Modesto board weighs diving into pool construction

naustin@modbee.comSeptember 29, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textNan Austin
    Title: Education reporter
    Coverage areas: K-12 education, Yosemite Community College District
    Bio: Nan Austin has been a copy editor and reporter at The Modesto Bee for 24 years. She has an economics degree from CSU Stanislaus and previously worked at the Merced Sun-Star and Turlock Journal.
    Recent stories written by Nan
    On Twitter: @nanaustin
    E-mail: naustin@modbee.com

The Enochs High School swimming pool will go out to bid soon if the plan gets a thumbs-up from the Modesto City Schools board tonight.

Special taxes, most paid by Village I homeowners, will cover the cost of building the $3 million pool. No estimate of ongoing cost for heating and maintenance, which will be paid from district operating funds, was included. The agenda report simply says it does not affect the general fund “at this time.”

The project includes the 10-lane pool, night lighting and a single-occupancy unisex restroom. The pool’s 25-yard length meets swim competition criteria, as well as accommodating diving events and “floating goal” water polo games.

Board members pledged last year they would not start digging the pool until the money to build it was in the bank. At that time, staff estimated it would be three years before enough extra taxes and developer fees could be collected.

But an agenda report says the district has all but $48,100 collected and expects to receive that from subdivisions outside Village I in the coming year. The taxing area includes developments in Riverbank and an area in northwest Modesto that does not attend Enochs.

Village I taxpayers have paid their share, the report says. Some homeowners, however, feel they have paid too much.

A year ago, the prospect of a swimming pool on top of the campus’s $100 million price tag stirred controversy. The city of Modesto threatened legal action if the district spent additional Village I tax revenue, based on an independent legal opinion saying taxpayers were already on the hook for millions more than a founding document allowed. The school district disputed that finding.

By district calculations, if the pool was not built, Village I property owners would save only $20 a year out of the $390 most will pay each year in extra taxes to build schools for the next 22 years.

In other business, the board will hear better than expected enrollment numbers. Early attendance figures put the district 226 students ahead of its projection. The district has a total of 29,975 students this fall.

The count is 35 children higher than at this time last year, with the largest elementary groups in kindergarten and first grade. Freshmen make up the largest class in Modesto high schools. The boost in younger students likely spells the end of a long streak of declines since 2002-03, when 34,500 students attended Modesto City Schools.

New play equipment may be on the way for Enslen, Everett, Fremont, Garrison and Kirschen elementary schools. Existing playgrounds at those campuses do not meet safety requirements, and the board will be asked to approve spending up to $250,000 to replace them.

Trustees will consider contracts worth up to a total of $2 million for tutoring services that parents choose. The service is mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act for students in the district’s 23 schools that have failed to meet federal test score targets for three or more years. Federal funds will cover the cost.

Board members will also consider a $613,197 contract with DataWORKS for teacher training. Promising research shows the very concrete teaching methods work, especially with struggling students. Federal funding for poor students and English learners will cover the cost, an agenda report says.

The renewal of the Aspire Vanguard College Preparatory Academy Charter School in Empire will also be discussed. Modesto City refused to authorize the charter when it first applied, but the State Board of Education approved it. The charter must first seek district support in seeking renewal.

The Modesto City Schools board will meet at 6 p.m. today in the district staff development center, 425 Locust St. The agenda is at http://bit.ly/MCSmeetings. Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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