$57 Million in Measure V Funds Spent So Far on Vacaville Schools
By Susan Winlow
Workers have put down the foundation for a new building at Vaca Pena Middle School in Vacaville. (Christine Baker/Daily Republic)
VACAVILLE - Outside of Vaca Pe–a Middle School, along Keith Way, several huge hunks of cement slab sit inside a temporary square of chainlink fence.
It looks like a dog run in need of repair.
Ordinarily it would probably be a sight that would make principal Kristine Golomb shut her eyes and wince - but not today.
Those chunks of cement represent the progress construction crews are making on the new gym at the Vacaville middle school.
"It's thrilling," Golomb said. "We have only had a multipurpose room for 21 years."
For those 21 years, as the school population swelled, the multipurpose room doubled as lunch room, event venue and a place to hold physical education classes.
"It's been a juggling act," Golomb said, when talking about making room for 1,000 physical education students on a rainy day.
The gym is part of Measure V construction. The $101.3 million bond passed in 2001. In addition to the bond money, the district came up with more than $40 million to complete the needed projects. The projects began in February 2002. Fourteen projects at nine schools - out of about 27 total projects - have been completed.
The renovations ranged from heating, air conditioning, ventilation and electrical upgrades to major improvements at Vacaville High School, including gutting and remodeling the office. Some school classrooms had only two electrical outlets and others didn't have air conditioning. Other projects included new fire alarms, new phone systems, replacing blackboards with whiteboards, new flooring and new lighting.
New lighting made a difference in the poorly lit classrooms of Jepson Middle School, said Leigh Coop, facilities director for Vacaville School District. Additional renovations at all schools brought them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Another completed renovation moved Country High School and other alternative education programs from a collection of portables and trailers in an industrial location to a newly renovated Ulatis Elementary School.
"Now the kids have a real school," Coop said. "The morale is up and attendance is up."
Another five projects, including Vaca Pe–a's gym, are either in progress or will start soon. They include landscaping and paving at Padan and Sierra Vista elementary schools, renovations at Orchard Elementary School and stadium improvements at Vacaville High School. The new bleachers on the visitors side will hold 1,400 fans. Restrooms, a concession stand and a new visitors side press box will be completed in spring 2007.
The Vaca Pe–a gym is the biggest project under construction now, Coop said. It's one Golomb feared might not be completed.
"We weren't sure when we were going to get it and afraid it wasn't going to happen," she said.
A change in the plans
Initially the bond planned for renovation of all existing schools except Buckingham Charter School and for the construction of a new high school. But Coop said almost immediately after the bond passed district enrollment figures declined.
"So much so in the high school range that it was determined we didn't need a new high school," she said. "That's a huge change."
District enrollment begin its decline in 2001, Coop said. It became apparent the district should tell the community another high school wasn't needed.
"We can't go out and continue planning for something that might not be needed," she said. "We didn't want to build a high school and then not be able to fill it up."
Add in the rise in construction costs - from an average of 4 percent to 25 percent in 2004 - and the district nixed the proposed high school.
So what to do with $36 million earmarked for that project? The district held about 50 community meetings over a five-month period and the final decision allotted $12 million to cover inflation on already planned projects, another $18 million to Will C. Wood, $2.7 million to Vacaville High School's Zunino Stadium and an additional $4 million to Vaca Pe–a.
Upgrading Wood High
Not too far from Vaca Pe–a is Will C. Wood High School. Principal Chris Strong, despite the fact he already rues the lack of curb appeal of his school, might wish those cement chunks sat in front of his school. He, along with staff, students and parents, eagerly wait for the April start of construction of the lower athletic field.
"I am very excited and so is the school community," said Strong, a 16-year veteran of the school. "One of the things you notice is the appearance of the lower field."
"It will certainly enhance the appearance of the school," he added.
"It doesn't present itself well to people driving by on Peabody Road," she said.
The lower field, which sits in a bowl, consists of a decomposed granite track, which resembles light colored dirt, and lots of grass. In the shape it's in, the aged track isn't worth much to the school - Coop said there is no track and field equipment at the school so the track team holds meets exclusively at Vacaville High School and some athletes, such as hurdlers and long jumpers, also practice at Vacaville High School. Some runners practice at Wood.
The football teams practice at Wood, but play at Vacaville High School.
When the lower field is completed in the fall, it will include a marquee sign on the corner of Peabody and Marshall Roads, bleachers seating 400 and, a new track and new turf - either natural or synthetic.
Completion also means the track team will practice and compete at Will C. Wood, the freshman football team will have a home and the soccer team will also play on the lower field. Varsity and junior varsity football will continue to practice at Wood and play at Vacaville High School.
And the school will look better.
"That has been a priority of the (school) staff for many years," Coop said. "(The staff) wants to work in a school that looks completed and has a good facade."
Also on tap for Will C. Wood is a new two-story science building with an elevator that will include 16 science labs and classrooms. It will be built in front of the school so it will change the current look and be another morale boost, Coop said.
All the classroom interiors will be renovated, the old science building will be gutted to create new classrooms and the office, which is now in the center of the campus, will be moved up front.
What to do with Fairmont
The last major project in the works will be Fairmont Elementary School, which was built in 1968. Construction costs would be $14 million to either renovate or build a new school but now the district has only $7 million.
The district plans to build a new school on the 12-acre site in stages. The $7 million will complete 12 classrooms with restrooms and do the ADA work to bring the school compliant.
The site is big enough to begin building without tearing buildings down, Coop said.
Before Measure V the last time a school bond passed in Vacaville was in 1978. When the district hired Coop in 1995 her job was to create a facilities department and figure out how to pass a bond, she said.
The target completion date for all projects is 2009, which is three years earlier than originally planned. The facilities department pushed the projects up due to the huge rise in inflation, Coop said.
Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEASURE V PROJECTS
Completed projects from Vacaville's Measure V:
Alamo Elementary School: Started February 2002; completed fall 2003; cost, $4.1 million
Ulatis Elementary School: Started February 2002; completed fall 2003; cost, $2 million
Jepson Middle School: Started February 2002; completed fall 2003; cost, $8 million
Vacaville High School: Started February 2002; completed fall 2004; cost, $16.2 million
Hemlock Elementary School: Started May 2004; completed June 2005; cost, $4.3 million
Markham Elementary School: Started July 2003; completed June 2005; cost, $7.1 million
Padan Elementary School: Started May 2004; completed January 2006; cost, $7.3 million
Sierra Vista Elementary School: Started May 2004; completed February 2006; cost, $5.1 million
Markham: Started November 2005; completed June 2006; cost, $324,274
Hemlock: Started November 2005; completed June 2006; cost, $85,170
Jepson: Started November 2005; completed June 2006; cost, $257,593
Ulatis AEC: started November 2005; completed June 2006; cost, $183,830
Ulatis Alternative Education Center construction: Started May 2004; completed January 2005; cost, $2.8 million
Vacaville High School painting: Started April 2006; completed August 2006; cost, $370,069
Orchard Elementary School: Started January 2007; completion fall 2007; cost, $3.2 million
Padan: Started October 2006; completion summer 2007; cost, $368,758
Sierra Vista: Started October 2006; completion spring 2007; cost, $356,835
Zunino Stadium improvements: Started December 2006; completion spring 2007; cost, $2.6 million
Vaca Pe–a gym: Started October 2006; completion fall 2007; cost, $4.6 million
Browns Valley Elementary School: Starts April 2007; completion fall 2007; cost, $1.5 million
Callison Elementary School: Starts March 2007; completion fall 2007; cost, $1.4 million
Cooper Elementary School: Starts April 2007; completion fall 2007; cost, $1.7 million
Vaca Pena Middle School: Starts spring 2007; completed summer 2008; cost, $5.3 million
Will C. Wood: Starts fall 2007; completion fall 2009; cost, $15 million
Will C. Wood High School lower athletic field: Starts April 2007; completion fall 2007; cost, $2.9 million
Will C. Wood science building: Starts November 2007; completion fall 2008; cost, $17.3 million
Fairmont Elementary School Phase 1: Starts summer 2008; completion fall 2009; cost, $7.3 million
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