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$8.4 Million School Bond On March Ballot

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A new performing arts center, the installation of three athletic fields and badly needed repairs to a swimming pool are projects the trustees of the Calaveras Unified School District hope to get accomplished if voters approve a bond measure approved for the March ballot Wednesday night.

Three of five trustees voted unanimously to send the bond to the voters. Trustees Zerrall McDaniel and Gerri Conway could not attend the special session. If approved, the $8.44 million measure would provide funds for a list of various projects detailed in the resolution.

A 500-seat performing arts complex tops that list of proposed projects. The facility would include audio-visual and lighting equipment, a hydraulic orchestra pit that would extend the stage, and classrooms and practice rooms.

A doorway that opens from the backstage area of the theater would open up to the stage of an amphitheater.

The proposed theater would be built on the Calaveras High School campus in San Andreas and serve hundreds of students in district music and drama programs, Superintendent Jim Frost told trustees.

Also at the school, Frank Meyer Field n a constant drain on district maintenance funds n would get a completely new surface if voters approve the bond.

Frost said the installation of the new surface would entail preparation of the underlying dirt and rock, then a thick rubber mat is laid down. On top of the rubber mat, a carpet of synthetic grass is put down that already has yard markers and boundaries painted on the surface.

“It really looks like grass,” said Trustee Jim Foltz, who has toured sites where the artificial surface is in place, one of which was Lincoln High School in Stockton. “You have to get really close to see it´s not real. It even moves with the wind.”

Along with the high school´s football field, the proposed bond would purchase two similar installations at Toyon Middle School.

“Our fields get an incredible amount of use by the community,” Frost noted. He said there are times during busy weekends when it´s tough to find a parking space at the school because of all the families there for children´s soccer matches.

Scott Mills, supervisor of maintenance and operations for the district, told trustees that thousands of dollars are spent each year maintaining the natural grass play fields.

“We could then save the money we´re spending on maintenance to replace the carpets in the future,” said Mills.

After physical education classes, soccer and football games, and practices for many teams on campus and even Junior Redskins youth football games and practice sessions, the football field rarely gets any rest, Frost said.

“(Mills) can only work on the field from late December to the middle of January and from mid May to August,” and that´s not enough time to get grass to grow, Frost said.

Other projects on the bond wish list include the installation of backstops at all of the district´s elementary schools so Little League and even adult softball games and practices could be held throughout the district.

“Because we don´t have incorporated cities (within the district), schools end up as the logical facilities for each community´s use,” Frost said. He added he didn´t want to downplay the efforts of several small groups of citizens who have formed to try and develop parks in a few towns, “but they don´t have the land or the resources.”

“We have the facilities,” Frost continued, “and we want people to use them. But we cannot afford to maintain them with the amount of use they are seeing.”

District officials would rather make improvements to existing facilities now, rather than spend increasing amounts of money on simple maintenance.

The Calaveras High School swimming pool would also get a makeover if voters approve the bond. An out-of-date filtration system would be replaced and new handicapped access ramps also would be constructed.

“We have a tremendous number of special education students who could then use the pool,” said Frost.

Noting this might not be the very best time to put a measure on the ballot, Frost was still optimistic.

Measure M n as the proposed bond has been labeled by Calaveras County elections officials n would add $18 per $100,000 of assessed value to improved properties within the district.

“This is really a choice bond,” Frost said. “It will be wonderful for our kids in the district and for their communities too.”

Fifty-five percent of the voters in the March primary election must support the measure for it to pass. If that happens, Frost said the football team would be playing on a new field next fall.

The district is just about finished with projects promised to voters in 1997 when they approved a $22.3 million measure. Many new classrooms have appeared on most of the district´s campuses, several schools had buildings modernized, and multipurpose rooms were built at San Andreas, West Point and Mokelumne Hill elementary schools and at Toyon Middle School.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Mike Taylor. For more Calaveras news. click: