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CUSD reaps real estate profits, invests in facilities

With escrow closed on the Claremont Unified School District’s old service center—the second piece of surplus property the district has sold in recent years—CUSD is in a position to begin addressing some longstanding facilities needs.

The former service center and CUSD’s previous district office were both purchased by D.R. Horton, in May of 2013 and February of 2012, respectively. The two parcels have yielded the district $10,993,974. That number is comprised of the homebuilding company’s two bids minus expenses such as title and escrow fees and broker’s commissions.

CUSD has already used $7,700,603 of that money on some pressing needs, according to a district release.

These include payment of $1.5 million CUSD committed towards Claremont High School’s Theatre Renovation Project. The money was used to buttress a $1.5 million matching Career Technical Education Grant from the state, helping to fund the $3 million Don P. Fruechte Theatre for the Performing Arts that opened in March 2015. 

Surplus property sales funded construction of another building, the current service center located on the Richard Kirkendall Education Center site at 170 W. San Jose Ave. Completed in time for the 2014-2015 school year, it’s an 8,400-square-foot steel manufactured building with a customized interior and a $2,412,047 price tag.

A third building will be a bit smaller, but has been much needed by Sycamore Elementary School students and staff.

For years, Sycamore’s multipurpose room has doubled as the school’s library. The district saw a way to provide the school with a real library when Baldwin Park Unified offered CUSD a free portable building in August of 2013.

Baldwin Park’s gift of the modular building, which is worth $250,000, was a boon. Still, there are considerable costs, $369,243 in total, associated with outfitting it as a library.

The portable had to be moved from its old school site to Sycamore, and an architect was hired to design the building and get it approved. Electrical connections had to be run from one side of campus to the other and the building’s subfloors had to be prepared in compliance with state regulations.

Craftsman Construction, the company that won the bid on the project, has just finished pouring concrete outside of the building. They’ve gutted the interior of the structure and will be painting soon. Completion is expected as soon as 30 days, according to Rick Cota, CUSD’s executive director of facilities.

Up on the rooftop

Another item pushed to the forefront of the district’s priorities is a roofing project at CHS, finished this summer at a cost of $1,830,822.

The district has known for some time that the roofs at the high school have a tendency to leak, particularly because most of the buildings feature flat roofs—which was the norm at the time the campus was designed—on which water tends to pool.

CUSD staffers and the board of education felt even more pressure to ward off leakage because meteorologists predict exceptional amounts of rain starting as soon as November, Mr. Cota explained. “All school districts statewide have been given a notice to prepare for El Nino,” he said.

The project, which he called “pretty major,” included renovations recommended by a roofing consultant. A few structures, like the music buildings, were complete tear-offs, while others only required refurbishment. Drains were also installed on a number of the roofs.

The company that undertook the project, Garland, has provided a 10-year guarantee for every roof it repaired, according to Mr. Cota. That number is on top of whatever time was left on the roofs’ previous warrantees.

Price of technology

With the implementation of the Common Core curriculum and its accompanying Smarter Balanced assessment, districts across the state have had to pour quite a bit of money into technology.

Students are now tested on iPads online, with many groups of kids taking their tests at the same time. This has required CUSD to invest in infrastructure such as new servers, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lisa Shoemaker. 

Ms. Shoemaker said the district has also purchased iPads so students can take tests and benefit from the educational opportunities afforded by tablets. Of the proceeds from the district’s real estate deals, $1,588,491 has been spent on instructional tech, which includes equipment and hardware.

Eye on the future

There is still some money from the property sales left in district coffers. The question is what CUSD will do with the remaining $3,293,371.

In recent months, Mr. Cota and his crew reviewed a list of capital projects priorities drawn up by district staffers last year. They’ve also interviewed administrators and school staffs to find out what facilities needs are considered most pressing.

This past June, the facilities department drew up a new, multi-million dollar list of vital projects, with those that concern health and safety—including Americans with Disability Act compliance—at the top.

Among the high-priority items is the modernization of the El Roble Intermediate School pool, which is currently drained and not functional. The Claremont High School pool is also in need of updating.

A study, which would cost $45,000, is required before the district can determine the scope of the potential pool projects. For instance, CUSD would find out whether renovating one or both of the pools is likely to trigger ADA requirements with regards to the pool-adjacent locker rooms.

CUSD has created a release—available on the district website—detailing the money the district has from the sale of the two properties, how much of this money has already been spent, and how much is left. This kind of clear communication is important, according to Ms. Shoemaker.

“We want people to know that we’re using the property proceeds effectively,” she said. “I think that sometimes, to you and I, $11 million feels like a lot of money. But it’s a drop in the bucket when it comes to the district’s facility needs.”

—Sarah Torribio

storrbio@claremont-courier.com