Merced City School board considers bond survey

dyawger@mercedsunstar.comSeptember 25, 2013 

— Are Mercedians willing to support a general obligation bond next year to upgrade the Merced City School District’s aging campuses or build a new school?

The district’s Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to hire the Lew Edwards Group of Oakland for $30,000 to find out if the community would be willing to support a June 2014 bond measure to upgrade school facilities.

“We need to find out if a bond will be acceptable to voters,” board member Gene Stamm said. “We wouldn’t go out for a bond if it doesn’t seem like it would pass. Right now we’re not where we should be in the technology world.”

Board President Adam Cox said the district’s 17 campuses definitely need improvement, especially as technology becomes more of an integral part of instruction. He wants to see what the long-range facilities master plan committee recommends when it presents its report in December.

“That’s when I will make up my mind about a new school and upgrading existing facilities,” Cox said. “We’re taking our time and putting together a comprehensive master plan. We want to get a feeling what the average voters feels is important.”

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said putting a bond on next June’s election ballot would be preferable to seeking a November vote. She said she is looking forward to seeing the results of the Edwards Group’s survey of Merced voters.

Board member Susan Walsh said there’s never a good time to see what it would take to build a new school.

“We want to see if the community is concerned and at what level,” Walsh said. “There is a tremendous need. This is a process. Not that parents are silent about it, but our goal is to find what the larger concerns of the community are. We have relatively old buildings.”

Greg Spicer, associate superintendent for administrative services, said the Edwards firm is one of the top-rated support companies helping school districts with facilities master plans.

Spicer said last spring representatives of all 17 district sites came up with a list of needs and that the district doesn’t have the means to fulfill all of them. Principals and committees at each school have been asked to prioritize their needs and submit a list to the 42-member facilities committee for its December report.

The committee is in the middle of its research on district needs and will put together a report so trustees and administrators can look at the big picture, Spicer said.

The polling firm’s interviews with local residents will gauge what they are willing to support and not support. With Common Core instructional practices coming up, there is an increased need for dependable technology at local schools, Spicer said.

Sun-Star staff writer Doane Yawger can be reached at (209) 385-2407 or dyawger@mercedsunstar.com.

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