ARNOLD – Due to unforeseen expenses associated with its campus improvement projects, the Vallecito Union School District (VUSD) Board of Trustees is asking voters to approve a new bond measure this fall.

At a meeting on June 24, the VUSD board unanimously voted to place a $2.8 million general obligation bond on the November ballot in order to complete ongoing renovations at Albert Michelson Elementary, Hazel Fischer Elementary and Avery Middle schools.

The projects began in mid-May with funds from Measure E, an $11 million bond approved by 66% of voters in November of 2018.

“The elementary school renovations were extensive in scope, including new roofs and heating and air-conditioning systems, removal of the diesel tanks and boilers, removal of asbestos in the multipurpose room ceilings and flooring, and installation of new flooring material in the gyms,” a VUSD press release states. “The State Department of Architect required extensive improvements to the aging buildings related to disability access and other required upgrades to meet codes.”

Once the projects got underway, unforeseen expenses became apparent.

“As with any construction project, once you open up aging building walls you never quite know what you’re going to find,” Superintendent Jim Frost said in the press release. “While the buildings have been cosmetically maintained very well over the years, there were structural issues such as rotting roof trusses, termite damage, and the expensive asbestos removal which absorbed additional funds from the budget.”

In order to complete the projects, “[t]he board felt that it was important to return to the voters and ask for their support in authorizing a small bond to complete the refurbishment work, including the installation of the artificial track and field at Avery Middle School, which was put on hold to remain in budget parameters within the elementary scope of work,” Frost said.

The track and field replacement is expected to cost $1.8 million, which includes required disability access upgrades. A heating and air-conditioning replacement project for the gym and upgrades to the air and heat system for the library at Avery Middle School were already completed in June, Frost said.

“We are very pleased with the architectural firm, Teter, and the general contractor, C.T. Brayton, as they work with the VUSD team continuously to look at ways to maximize savings on the project. We’ve also had local vendors involved as much as possible, which is great for the community,” Frost said. “The additional bond will be less than $6 annually per household for every $100,000 of assessed value. The track and field is an integral part of the middle school program and is also used extensively by the community.”

Retiring Avery Middle School teacher Ed Martin was one of several who worked to raise funds for the original track. At a board meeting on June 6, the VUSD Board honored Martin with a plaque dedicating the track to his 30-plus years of service to the district.

“It is only fitting to honor Ed for his years of service,” Frost said. “We are hopeful that the new track will be installed by the spring sport season and continue his legacy of sportsmanship and achievement for the next generation of students.”

When the schools transitioned to distance learning in March, the construction schedule for the projects ramped up, as more progress could be made without the logistical issue of having students on site.

“We appreciated the flexibility of the staff as we prepared for this extensive renovation of infrastructure systems,” Frost said. “It was stressful to ask staff to participate in yet another change as they were also navigating the challenges of delivering a quality online learning program – but all hands on deck jumped in and got it done.”

Pending no surprises, most of the work at the elementary school sites is expected to be completed before students return in the fall, though some finish work will be ongoing, the press release states.

“The general contractor is well-versed in these large school construction projects and ensures a safe operating environment,” Frost said. “We look forward to celebrating the completion of these projects and inviting residents in to see how their investment will be serving the children of the community.”

Frost said he is holding a series of meetings with parents and staff to discuss reopening protocols.

“It is our intention to deliver in-person instruction to our students beginning the first day of school,” Frost said. “Of course, we take our staff and student safety as a top priority, and we will ensure that we have reasonable measures in place to address the valid concerns of COVID-19. It is important that all stakeholders have an opportunity to discuss their viewpoints and help shape the vision of the district in the reopening.”

Arlene McNaul is one of several locals employed on the projects. Working as an apprentice carpenter for C.T. Brayton, she is currently renovating classrooms at Michelson Elementary School, where her daughter, Tatum Miller, will attend as a kindergartener in the fall.

“I am excited to show my daughter what I do for work, and it is great to work on her new school’s construction,” McNaul said.

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