Faced with aging classrooms, overcrowded high schools and the need to bring school buildings up to earthquake standards, the Long Beach Unified School District Board of Education on Monday voted 4-0 to place a $1.2 billion school construction and renovation bond measure on the November 4, 2008 ballot.
If approved by 55 percent of the district’s voters, the bonds will allow the school district to qualify for as much as $286 million in matching funds for renovation and construction.
“We cannot wait any longer,” said Christopher J. Steinhauser, superintendent of schools. “The need is so great. After decades of inadequate state funding for school construction and renovation, California has only postponed the inevitable. Many of our schools are deteriorating physically and are in need of urgent repairs. We now face a critical challenge that will affect generations to come. We must provide our children the safe, modern schools that they deserve.”
Proceeds from the bond, with matching funds from the state, will be used to retrofit schools for earthquake safety and handicap accessibility. Funds also will go toward: repairing restrooms, plumbing, roofs and fire safety systems; removing lead paint and asbestos; upgrading vocational classrooms and technology; improving energy efficiency; expanding supervised after-school programs; and reducing overcrowding through new construction and renovation.
The school board’s vote, with board member Michael Ellis absent, comes after 11 months of planning that included the most comprehensive facilities study ever undertaken by the school district. The study revealed that major renovations are needed at 38 percent of schools, and moderate renovations at 36 percent. Eighty percent of the school district’s buildings were constructed before 1970.
With the input of hundreds of community members, students, teachers and other district staff, the school district developed a Facility Master Plan that includes recommended projects. The plan was developed after 200 meetings involving 14 committees and thousands of community surveys.
The entire Facility Master Plan is available at www.lbschools.net, as is the Board of Education’s formal resolution calling for the election. The resolution contains further details on high priority projects, and it calls for allocating bond proceeds so that each of the communities served by the school district – including Long Beach, Signal Hill, Lakewood and Catalina Island – obtains its fair share.