A special meeting Friday on how to spend the remaining $170 million in Fresno Unified’s Measure X construction bonds didn’t produce action on a single project.
Instead, the trustees voiced their thoughts on funding priorities for nearly three hours.
Asked what was accomplished, trustee Elizabeth Jonasson Rosas answered, “Very little.”
Apparent Support for Special Ed, Safety Upgrades
But a majority of the seven-member board indicated to Superintendent Bob Nelson and his staff strong support for improving special education facilities and campus safety district-wide. Also garnering strong support was installing air conditioning in cafeterias and other areas now served by evaporative coolers.
With the trustees facing tough choices, there was a brief discussion about future bond measures. Nelson said that the district, with voter approval, could add about $100 million in new bonds without raising taxes in 2020. He cautioned against putting such a bond on the ballot, however, saying a smarter choice would be to wait until 2022.
Nelson prefaced the meeting by saying he hoped when the final choices are made “everybody comes away from the table with a win.”
He also cautioned that “inflation is eroding our (bond) dollars.”
New Elementary School for Southeast
The big-ticket item on the Measure X list is a new elementary school in southeast Fresno. The district already has a name for the school — Juan Felipe Herrera, honoring the Fowler native and Fresno resident who was U.S. Poet Laureate 2015-2017.
The Fresno Bee published a letter to the editor Friday from Herrera.
“Here, we have an opportunity to consider the Sunnyside region in this manner — tough working families, participants of a hard-to-realize vision — they ran out of their houses and cast their 71.6% ballot.
“Let us fully fund their school, for Fresno, for the Valley.”
The district already has designated nearly $2 million in Measure X bonds for planning and designing the $44 million school, but board approval is needed to move the project forward.
The elementary school, which would relieve overcrowding in the region, most notably at Storey Elementary, is twinned with another proposed project on a large chunk of land that the district owns. Under the scenario envisioned by Nelson, a new campus will be built for the Phoenix Secondary Academy at a cost of $12.9 million.
Second Gyms for Edison, Fresno, McLane, and Roosevelt?
Adding second gyms at Edison, Fresno, McLane and Roosevelt high schools also was discussed at length, with Jonason Rosas saying that special education facilities such as improved classrooms and more accessible restrooms were more important. Trustee Valerie Davis said that the district focus should be on construction that supports academics.
But trustee Carol Mills advocated for gym construction, noting that auxiliary gyms are used for many other activities besides athletics. Fresno High representatives also spoke about their athletic teams practicing at middle schools because of the gym’s heavy use. Their teams suffer a competitive disadvantage, they said.
Board President Claudia Cazares said she favored the gyms: “It’s not an amenity, but a need, at our schools.”
Voters approved the $225 million Measure X in November 2016.