Corona del Mar Today: Pool fundraising effort underway

A wall of shimmering, glittering glass fish swarming a Sea King mascot could help fund new locker rooms for the Marian Bergeson Aquatic Center on the Corona del Mar High School campus.

The $1-million project would replace dilapidated restrooms with 3,000 square feet of locker rooms and would be the final improvement to the aquatic center, which was built in 1990, said Angela Kraus, a parent volunteer who spoke to the CdMHS PTA on Wednesday morning. Other improvements have included adding a scoreboard, shade structure and snack bar.

"Every item on our wish list has been completed except a locker room," she said.

Currently, swimmers have only two cold showers and restrooms that she said were a step above portapotties.

"You see a lot of deck changes by boys on visiting teams," Kraus said.

Girls have to change behind makeshift curtains.

The aquatic center was built with funds from the Newport-Mesa Unified School District and city of Newport Beach, and it's operated by a joint agreement between the district and the city. Kraus said the locker room project, which would add changing rooms for boys and girls as well as 10 showers and 76 lockers per room, would cost slightly more than $1 million.

The district, she said, was able to find $325,000 in funds for the project through a state reimbursement for earlier unrelated pool upgrades. And Newport Beach is considering $330,000 for the locker room work as part of its upcoming budget hearings.

That leaves parents trying to raise $350,000 to $450,000, Kraus said, possibly by selling glass fish that will become part of a Sea King Wall mural that will be mounted on the new locker room wall, facing the pool deck.

The 11-inch fish will be made of blue, green and violet iridescent glass and etched with gold letters. Individuals can earn fish with $600 donations, and business entities can earn fish with $1,500 donations. A total of 300 fish will be available, and the deadline to earn a fish is May 31.

"It's going to look like a bunch of rainbow fish, swirling around our Sea King mascot," Kraus said. "It's going to be a focal point as well as a stunning piece of artwork."

Bergeson has been working with Kraus on letters to be sent to possible donors, she said.

The completed locker room will make the Corona del Mar pool complex "head and shoulders above the rest," Kraus said.

For more information, including drawings of the proposed locker rooms, click here.

The pool is used by Newport Beach about 53% of the time, leaving the rest to CdMHS sports teams, special education programs and middle school P.E. classes.

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Council To Tackle Budget in Tuesday Study Session

The Newport Beach City Council will hold its first formal review of next year's fiscal budget at a study session scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday — and potential cuts to lifeguards are among the topics on the agenda.

The city is considering a budget that includes $9.2 million in cuts, partly attained by laying off 25 employees.

The budget also slices $1.2 million from the Fire Department budget, including reducing the number of full time lifeguards from 13 to nine — a proposal that has outraged many residents.

An online petition has 175 signatures from people opposing the lifeguard cuts, and a Facebook page called "City of Newport, Let the Lifeguards Stay" has 1,472 supporters, who are posting city official's emails and urging residents to attend the study session meeting.

"Really? One of the richest cities in the country can't justify paying for a few lifeguards?" said one wall post. "Maybe they could siphon off some of the Jamboree radar gun income for this."

Another poster wrote, "In case you haven't noticed, there isn't really an 'off-season' any more. Any nice day all year round, you will have tourists and locals in the ocean, surfers and swimmers. Guards need to be on duty, with appropriately adjusted coverage, every day."

City Manager Dave Kiff said that it's not uncommon to have "permanent part-time positions," and that there are no proposed changes for the 200-plus tower guard positions.

"Indeed, we proposed more money for tower guards," he said in an e-mail.

"The full-time lifeguards are concerned that the four people (officers) who take the 0.42 positions will not come back after the first year because they'd find other jobs elsewhere," he said in an email, referring to the full-time guards who would become part-time. "I can respect that. I offered to help them find some other role at the city during this period that is meaningful for them and of value to the City."

While safety is a concern, he said, so is accounting for full-time employees whose pensions cost the city more every year.

"I remain concerned that we basically give our guards busy-work in the off-season (tower maintenance, CPR in the schools, more) that does not justify the upwards of 56 cents on the dollar that soon will be paid for their … pension costs."

Study sessions typically begin at 5 p.m. with a dinner break before the regular council meeting. The 2 p.m. start time indicates there will be a lot of discussion and public input.

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PTA Meeting: Enclave Preparations, Book Collection Plans Discussed

The Corona del Mar High School PTA met Wednesday morning, discussing a proposed state law that would affect how the school seeks donations for extracurricular activities and extras like workbooks, as well as hearing updates on a middle school enclave and an end-of-year book collection effort.

Principal Tim Bryan explained Assembly Bill 165, which was introduced earlier this year and prohibits school districts and schools from imposing pupil fees for participation in educational activities.

"We can't have pay-for-play," he said. "In a nutshell, that's it."

Students participating in sports and other after-school activities will be asked for donations to pay for uniforms and expenses, he said. But the requests would have to be worded carefully. And teams may have to cut down on the number of uniforms, or gear bags and other extras, that they require.

Parents asked about extra costs for things like workbooks and lab fees. Bryan said many details are unknown, adding that the law had yet to pass. But he plans to order books for the library, which would be available for students, and that buying books and those supplies would be considered voluntary.

Activities like school dances and grad night events are voluntary and would not be affected by the bill, he said.

The meeting also included discussion of a schoolwide book collection effort. PTA volunteer and parent Signe Dunn said that many students have required books that they have accumulated but no longer need after assignments are complete. Those books could be collected and distributed to the library, to counselors and to other students, helping ease the crunch when the next class of students are flocking to find the book the next year.

"It would save parents that last-minute trip to Barnes & Noble in Irvine because Fashion Island is sold out," she said.

Middle School Principal Guy Olguin said that plans are underway to begin construction of a middle school enclave as soon as school ends in June. The enclave, which is a Measure F project, would create a campus-within-a-campus so that middle school students are more removed from high school students.

Portable classrooms have been ordered, and teachers will have access to Dumpsters and storage units after classes end for the year, Olguin said. School officials have been working with city officials and construction crews to create additional parking. For example, cars parked on the street near school would not be ticketed on street sweeping day, Olguin said. And a temporary gravel lot may be added to make up for some of the spots taken in the senior lot to make room for construction equipment.

School board member Karen Yelsey attended the meeting and warned that the district could be forced to make budget cuts in the 2012-13 school year if state funding is reduced. She said that 85% of the district's budget is teacher salaries, which could mean furloughs or other cuts that she called "unfortunate."

She urged parents to contact their state legislators to express concern about possible future cuts to education.

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Firefighters, Police Offer Teen Programs

The Newport Beach Fire Department and the Newport Beach Police Department are accepting applications for teenagers interested in youth programs.

The Fire Department's Explorer Program begins at the end of this month. Applicants must be at least 15 years old. For an application, e-mail FireExplorers@nbfd.net.

The police Teen Academy's summer program lasts seven weeks and will cover all areas of the department, including SWAT, K-9, narcotics, major crimes, patrol and helicopter operations, traffic laws and firearms. Students will participate in practical demonstrations and a ride-along and meet the chief, patrol officers, dispatchers and detectives.

"The goal of the Academy is to provide an avenue of communication between the Police Department and young adults in the Community," police said. "Instructors encourage students to ask questions and express their concerns about pertinent issues."

Students must be 14 to 18 years old, currently enrolled in a Newport Beach high school, have parental or guardian consent, commit to attending all seven sessions and complete an application. Students can earn up to 25 community service hours by participating in the program.

For more information, call (949) 644-3662.

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