Early election results Wednesday morning show the Mountain View Whisman School District's $259 million bond measure is headed to victory, opening the door for a bevy of school improvement projects in the coming years.
The results show 66.8% of district voters, or 6,293 of the roughly 9,400 votes counted as of 10 a.m. Wednesday, have been cast in support of Measure T, according to the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The bond measure requires 55% of the vote to pass.
"We're feeling good, and we're cautiously optimistic," said board member Laura Blakely, who helped campaign for Measure T. She and others gathered for an election night event Tuesday night to watch the results, but the group had quickly cleared out because it was a school night.
Despite the early curfew, Blakely said the group was jubilant over the results, and predicted that the vote tally will only skew more in favor of Measure T as updates roll in.
During the campaign, Measure T was billed as an important nuts-and-bolts bond measure to pay for high-priority school improvements, many of which were admittedly less than flashy -- no brand-new multipurpose rooms or entirely new campuses. Teachers need more storage space and past construction debts -- incurred in order to build Vargas Elementary -- are taking a toll on the general fund.
What's more, district officials say nearly every campus is falling short on security measures for student and staff safety.
But the bond isn't without a few ambitious projects. The board agreed last year to set aside $60 million of the bond funds to pay for construction of a new 144-unit workforce housing project planned at 777 W. Middlefield Road. If built, it would be one of the largest teacher housing projects in the Bay Area.
The housing project would have moved forward with or without the bond, said Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph, but Measure T makes a big difference when it comes time to decide what to charge teachers and school staff for rent. Instead of having to worry about offsetting construction costs with rental revenue, the district is now free to charge a lower amount per month, he said.
Measure T funds will also be spent preparing for student growth spurred by housing development across the city, specifically at schools where enrollment is expected to increase rapidly in the coming years. Landels Elementary School, in particular, is going to grow by an estimated 120 students, and Measure T funds are expected to pay for a new two-story building on campus for classrooms and an administrative office.
Blakely said it's likely that the first uses of Measure T funding will likely go toward teacher housing -- the developer is nearly prepared to break ground -- potentially followed by solar panel installation across the district's schools.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Rudolph thanked the community for the likely passage of Measure T, particularly the volunteers who knocked on doors and phone banked in the lead-up to the March 3 election. He said the money will be spent appropriately and effectively, with plenty of public disclosure about future expenditures.
"We do not take the community's trust lightly," Rudolph wrote. "Please be assured that we will do everything possible to guarantee that your hard earned tax dollars will be spent in the most cost effective manner possible."
In an interview with the Voice, Rudolph said he and others felt confident when the first round of election results came in so favorably for Measure T. On a night where so many state and local tax measures were defeated, Mountain View really stood out, he said.
"That's a testament to the faith the community has in our schools, and we're really grateful," Rudolph said.
Once the results are certified, Rudolph said the plan is to hire a construction manager and get to work designing the long list of projects prescribed under Measure T, starting with solar upgrades across all of the district's schools. Teacher housing will likely be in the second issuance of bond funds in 2022.
Measure T, much like the Mountain View-Los Altos High School District's Measure E bond in 2018, is aimed at solving what both school districts are calling short-term growth: ensuring there is enough classroom space for students expected from recently built or soon-to-be-built residential development in Mountain View. Neither bond was meant to pay for the new classroom space or land acquisition required for an anticipated housing boom in the North Bayshore and East Whisman areas of the city.
The longer-term growth has been tricky and occasionally frustrating for district officials, who have had to negotiate with the city of Mountain View and prospective developers, notably Google, about how much each party should have to pay for schools. A meeting on the so-called Citywide School Strategy is scheduled for March 17.
Mountain View Whisman School District has already spent the last five years busy with numerous school facility improvements including new campuses for Stevenson, Vargas, Castro and Mistral elementary schools. The projects were paid for by the 2012 Measure G bond campaign, which as of August last year had officially run out of money. Measure T picks up where Measure G left off with less than a one-year gap between the two.