funds that will go toward furthering PUSD projects.
"(Sheikholeslami) talked about furthering the projects but that was because the funds were managed well and so if it were mismanaged, you would see over expenditures that's been occurring in other districts nearby, where promises are made and budgets are not kept," Haglund said
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