Marin and Ocean View elementary schools do not meet seismic safety codes, and leaking Marin is widely felt to deserve a rebuild, while MacGregor High School is recommended for demolition. Several schools need more classrooms.
And that's only part of the list.
"There is no promise that anything on the list will actually get done," school board President Paul Black said at a recent board meeting. "That depends entirely on financing. In fact, it's almost certain that many things on the list will never be done."
The challenge is how to decide what to fix in what order and what to leave undone until more money can be found.
To guide those decisions, the Albany Unified School District is developing a "Facilities Master Plan" to anticipate "the future facility needs" of the district and "provide a framework for continual improvement over the next generation for Albany students and families," according to a district web page devoted to the plan.
To develop the plan, the district has contracted with WLC Architects and established a Facilities Master Plan Steering Committee composed of representatives from each school site.
The committee has three upcoming monthly meetings listed on the school district website, including one on Wednesday this week:
- Wed., 10/23 - 7:00 p.m.
- Wed., 11/20 - 7:00 p.m.
- Wed., 12/18 - 7:00 p.m.
At the school board meeting last month, Superintendent Marla Stephenson presented a "Facilities Master Plan Update" in a series of illustrated slides that can be viewed on the district website.
Bringing Marin up to code seismically and meeting what parent and staff see as the current and future educational needs would mean rebuilding the school at an estimated cost of about $26.8 million, according to the update. Fixing Ocean View's seismic problems would cost approximately $12.3 million, or about $40 million total, the board was told.
Recommendations for MacGregor include demolishing the school and increasing the number of classrooms at the site for Albany High and Albany Middle schools by replacing the current facilities with converted large steel shipping containers, Stephenson said.
Leo Ray-Lynch of WLC Architects told the Board that such containers from Growthpoint have been widely used for housing for decades and by Los Angeles Unified School District for educational purposes, according to the draft minutes of the school board meeting. He said the containers, unlike portables, do not break down.
By arranging the containers in a two-story configuration, the district could optimize use of space and possibly relocate the district headquarters to the site, Stephenson's update said.
The district's ability to pay for facility needs is constrained by how much it can raise in bonds. With its current bonding capacity, it could issue only $15.48 million in bonds, assuming that voters approve a bond measure, the board was told. The amount that could be issued would increase in future years with old bonds being paid off and property values rising, according to the update.
At the same time, the district is working with the state Office of Public School Construction and its parent Department of General Services to explore options for special mitigation and hardship funding, Stephenson said.
"Life and safety issues clearly have to be taken care of first," Black said in his comments cited on the district website. "After that, it's up to the steering committee to decide what the priorities are so we can know what to do in which order as money becomes available."
An initial seismic assessment found that there's no mortal danger to the occupants of Marin and Ocean View schools, and the Steering Committee decided that if the same conclusion is reached in subsequent analysis, there is no need to rush on putting a bond measure before the voters, Black said.
"The committee would rather have a slower, more deliberate process that gives all stake holders the chance to express an opinion," he said. "It's anticipated that the FMP (Facilities Master Plan) will be completed before the end of the year, in time for a bond measure on next year's ballot."