DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - October 5, 2007

Parents want equal upgrades at schools

Measure A funds renovated fields at Greenbrook, John Baldwin, added computers

by Natalie O'Neill

When it comes to school modernization projects, "leveling the playing field" has taken on two meanings.

Greenbrook and John Baldwin elementary began the school year with newly renovated sports fields as part of Measure A, a $260 million bond, prompting parents to speak up about the importance of equality in district school improvements.

Parents and coaches of children who use the baseball field at Alamo Elementary have been pointing to uneven surfaces and flooding for months, in hopes of getting upgrades. And some feel the school is in need of field repair just as much as its neighboring two Danville elementary schools.

"Sports teams use the field extensively. There have been dryness and divots - kids have twisted their ankles," said Vicki Koc, former Alamo Parks and Recreation Committee member.

Terry Koehne, spokesman for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, said Greenbrook and John Baldwin elementary received the field improvements because portable classrooms - used while building the new schools - damaged the old fields.

"We look at things from a community standpoint. Equity is one of our highest priorities," he said.

In general, sports facilities aren't included in school modernization bonds.

"It's a tough sell to the voters," Koehne explained.

School Board Trustee Joan Buchanan broached the subject of fairness at a September school board meeting, after getting district-wide updates on new equipment, field renovations and facilities for the new school year.

Her concern was that with all of the modernization projects in the past five years, some schools were behind in their technology.

"There's a huge inequity there. Are we going to address that in any way?" Buchanan said.

This is an issue the committee needs to take a look at, she said after the meeting. She also noted that field issues could be addressed with additional funds.

Greenbrook and John Baldwin elementary, which were erected in 1976 and 1968, were entirely rebuilt in time for school starting in fall 2006. New classrooms, computers and furniture came along with the package.

The schools were given top Measure A priority because they had been designed in a pod shape that required students and teachers to walk through each others' classrooms. They didn't meet district size and configuration standards.

"We were in dire need when we passed the measure," Koehne said.

The last Alamo Elementary renovation project was completed in 2000, through Measure D, and the school received a new classroom wing and a multi-purpose room - but no sports facility upgrades.

When Measure A passed in 2002, Alamo Elementary was not considered a top concern, when placed next to older facilities with leaky roofs and inefficient layouts.

"It comes down to priorities," Keohne said.

The Measure A Oversight Committee, which advises the school board, determines which schools are given measure A funds by visiting the locations, getting feedback from facility managers and engaging in lengthy dialogue with members of the community.

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