School board mulls over service center relocation

The Thursday, February 7 meeting of the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education started with the swearing-in of 2 new student board members and the acceptance of a second petition by a potential Claremont charter school, the Embracing the Whole Child Arts and Technology Academy.

Claremont High School student Carolyn Bird and San Antonio High School student Aimee Orcasitas got started right away, delivering reports on the activities of local schools later in the meeting. The petition for Embracing the Whole Child Academy, proposed by Lynette Lucas, will be reviewed at a public hearing at the May 17, 2013 gathering of the school board.

Along with applause for the new student reps, kudos were extended to Sumner student Axel Garcia, whose Toys for Tots campaign this past holiday season netted enough toys to brighten Christmas for 200 local families. The Claremont Chamber of Commerce was also honored for continuing its Best B.E.T. mini-grant program, which each year awards grants ranging from $250 to $1000 to Claremont teachers looking to launch a program aiding in educating and building self-esteem in local kids. 

Much of the meeting was taken up with real estate concerns, with Rick Cota, executive director of the CUSD Service Center, delivering a proposal for the Service Center’s potential future relocation.

At the January 17 gathering of the schoolboard, the Surplus Properties Advisory Committee, better known as the 7-11 Committee, recommended that 2 CUSD properties be declared as surplus. The recommendation to sell the short-lived La Puerta middle school at 2475 N. Forbes Avenue hasn’t occasioned much discussion because, aside from being used for a while for adult school classes, the property has been deserted for years.

Declaring surplus the site on which the current Service Center is located, however, has raised concerns and questions among school board members, most notably Steven Llanusa. Mr. Llanusa feels declaring the property surplus before plans have been made to relocate Service Center operations is premature. What’s more, he urges the school board not to embrace any proposals for a new Service Center site without first thinking the matter over thoroughly, citing 2 earlier promising proposals that never panned out.

Mr. Cota acknowledged Mr. Llanusa’s concerns but said he felt that his proposal, which centered around relocating the Service Center to the San Antonio High School campus, is a good start in launching a much-needed conversation about the move.

David Nemer expressed concerns during a following public comment period that placing a service center at San Antonio High School would jeopardize students well-being by taking away beneficial green space. Board member Hilary LaConte agreed, noting that the school has only recently benefited from the removal of some portable classrooms that she felt marred the San Antonio landscape.

Mr. Cota said he was quite open to the possibility of the Service Center being relocated elsewhere. He emphasized, however, that the new Service Center he is suggesting will be significantly smaller, perhaps 6000 or 7000 square feet along with several large storage containers.

At the current Service Center, the warehouse alone is 8700 square feet. Add to that a 1000 foot storage area, among other facilities, and a huge parking lot and you’re looking at a pretty large piece of property.

All of this can be streamlined, Mr. Cota said, because the needs of CUSD have changed. The district once had a large fleet of buses and employed a team of mechanics as well as their own groundskeepers as well as housing the associated equipment. In order to harness economy of scale, the district also used to store large amounts of supplies, such as reams and reams of paper.

Now, he said, the buses are gone. Groundskeeping is contracted out and new supplies can be ordered as needed with the click of a button via computer. A smaller facility would be more than sufficient, and would likely be significantly more energy- and cost-efficient.

The board praised Mr. Cota for his proposal, delivered via Powerpoint, which included images of a potential Service Center configuration on the San Antonio High School site superimposed on an overhead view of the campus culled from Google Maps.

Mr. Llanusa and Ms. LaConte urged Mr. Cota and his team to continue exploring possible sites for the relocation of the Service Center. Mr. Cota’s and his facilities team’s next step, he said, is to figure out what kind of equipment the district may want to get rid of instead of continuing to house it in an oversized, underused Service Center.

“With all that room, we’ve kind of become pack-rats,” he said. “The Antiques Roadshow could probably come out and have a field day. We’ve got band-saws that haven’t been turned on in 30 years.”

—Sarah Torribio


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