Schools seek support |

Schools seek support

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunGustavo Cabrera takes a pawn from Kyle Jorgenson inside the Alder Creek Middle School library Friday. The middle school was built using funds from the school district's last bond measure, Measure C.

In June, Truckee voters will have to decide whether or not to approve a bond that authorizes a property tax in order to raise tens of millions of dollars for local school buildings.

Measure L will pick up where a nine-year-old bond leaves off.

With the $35 million dollar Measure C bond that was approved by Truckee voters in 1999, the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District built a new middle school, and completed several modernization projects within the Truckee area of the district.

The bond also brought the school district $12.1 million in state matching funds for school improvements, according to district Director of Facilities John Britto.

But in recent phone canvassing by the Measure L bond committee, Britto indicated that it seemed many residents were unaware of what the old bond had done.

“One thing that has been a surprise to us as we have gotten feedback is the lack of awareness of what the Measure C bond was all about,” he said.

Before Alder Creek Middle School was completed four years ago, approximately 700 Truckee students crowded into a school built for 300, according to Britto.

Students at the old middle school were so crowded that portions of the hallways had to be designated as one-way only, Britto said, and staggered lunch periods were implemented to avoid overcrowding in the cafeteria.

“It was to the breaking point ” we added as many portables as we could,” he said as he looked out over the new athletic field at Alder Creek, a campus with approximately 28 acres of space for students.

The Tahoe-Truckee district faced some of the same population issues in 1999 as it does now.

Nine years ago the school district’s enrollment was on a slight overall decline, but the Truckee side of the district was on an upward swing. Many of Truckee’s oldest school buildings were near or over capacity, according to past district officials.

“A lot of excellence that exists is hidden behind dilapidated and overcrowded buildings,” former Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Superintendent Pat Gemma, told the Sierra Sun when the Measure C bond passed with more than 68 percent of the votes in March 1999.

At least three of Truckee’s five district schools are 50 years old or older and need updates, according to the district’s Facilities Master Plan.

The district can be divided into two pieces, called “school facility improvement districts,” for the purposes of passing general obligation bonds, Britto said. The same year Truckee voted in its tax assessment, Measure R was passed by lakeside voters, which, with Measure J, passed in 2002, raised the funding that paid for extensive modernizations at North Tahoe Middle and High schools and both lakeside elementary schools, Britto said.

Although the district receives significant funding from contractor’s developer fees, Britto explained those funds could never pay for an entire school.

“It is pretty much the case that if you’re going to build, you need a bond,” he said.

Alder Creek Middle School cost $30 million to build, a bargain in today’s construction costs, Britto said. About $22 million came from the bond, and more than $7 million came from state matching funds, he explained. The school, which opened in the fall of 2004, has since won awards for its “sustainability, architecture, and ‘green’ building,” he said.

“It was exciting to go to Alder Creek Middle School because it was new,” said Truckee freshman Edgar Comenares, 14, who was one of the first to attend the school when it opened. “It made it comfortable to learn ” it made me want to learn.”

With $13 million from the bond remaining, facility personnel went to work on renovations at Truckee Elementary and High schools and the old middle school, Britto said.

The 50-year-old Truckee Elementary School received about $3-4 million from the bond money for modernized classrooms, library and a media center.

Other improvements included a new entry, an 8,000-square-foot addition with a gymnasium and stage and a half-acre synthetic turf field, Britto said.

The improvements were built with the help of state matching funds of $700,000, Britto said.

Truckee High School, one of the district’s oldest structures, opened in fall 1951 and has received “deep modernizations” since 2004, made possible in part by money from the 1999 bond, according to the district’s Project Manager Rob Koster.

A spacious new cafeteria and gymnasium, plus dual-pane windows, flooring, new science labs and sprinklers, have cost $17 million, Koster said. State matching funds of $2.4 million and developer fees helped pay for some of the work, but much of the money came from Measure C.

What’s left?

Nine years later, Britto explained enough money is left over from Measure C to continue modernizations at Truckee High School this summer. Included in the plans are a plaza area between the new cafeteria, gymnasium, and auditorium, a renovation of the auditorium, the replacement of the old remaining single-pane windows and a variety of other improvements, Britto said.

Britto is proud of the accomplishments made possible by Measure C.

“I want people to understand that we got everything done that we set out to do,” Britto said while on a recent tour of Truckee elementary.

As he gestured to the narrow parking area of the decades-old school, he explained that traffic problems, like congestion, arise during pick-up and drop-off times.

And although the funding from Measure C is about to run out, he said many more modernization efforts need to occur to the school buildings in the district.

While taking a break in the glossy new Truckee High School cafeteria, tenth grader Alex Corral, 15, echoed Britto’s thoughts.

“This room makes me feel like Truckee’s improving, but they [should not] forget the classrooms that still really need work,” Corral said.

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