Measure H, a school bond for the Oakley School District, was passed in November of 2004 with a nearly 70-percent yes vote. The promise to the voters was that this bond would build two new elementary schools, assist in a major modernization project at Oakley School and a minor modernization project at Gehringer School.
I would like to take this opportunity to update the community on the progress of these projects, as well as a few others. Shortly after the election in November of 2004, the district entered into a contract with a single builder to construct both Iron House and Almond Grove. By entering into this construction contract for both schools at one time, the local school board showed the foresight to lock in construction costs for the second school, saving the taxpayers several hundreds of thousands of dollars. In essence, the district will have a new school at a 2004 price.
The first new elementary school, Iron House, opened on time on Oct. 16, 2006, with over 300 students. As of today, the school is serving nearly 500 students. Prior to the opening of Iron House, the students were housed at Gehringer School. Gehringer had over 900 students until the new school opened. Today, Gehringer is at a much more appropriate size.
The construction of Almond Grove is nearly completed, ahead of schedule and within budget. There will not be the same need to open this school in mid year, as there was with Iron House. Almond Grove will open as soon as the numbers of students in the school's neighborhood, Magnolia Park, are there to support its opening.
Oakley School was built during the Franklin Roosevelt administration. And while there has been some minor modernization and expansion over the years, the school has been in serious need of major modernization. The Oakley School modernization project began in the winter of 2005 and will be completed this spring. Energy-efficient windows have been installed, Americans with Disability Act accessibility issues have been corrected and classroom upgrades have been made, including electrical and fire-alarm systems. This, too, will significantly improve the quality of the educational experience for students at Oakley.
Gehringer's modernization began this last summer and should be completed by next spring as well. In prior years, other areas of the school received significant improvements. The last area in serious need was the library/computer lab/cafeteria building. The library is being expanded and the computer lab and cafeteria are being made more effective and efficient.
As stewards of the taxpayers' dollars, the district has taken a couple of other actions that will save the taxpayers millions of dollars. First, the district took action last winter to refinance the 1998 school bond (used to build Delta Vista and buy the property for Iron House). This action will, over the life of the bond, save the taxpayers over $200,000.
More significantly, the district traded 6 acres of under-utilized property immediately adjacent to Delta Vista for a 12-acre school site in the East Cypress Corridor Specific plan area. This 12-acre site will be sufficient in size to build a future elementary school.
We also applied for and will receive state money for the purchase of an additional elementary site in the Summer Lake subdivision and a middle-school site along Brownstone Road. These actions will save the local taxpayers several millions of dollars by avoiding the need to purchase these properties with local tax dollars.
We can anticipate the district to nearly double in size over the next eight to 10 years. With the acquisitions cited above, and your continued support, we are well positioned to move quickly when it becomes necessary to build schools to accommodate the inevitable growth.
Dr. Rick Rogers
Oakley Union School District