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LCUSD sizes up menu of options for bond spending, which could begin in May

LCUSD sizes up menu of options for bond spending, which could begin in May
LCUSD Supt. Wendy Sinnette, left, records audience responses during a Jan. 29 school board workshop on how to prudently spend more than $100 million in Measure LCF bond money in the coming decade. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

Getting La Cañada Unified voters to support a $149-million bond to rebuild and modernize school campuses was a historic accomplishment. But now that Measure LCF's been approved, exactly how will its funds be spent and who will oversee spending?

LCUSD officials considered those issues Monday at a school board workshop, during which they heard financial planners recommend the district look at issuing about $29 million to $30 million in bonds in May.

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"Getting it done in a quick but prudent manner would be important here," Adam Bauer, president and chief executive of Irvine-based Fieldman, Rolapp & Associates, Inc., said of the first issuance. "Eighty-five percent of bond proceeds need to be spent within two years — money spent, check written, out the door."

Board members discussed the most prudent way to dedicate that bond money, deciding a little should go toward every school site in projects that could be completed on a standalone basis or during summer when students aren't generally on campus.

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In a presentation Monday, Jamie Lewsadder, the district's chief technology officer, discussed the importance of aligning spending projects, in particular new classroom design, with the district's values for student learning.

She asked board and audience members to brainstorm the purpose of learning spaces, the actions they should accommodate and the student behavior they should inspire. She said she hoped to further develop a collaborative vision in coming months by convening a learning space committee and helping teachers develop 10 model classrooms that could inspire and instruct future renovation.

"By establishing what our values and what our vision and the outcomes we want for our students are, then our design can happen," Lewsadder said.

After some discussion, across-the-board safety and security measures, connecting Palm Crest Elementary to the city sewer system and building a new lunch shelter at Paradise Canyon Elementary were discussed as possible projects for the first issuance.

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"I would like to suggest we start prioritizing safety and security issues," said board member Ellen Multari. "Safety and security, while not splashy, are definitely things that are meaningful to our community."

The school board is expected to present a list of first-round projects at a future meeting, after gathering more input from district stakeholders. The board will also establish and seat an independent citizens' bond oversight committee to ensure taxpayer funds are being spent appropriately.

According to a report issued by LPA, Inc. — an Irvine architectural firm that's been working with the district to compile needed building and infrastructure projects into a facilities master plan — Measure LCF bonds could fund about $100.7 million worth of improvements over the next six to 10 years during Phase 1, with remaining funding set aside for unanticipated cost increases.

The district has already identified upgrading its technological infrastructure and connecting Palm Crest to a sewer system as "must do" projects. School site requests include classroom construction and modernization, safety and security improvements and individual improvements such as the lunch shelter at Paradise Canyon and better parking and drop-off options at Palm Crest.

La Cañada High School has identified a new pool, refurbished stadium bleachers, multipurpose and band room modernization projects and an athletic training room among its priorities. According to a breakdown provided by LPA, improvements at La Cañada Elementary have been totaled at nearly $24.7 million, while $26.6 million has been earmarked for Palm Crest and $25.4 million for Paradise Canyon.

La Cañada High School improvements are estimated at around $23.8 million, while the LCUSD district office projects total just over $191,000. The total for Measure LCF-funded projects is $100.7 million.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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