"Outdated and in some cases obsolete."
That's how Pleasanton Unified School District Superintendent Rick Rubino summed up the state of the facilities that serve approximately 15,000 students and hundreds of teachers and staff.
It's the conclusion reached by district officials years ago that prompted research into local schools' infrastructure needs and how they could be addressed. Years of consideration culminated with the school board's unanimous vote in July to place a $270 million facilities bond measure on the ballot for the Nov. 8 General Election.
That initiative is Measure I1, also known as the "Pleasanton Unified School District School and Classroom Safety, Renovation, Construction and Modernization Measure," and it's asking voters this central question:
"To repair and upgrade aging classrooms and facilities at local schools; provide 21st century learning technology and facilities; improve school safety and security; update science labs; improve energy and water efficiency; renovate, construct, and acquire classrooms, equipment and facilities, and construct a new elementary school, shall Pleasanton Unified School District issue $270,000,000 in bonds, at legal rates, with independent citizen oversight, annual audits, all funds used for local schools, and no money used for administrators' salaries?"
If more than 55% of Pleasanton residents who vote on the measure check "yes," the bond measure will pass, imposing a new tax of $49 per $100,000 of assessed value on Pleasanton property owners.
For example, a family that owns a home with an assessed value of $500,000 would pay an additional $245 in taxes each year. A property with an assessed value of $800,000 would see $392 in taxes each year resulting from Measure I1. Senior citizens would not be exempt from the tax.
If Measure I1 succeeds and all the bonds are issued and sold, the current best estimate is it would cost the district $540.5 million to repay the bond debt, according to the ballot measure.
With the tax rate determined, the school board whittled down a list of possible projects to fit within the $270 million in revenue that such a bond is expected to generate.
The projects fall into four categories: modernizations and new infrastructure at a cost of $139 million; safety and security with a roughly $29 million allocation; creating 21st century learning environments including new science and technology facilities for $97.8 million; and energy and water improvements that would cost $10 million.
Projects range from the installation of site fencing and video cameras at all schools to modernizing Lydiksen Elementary School to the construction of a new elementary school on a site to be determined.
While the board's final approved project list contains budgeted amounts up to $270 million, the ballot measure itself does not include cost estimates. It states that the final cost of each project will be determined "as plans are finalized, construction contracts are awarded, and projects are completed."
It also notes that the school board cannot guarantee the bond will generate enough money to complete all listed projects. Regardless of funding availability, inclusion of a project on the list is not a guarantee that it will be completed, but only projects on the list could be funded by Measure I1 revenue.
As of June 30, the district reported it had an estimated $5.7 million available for projects, most of which comes from developer fees.
It's been 20 years since Pleasanton voters passed Measure B, the last school bond, which generated $70 million for facilities improvements. Roughly $42 million in outstanding general obligation bond debt remains from that measure. That debt will be completely paid off in 2023, according to the district.
In the two decades between the two Pleasanton bond measures, neighboring school districts have seen funding come in from multiple bond initiatives.
Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District voters have passed three school bonds in the last 20 years, as have San Ramon Valley Unified voters. Dublin Unified has seen two such measures pass. During the June election, Livermore passed a $245 million bond with 67% voter approval and Dublin passed a $283 million bond with 60% approval.
That fact plays into Rubino's rationale about the need for bond funding. Pleasanton school facilities and infrastructure in their current state are not meeting the needs of students and teachers, Rubino said, putting youth at risk of not being able to compete adequately in the workforce.
"It's clear if the bond doesn't pass, our students are not going to have a competitive advantage," Rubino said. "They're not going to have the tools they need to prepare for college and careers in the 21st century."
That concern is part of what's driving proponents into action.
The ballot argument in support of Measure I1, authored by five local residents, encourages voters to "keep Pleasanton schools among the best." A Yes on I1 campaign has also been launched with a Facebook page and a website that includes a frequently asked questions page and links for volunteering and donating. PUSD employees can participate in the campaign, but not during work hours and not using district resources.
No ballot statement was submitted in opposition of Measure I1.
While bond proponents schedule precinct walking and phone banking, district officials are doing what they can to educate voters about the need. Next month, they will start giving school tours to interested community members who will learn about the current conditions of schools, items on the bond project list and taxpayer information.
District officials took this reporter on a tour of Amador Valley High, Lydiksen Elementary and Pleasanton Middle schools to demonstrate some of the changes that would be made with bond funding.
Administrators pointed out an array of what they say are necessary improvements, some of which the schools shared in common, such as replacing heating and air conditioning systems from the 1980s and modernizing science labs.
There are also signs of aging and disrepair evident in the nooks and crannies of campuses, from dry rot outside the kindergarten pod at Lydiksen to water intrusion at Pleasanton Middle.
One of the marquee items on the bond project list is the proposal to demolish Lydiksen's pods, the five circular buildings on campus that house the school's classrooms, office and library. In their place would go a two-story structure, as outlined in the district's facilities master plan.
The estimated $30 million overhaul would free up more playground space and lead to a better learning environment, according to Jacob Berg, Lydiksen's principal.
"It would be quite drastic for Lydiksen," Berg said.
Pleasanton teachers and school administrators say the current facilities inhibit them in a number of ways. The Lydiksen pod classrooms, for example, are pie-shaped, meaning one end is significantly narrower than the other. That makes furniture configuration tricky, according to Berg.
The Lydiksen classrooms also have limited storage and thin walls, so students can get distracted by a noisier classroom next door, said Kylene Calvo, a fourth-grade teacher at Lydiksen.
"(The space) is very limited," Calvo said. "My kids either have their desks or they're on the floor."
For science teachers at Pleasanton Middle School, living with the current facilities has meant making do.
Andy Su, who teaches sixth- and eighth-graders, uses water pitchers and buckets for students' experiments because his classroom lacks sinks. Jad Gaytan, an eighth-grade science teacher, eliminated an experiment from her curriculum because it requires the use of gas and her classroom has dealt with leaks in the past.
These problems, Rubino said, will not remain stagnant if the bond fails. There are no alternative funding sources identified aside from Proposition 51, the $9 billion public school facilities bond on the California ballot this fall. PUSD would have to provide matching funds to qualify for state assistance should Prop 51 pass, according to Rubino.
"We would continue to decline, and all the effects of a deteriorating school and the absence of a 21st century education for our students are bound to have a negative impact," he said. "Our wonderful teachers, staff and parents do the best they can to provide for our children, but we are now in a desperate time."
For more information on Measure I1, visit the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office website at acgov.org/rov or the PUSD website at pleasantonusd.net.
Board-approved bond project list
Safety and security: $29 million
* Upgrade fire alarm systems at all schools for consistency and student safety: $7,647,500
* Install site fencing at all schools: $6,181,250
* Install video cameras in main areas at all schools: $2,250,000
* Implement VOIP phones, bells, clocks, and intercom/all-call: $4,609,200
* Install exterior lighting upgrades: $1,900,000
* Upgrade security system and door key/locks: $6,468,750
21st century learning environments including new science and technology facilities: $97.8 million
* Upgrade electrical service/infrastructure district-wide: $12,937,500
* Upgrade HVAC district-wide: $22,500,000
* Provide classroom technology district-wide (1:1, classroom audio visual): $15,000,000
* Middle school science labs: $17,388,000
* High school science labs: $16,560,000
* Replace and upgrade district wired network, MDF and IDF closets: $13,394,625
Energy and water efficiencies: $10 million
* Install solar structures: $7,000,000
* Install water efficient toilets and fountains (including new hydration stations), plumbing and sewer system upgrade, install isolation valves: $3,000,000
Modernizations, renovations, replacements of existing facilities, former leases: $139.3 million
* Remove temporary portables and build a new school: $35,000,000
* Roofing replacement/repairs to address years of ongoing roof leaks: $8,041,950
* Build, modernize, and upgrade existing school buildings and classrooms or replace portables, including FF&E: $81,000,000
* Build new classrooms and facilities at Lydiksen Elementary School to replace removed circular buildings: $30,000,000
* Payoff certificates of participation: $15,247,527
* Note: The Pleasanton school board approved a final bond project list in July. Project costs are estimates, and inclusion on the list is not a guarantee the project will be completed, regardless of available funding.