The bond measure needed 55 percent of the vote to pass. When all ballots were tallied, 53.46 percent of voters marked yes on J. The money would have subsidized a complete renovation of East County’s second-oldest high school.
“It doesn’t appear that there’s any funds coming from the state or anywhere else to provide our children with an equitable school facility compared to our neighboring districts,” said Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha, a 1979 graduate of the school. “Our kids are great. Our children don’t complain; they make the best of what we have. It just really breaks my heart that we can’t provide for our children what I think they truly deserve, which is a 21st-century high school.”
Improvements that were included in Measure J: a new library (including a college and career center), cafeteria, administration building and swimming pool. Currently, the pool at Antioch High is unfit for use, so aquatic athletes must practice and compete at Los Medanos College or other high schools.
The classrooms would also have been modernized and renovated to fit current demands. When Antioch High opened in 1954, it was designed for 1,500 students. The school’s current enrollment is roughly 2,100, studying in outdated facilities. Antioch’s track would have been rebuilt to allow the school to host track and field events.
Antioch Unified School District officials believe Measure J would also have made Antioch High a safer school, featuring an improved campus layout and surveillance cameras.
“From talking to people in the community, residents and parents, I don’t think there’s any doubt that the school is in dire need of renovation and repair,” Rocha said. “People are challenged with the economics of today, but at the same time education is challenged with serious cuts that are happening, and there are really no funds that are available to renovate this old school.”
Despite the bond measure’s failure, school district Superintendent Donald Gill is looking on the bright side – that more than 50 percent of voters were in favor of helping the school. Gill and Rocha feel that the low turnout at the polls – roughly 31 percent of the county’s registered voters marked their ballot – definitely hurt Measure J’s chances. According to Rocha, when school representatives knocked on doors or called local voters, many of them were fully in favor of Measure J’s success.
Gill estimated that all the measure needed was 112 more votes. “It’s a great civics lesson for our community,” Gill said. “I think what happens in a situation like that, when something’s very popular, people always think it’s going to pass and other people are going to vote for it.”
Far East County voters struck down both major tax initiatives before them. Measure S, which would have benefited the East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, garnered 44 percent of the vote. It needed a 67-percent majority to pass.
Antioch voters also rejected two measures that aimed at changing city leadership. Measure M, which would have changed Antioch’s mayoralty from an elected to a rotating position among City Council members, failed soundly, drawing the opposition of 84 percent of voters.
Measure L, intended to make the city clerk and treasurer appointed instead of elected positions, was defeated 71 to 29 percent.
The next step for Antioch High School is for the district to determine if it wants to put the measure back on the November ballot or wait until 2014 to try again. Gill said he’ll discuss options with the school board.