CUSD to issue $30 million, jump into bond projects

Last Thursday’s school board meeting focused largely on swift and positive developments with regards to Measure G, the $58 million general obligation bond passed by voters in November of 2016.

The Claremont Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously at their April 20 gathering to enter into contracts with three architectural firms for three key bond projects.

The contract for the pool and locker room renovations at El Roble Intermediate and Claremont High School has been awarded to Ziemba and Prieto Architects. Once they’ve completed the design, the district will go to bid, seeking a contractor to undertake the projects.

The pool at El Roble has been unusable and closed for a few years. The CHS pool is currently up and running, thanks to the recent purchase of a heater. Its condition has been deteriorating for years, however.

When Measure G was first being shaped, only the El Roble pool fix was included on the list of potential projects. When Superintendent Jim Elsasser and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Shoemaker led public meetings to get a bead on which facilities projects resident prioritized, however, those plans changed.

Many CUSD families, particularly those with children engaged in water sports at the high school, expressed their desire that the CHS pool get an upgrade as well. In response, the renovation of the high school’s pool was added to the bond measure, and a less popular plan to upgrade faculty spaces district-wide was swapped out.

It would be hard to project when construction will be completed, according to Ms. Shoemaker, because of the locker room component of the projects. Locker rooms are just the sort of facility likely to trigger ADA (American with Disabilities Act) requirements, expanding the scope of the work.

“We’re trying to get it rolling sooner rather than later,” Ms. Shoemaker said of the pools’ upgrade.

WLC Architects—the same group used for the theater renovation project at CHS— has been engaged to assist with the renovation of the high school’s music building, student center and nutrition services area.

And Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke will serve as the architects for the upcoming replacement of many temporary classrooms throughout the district with longer-lived modular buildings.

Some campuses, like Condit, are so short on space that modular classrooms will likely be placed where portables are currently situated, Ms. Shoemaker said. On other campuses, however, the district may be able to find better placement for modular classrooms.

If it turns out there’s a more favorable spot for a modular, the portable being replaced will likely continue to be used during construction of the new classroom, to avoid the displacement of students.

Another order of business moved the district closer to the renovation of the CHS gym. This project includes new flooring, new bleachers and—for the first time in the gym’s history—the installation of air-conditioning.

Under the California Public Contract Code, school districts can use competitive bids prepared by other school districts and public agencies. “Piggyback” contracts, as they are sometimes called, can save a district time and money.

The board voted unanimously to join the National Joint Powers Alliance, a municipal national contracting agency. The free membership will enable the district purchase gym flooring and bleachers “through contracts that have been awarded via the competitive process utilized by the NJPA,” according to the school board agenda.

The district is now poised to purchase gym flooring for $90,000 and bleachers for $230,000.  The labor for installation of the bleachers will be an insignificant expense, Ms. Shoemaker said, but the district will be going to bid for a contractor to install the new flooring.

Providing the work goes smoothly, with no unexpected delays, the district hopes to get the gym ship-shape in time CHS’s annual back-to-school gathering.

The board has approved the first issuance of bond money, known as series A, which will yield $30 million.

The district’s underwriter, Piper Jaffrey & Co.—which has helped with district refinancing over the last couple of years—will perform a routine credit check and then sell the bonds to investors. Ms. Shoemaker said the money is expected to be available in late May or early June.

The district had originally planned to issue $20 million in Series A, but opted to issue $10 million more for two reasons.

The first is that the market—still-low interest rates plus housing values that continue to climb—allows for the district to issue more bond money while still keeping an important promise to taxpayers.

“We can issue $30 million of bonds and it’s not going to exceed $46 per $100,000 in assessed value,” Ms. Shoemaker said of the bond cost attached to residents’ annual tax bills.  

Secondly, the district is looking to acquire more bond money sooner so it can cross bond projects off the list quickly, Ms. Shoemaker said. Construction experts have advised district staff that construction costs are likely to escalate precipitously in the coming months and years.

 “Everyone who knows construction, and how competitive it is, is encouraging us to do more work sooner rather than later,” Ms. Shoemaker said.

The next meeting of the Claremont Board of Education will be Thursday, May 18 in the Richard S. Kirkendall Education Center.

—Sarah Torribio




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