School board weighs whether to spread bond payments, speed construction

By JAMES R. RIFFEL

City News Service

San Diego Unified's board was presented today with a plan that school district officials hope will give them a bigger bang for their Proposition S construction bond bucks, and help them accelerate their schedule of projects.

Voters passed the bond measure in 2008 to pay for physical upgrades to aging and deteriorating campuses, with the idea that bonds would be sold with 25-year maturities.

The plan introduced at a special board meeting calls for extending the maturity date to 40 years. District officials say that would give them more money upfront to take advantage of what Stuart Markey, the SDUSD's facilities

planning and construction director, called "an unprecedented low cost of construction."

However, overall debt service on the $2.1 billion in bonds would raise by $3.6 million — to $12.2 billion.

Board member Katherine Nakamura likened the change to taking out a 30-year mortgage on a house, instead of a 15-year mortgage. There will also be an option to refinance the debt at a later date.

Trustee Shelia Jackson said the board is under community pressure to ratchet up the pace of construction.

The new financing arrangement will allow modernization projects at most district high schools to begin a year or two earlier than planned.

Upcoming projects will bring some crucial decisions for the board:

• Scripps Ranch High School is in desperate need of air-conditioning, but Markey said there is no sense in making such an upgrade separate from and before an already planned full modernization of the campus.

• Air-conditioning infrastructure was included at Scripps Ranch and several other campuses, but the system was never completed. Temperatures often rise above 90 degrees in classrooms, and on a day of record heat last month,

about 100 students and one staff member were sent home because of heat-related llness.

"It's just inhumane," Nakamura said.

• Whether to change Millennial Tech Middle School in Chollas View from a districtwide magnet school to a mostly neighborhood campus, since no current middle school feeds directly into nearby Lincoln High School. The rebuilt

Lincoln campus was filled to capacity when it reopened several years ago, but now has 400 fewer students than it can hold.

• Whether to build two projects with Proposition S money that were not included in ballot information before voters, including a new building for the Academy of Business and Technology at Clairemont High School and production

studios at Patrick Henry High School.

Markey said 37 campus modernization projects are under way and 37 will begin design work later this year.

The board is expected to vote on the new financing plan and the latest construction schedule at its Nov. 2 meeting.

   
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