Funding cuts that could cripple construction projects at the elementary and middle school campuses of will be put before the Pasadena Unified School District Board for approval at a future meeting, according to Sierra Madre School parents working to gather community awareness about the cuts.
"What we're trying to do as parents is to give PUSD reasons why it's not OK to cut from Sierra Madre," said Gwen Robertson, one of Sierra Madre School's parent leaders.
A letter to parents from Alisa Fishbach, president of Sierra Madre School's PTA, said that a funding shortfall has led to the current predicament facing the school.
"In particular, the District has been informed that the $80-100 million they were expecting from the State of California to assist in funding the Measure TT construction has been reduced to approximately $10 million," she wrote. "This, coupled with poor handling of the bonds that were supposed to be sold once Measure TT passed, has forced the District to decrease it's construction budget by 20% across all District projects."
The letter, sent to Patch from a reader, encouraged people to come to a Sierra Madre School Site Council meeting last week to discuss the information and voice opposition to district representatives about the proposed cuts.
Fishbach outlined and Robertson confirmed the following proposed cuts in the letter:
The current proposed cuts would eliminate one freestanding two-story building from being built. Enrollment projections for the new campus include increasing enrollment from the 340 students currently in attendance to 550 students. In theory, the proposed building reduction would cap enrollment at about 440. However, during Measure Y, the District also ran out of funds and left five portables (4th, 5th, & PreK) on the elementary campus and has continually increased grade level enrollment to meet demand year over year with no apparent cap to date. Thus, it is a realistic concern that the District may choose to use the same tactic and leave portable classrooms on the beautiful new campus to meet continuing growth needs.
Likewise, $600,000 in undisclosed, "value engineering" cuts will be made to the project in general. These include changes such as the types of materials used, reduced or less expensive furnishings inside classrooms, and more. As the District has not said exactly what these changes are, it is impossible to determine exactly where cuts will be made. In past experience, the elementary campus suffered during Measure Y from cuts including lack of installation of sprinklers and poor concrete work that resulted in flooding in certain areas, among other items.
Additionally, plans for regrading and other improvements to the field, including bathroom facilities, will be cut completely. This particular reduction poses a safety concern as the current field has suffered from neglect, is prone to flooding, and has dangerous ruts and tree roots in the middle of the space students are expected to use for running.
Plans for modernization of the Gayle L. Bluemel Auditorium, cafeteria, and teacher's lounge, including installation of air conditioning, will be cut. Included in these reductions are the refurbishment of the Auditorium stage and lighting systems, as well as the remodeling of the kitchen which would have allowed food to be prepared on-site rather than transported from a central District kitchen. Plans to build a field house with bathroom facilities at the elementary field have been been eliminated as well.
According to Robertson, the next presentation and meeting to discuss school district cuts will take place Tuesday at Webster Elementary School with that school's Site Council in Pasadena from 2:30 to 4:40 p.m.