School renovations could cost a bundle | May 1, 2009 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |

Mountain View Voice

News - May 1, 2009

School renovations could cost a bundle

Early estimates at $191 million over 10 years — district considers bond measure

by Casey Weiss

It could cost the Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District $191.7 million over the next 10 years to renovate its eight campuses and four other properties, according to a local architectural firm, and the district may turn to Mountain View voters to help pay for the upgrades.

Administrators and trustees said they may place a bond measure on an upcoming ballot to fund renovations to help the campuses comply with safety standards. The announcement comes as the district looks for ways to fund its 10-year facilities plan.

Every 10 years the district adopts a new master facility plan to prepare for construction and renovations for the next decade. Administrators say this time they will plan to renovate campuses, and may expand or take back leased land to help alleviate overcrowding at many of the campuses. Trustees are scheduled to approve the latest plan on June 16, choosing which construction projects to pursue, finalizing a price and deciding on how to fund it all.

To help prepare the board, Bill Gould Design, a San Jose architectural firm, surveyed the district's sites, and during the April 23 board meeting architect Martin Hochroth declared all district property to be "functional."

Hochroth said the firm "didn't find any major deficiencies," but added that some of the district's facilities "are reaching the end of a useful life." Many of the firm's suggested renovations are not strictly necessary, Hochroth said, but would make the district more efficient.

"We have a large opportunity in cost savings if we can build more energy efficient buildings," trustee Fiona Walter said after the meeting.


Hochroth and other electrical and structural architects looked at the eight district schools and four leased properties — Cooper, Stevenson, Whisman and Slater — before making their recommendations.

Proposed renovations fall into three categories: "strongly recommended," whose items cost a total of $17.4 million; "recommended," costing a total of $90.2 million; and "discretionary," which totals $59.2 million. The architects also included $25 million for cost escalation, assuming prices will rise during the 10 years it will take to do all the renovations.

Replacing the fire alarms is one of the most important renovations, the architects said. District schools have manual alarms, but state codes require all schools to have an automatic system. The current system is "difficult and expensive to serve," according to Hochroth.

Other "strong recommendations" include replacing exit doors to comply with fire safety codes, constructing new student drop-off locations and replacing drinking fountains throughout the district to meet regulations.

The firm also recommended the district replace hot and cold water systems and renovate flat roofs, which are old and worn down. Some "discretionary recommendations" include expanding the multipurpose rooms to comply with regulations and making more covered eating areas at the schools.

Bond proposed

The analysis, district administrators said, will help the board make a decision about the plan in June. Part of the plan may include a bond measure, an idea which the board first discussed during a study session last month.

A political consulting firm is scheduled to talk to the board at its meeting on May 7. During this meeting, the board could discuss possible amounts of the proposed bond, and may develop a timeline for when it will appear on the ballot.

The district has about $500,000 left over from separate bond measures from the Mountain View and Whisman school districts, but chief financial officer Craig Goldman said the district has already planned some maintenance projects for this summer "and will get through most of the bond money."

A new bond would help the school as it prepares to make necessary renovations, Superintendent Maurice Ghysels said.

"A lot of this is about thinking ahead," Ghysels said. "We don't want to be at the point where we are so depleted we have to go out for a bond."

A few parents attended the meeting. Robin Iwai, who has children in the district, said the building goals were not reasonable, especially during the economic downturn.

"I drive a 16-year-old beat up car and would love a brand new one, but that doesn't mean I am going to buy one," she said. "If you are seriously thinking about replacing the sidewalks, you are going to see something like a French Revolution in our district."

The district is holding a public meeting for parents and community members to comment on the facilities plan on Monday, May 4 at 7 p.m. in the Castro Elementary School multipurpose room. Castro is located at 505 Escuela Ave.

INFORMATION: Following is a look at some of Bill Gould Design's recommended improvements to facilities in the Mountain View Whisman Elementary School District:

Strongly recommended ($17.4 million):

* Replace fire alarms at all campuses with fully automatic systems * Replace tanbark playgrounds with rubberized surfaces * Replace concrete walkways * Replace drinking fountains * Renovate restrooms at four sites

Recommended ($90.2 million):

* Replace or resurface parking lots * Upgrade water sanitary and storm services at Cooper, Stevenson and the district office * Replace single-glazed windows with double glazed windows * Replace flat roofing systems * Replace flooring * Replace hot and cold water systems * Replace cable system with streaming video over network * Replace telephone system

Discretionary ($59.2 million):

* Add insulation to walls and roofs * Expand or replace multi-purpose rooms * Provide more covered eating areas at most campuses * Add libraries at Cooper and Stevenson

E-mail Casey Weiss at


Posted by former sub, a resident of Cuernavaca
on May 1, 2009 at 7:08 pm

I used to substitute at Graham, and the last time I did (2007), the district had still failed to follow through with loose ends of the last major renovation of that school. And now they are eager to start all over. I just don't get it.

Posted by William Joseph, a resident of Shoreline West
on May 1, 2009 at 9:33 pm

Round up the illegal immigrants, especially the ones with kids in the system, and put them to work on some of these projects to earn their keep here.
And check the immigration status of the kids too. I'll wager that a lot of the little buggers jammed into the apartment blocks along California and Latham Sts aren't legal.