School officials looking at bond measure to fund school renovations

February 6, 2014 — by Gitika Nalwa and Helen Wong
This June, district residents are likely to vote on a $99 million bond to upgrade and maintain facilities at both Los Gatos and Saratoga High Schools.
The bond, an additional tax paid annually by property holders, has yet to be approved by the school board, but principal Paul Robinson believes it will receive the board’s approval within the next two school board meetings, which are scheduled to take place on Feb.  4 and Feb.  25.
This June, district residents are likely to vote on a $99 million bond to upgrade and maintain facilities at both Los Gatos and Saratoga High Schools.
The bond, an additional tax paid annually by property holders, has yet to be approved by the school board, but principal Paul Robinson believes it will receive the board’s approval within the next two school board meetings, which are scheduled to take place on Feb.  4 and Feb.  25.
The school’s administration is proceeding to make  plans for potential projects to be funded by this bond.
Robinson said 55 percent of registered voters in the district will “have to agree that it would be a good thing to pay some additional taxes for the school to be refinished, refurbished and modernized.”
The additional tax would be $18 per $100,000 of the value of a resident’s property. It is estimated the tax would be retired after after 20 years. 
The use of the money would be monitored by an oversight committee of community members, parents and school employees.
Robinson estimates that $55 million of the $99 million would be used to renovate Los Gatos High, which has more students than SHS and a greater need for new classrooms because of growing enrollment.
Even so, Robinson said, “I think with [the remaining] $44 million, we could do a lot of great things.”
Some of the school’s facilities have not been updated since Saratoga High opened in 1959, Robinson said. Possible renovations include: upgrades to heating and air conditioning, technology and lighting upgrades, additional classroom space for science and engineering, the relocation of the music department and the relocation of P.E. and gym facilities.
According to Robinson, the upgrades to the lighting, heating and air conditioning would make “the school’s electricity bill drop like a rock.”
To lower electricity expenses, the school is also looking at the installation of solar panels. Although Robinson said the installation of solar panels will be costly, he believes the solar panels would benefit the school “in the long run.” However, the trade-off between up-front installation costs and long-term savings is being explored further by district leaders. 
If the bond passes, some buildings could be replaced, while others could be expanded.
“I’d say that one project that is right there at the top is building a space large enough for our music program to really be comfortable,” Robinson said. “Right now, our music program is kind of bursting at the seams.”
One plan being discussed calls for shifting the music department to a newly constructed building, where the administration and drama buildings currently are. This would be done to increase its proximity to the McAfee Center. The administration building, cafeteria and Thermond Drama Center would be relocated to either a completely new building, or given a different place on campus.
In addition, Robinson believes that “a key component to [the plan] is the ongoing support for technology,” for which school officials have decided to set aside $2 million a year.
The last bond the district passed was in the late 1990s. The money collected from this bond went on to fund most of the modernization of the campus, including the building of the science wing, a new library, and part of the McAfee Center.
The prospect of campus improvement, along with the possibility of upgraded technology, has been met with enthusiastic approval from students.
“New computers and keyboards in the journalism room would be great,” junior Tesia Sun said. “If they do some renovations and updating, then I hope they’ll do it soon.”
Senior Eric Taw also approved of possible school improvements, advocating the installation of solar panels.
“The amount of money we would save [with solar panels] could pave the way for future investments and bragging rights,” Taw said.
Although the school is in need of these renovations, the school board has yet to approve the school’s plans to put the bond before voters. If it does go before voters and is approved, implementation would begin next school year. However, it would be years before major projects such as the relocation of the music department are completed. 
 
 
 
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