MARTINEZ, Calif. – Alhambra High School students should get the opportunity to learn American Sign Language (ASL), the Martinez Unified School District Board of Education decided Monday.
By unanimous vote, it agreed with Tom Doppe, director of educational services, that the course should be made available to the students.
“This is the initial step. I’d like to see it approved,” he told the Board, explaining that he hopes the course would be available “in this year’s catalog.”
American Sign Language blends hand formations and gestures, facial expressions and in some cases, body postures that can be the primary language of North Americans who are hearing impaired, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
After the meeting, Doppe said learning ASL can be beneficial to all students.
The Modern Language Association agrees, saying ASL is the fourth most studied language in American universities, and up to 2 million use ASL in North America, outnumbering mot other languages except Spanish and English.
Besides communicating with those of the deaf community, those who have learned ASL include firefighters, police officers and others who need a way to communicate when vocal language is not adequate, according to Bernadine Racoma, of Day Translations. a translation service company.
In addition to being a marketable skill, she said, ASL also helps its learners to become better listeners and speakers.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Boardmember Kathi McLaughlin, who also urged the panel to approve Doppe’s request.
Most of the rest of the meeting was taken up with reports and presentations.
Hao Liu, head of products, gave a presentation on his company, Facilitron, which was started by parents who were frustrated when they tried to rent elements of a school campus and would find them in use by others or locked up.
Since its inception, the organization has grown to enable school districts, colleges and other agencies manage and make the most of renting buildings, such as gymnasiums and theaters, pools and athletic fields to individuals or other groups at fair rates.
Liu said Facilitron could help the District compute fair fees to charge for elements on its own campuses that would allow the recovery of operating, program and replacement costs during the time the rented site is in use.
Replacement costs, he said, are based on the current rate for replacing a square foot. In the Bay Area, that’s $650 for a building, $30 for artificial turf and $10 for a square foot of a grass field. Program costs include administration, and operating costs include utilities, custodians, security and maintenance.
Liu said the platform lets potential clients see when buildings and athletic fields are available for renting and provide them with additional information. It lets potential clients see what is available from a single site, he said.
Likewise, schools and universities that use Facilitron learn about potential clients, particularly those who have caused problems, such as causing damage or failing to pay.
In addition, it would assure the District that prospective clients were qualified to rent, such as if the client had the correct liability insurance, Liu said.
Although Facilitron can provide the calculations for determining the costs the District would be allowed to recover, the District itself would set its rates.
“A lot of fees are out of date,” he said about the way most school districts have been charging for campus use.
To start charging a fair rate allowed by state law often is a fiscal leap many districts are unwilling to make in a single step. Instead, they choose to raise their rates in steps, he said. But the information gathered by the company helps districts justify those increase their charges.
“We want to maintain relationships with community partners,” Board President Jonathan Wright said. Still, he said, “I don’t feel we’re charging enough – we’re not charging market rates.”
The District needs to recover the cost of wear and tear on its buildings and athletic fields as well as generate revenue comparable to what neighboring districts are receiving, he said.
Dr. Marilyn Brouette, of the Martinez Education Association, reminded the Board of the $500,000 loan the District obtained from the city of Martinez during the fiscally-challenging times of 2009.
In exchange, the District allowed municipal use of MUSD properties, but she said there was no standardization of charges at that time. She urged the Board to consider ways to make those charges both standard and transparent.
No action was taken after that presentation. Nor was any needed on Assistant Superintendent Helen Rossi’s report on developer fees received and used in Fiscal Year 2017-18.
Those fees are collected for new development and other construction that could lead to an increase in school population, and are deposited in Fund 25.
At the beginning of the fiscal year, the fund had a little more than $1 million and collected an additional $130,000 in fees and interest, she said.
Meanwhile, the District spent more than $367,000 on a school facilities need analysis, placing advertised notices and on Building K at Alhambra High School, leaving a little more than $800,000 in the account, she said.