MUSD wants site committees to refine plans for Measure R projects at elementary schools

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Martinez Unified School District Board of Education thought having a site committee worked so well in designing the new John Muir Elementary School campus, it decided Monday that the other three elementary schools should have similar groups to weigh in on their upcoming Measure R improvement projects.

The John Muir Elementary committee radically changed the original proposals for that school’s campus. The panel had teachers, parents, Board trustees and other members of the public among its members.

The first $30 million in bonds were sold previously, and the second round have been sold recently, Assistant District Superintendent Helen Rossi said.

The biggest project is the complete replacement of John Muir Elementary School, a $38.8 million project. Other projects, primarily at the other three elementary schools, are not as extensive.

Among those to be started soon are a remodeling of the boys and girls gym lockers and a maker space at Martinez Junior High School. In fact, the Board agreed Monday to buy new lockers through a government contract in order to get the work started sooner.

At Rossi’s recommendation, the Board trimmed the original budget from more than $5.8 million to $2 million in Measure R funds. Money from other funds is available to complete the work, she said. This frees more Measure R money for other projects. The Board approved this change as well.

Las Juntas Elementary School’s remodeling is a $30 million project; John Swett Elementary’s is expected to cost $25.4 million.

Morello Park Elementary School’s remodeling has been divided into two phases, since the bonds also are sold in phases. Phase I work is expected to cost nearly $10.8 million, and Phase 2 is a $7.2 million project.

Project management is expected to cost $2.25 million, furniture is budgeted at $195,000 and a reserve of $2.1 million will be set aside for contingencies.

All the projects should be wrapped up by 2024.

The Board authorized its staff to spend up to $20,000 to prepare a donated lot of land for sale. The property is in Briones Valley.

At an earlier meeting, Board members questioned whether several recommended tests should be run on the lot, although some of it is considered flood plane.

Robert Wong of Aliquot and Associates and Larry Lippow of Lippow Development Company suggested that those examinations of the property would give potential buyers information they likely would want and to provide them assurances they wouldn’t experience surprises.

Otherwise, the school district might get involved in lengthy negotiations with those who would want the sale contingent on approvals of such documents as Fish and Wildlife and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submittals, flood plain tests, topographical surveys and a certificate of compliance issued by Contra Costa County.

The panel approved the Contra Costa Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA), a part of a mandated updating process.

The changes include addition of a definition section to assure terms are used consistently; identification of Office for Civil Rights, California Department of Education and Office of Administrative Hearings complaints; identification of which agency counsel would be retained and paid to defend a complaint; and addition of a mandatory dispute resolution process to help resolve disputes more easily when they involve SELPA members as well as other clarifications for legal purposes.

No decision was made on the District-owned property at 3455 Alhambra Ave., where a Wendy’s Restaurant until it closed this month.

Boardmember John Fuller read 20 emails from Alhambra High School students, most of whom objected to trapezoid-shaped desks that can be arranged in circles for cooperative assignments, but which some teachers have said don’t work as well if used in traditional classroom rows.

The students said the desks aren’t large enough to accommodate their learning materials. Fewer objected to their chairs, although they said hangers on which they’re expected to hang their backpacks aren’t up to the task. Instead, the backpacks go on the floor.

Fuller said one teacher managed to trade his set of those desks for enough conventional desks for his classroom. He said while students responded to his request for their comments, few thought their emails would change anything.

Student representative Fatima Lizarde supported Fuller’s and the students’ statements, adding that those attending Alhambra High School don’t believe they’re heard by the Board.

But other Boardmembers pointed out they had just cut $500,000 from the current budget, costing several para professionals and a clerk typist their jobs.

Several said that they had not heard complaints about the desks until Fuller had mentioned it, and Clerk Jonathan Wright reminded the panel that their emails are available on the District’s website.

While Fuller favored organizing a subcommittee representing the District, students and teachers, others expressed their concern for District finances, saying they didn’t want to raise hopes the furniture would be replaced if there was no money to make the purchases.

Still, Fuller didn’t want the subject to be dropped entirely, and Board President Deidre Siguenza promised that the Board would take up the issue at a future meeting.

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