State budget woes halt Santa Rosa charter school expansion
Published: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, October 29, 2012 at 5:26 p.m.
Plans to expand and remodel the campus of Santa Rosa Charter School for the Arts have hit a funding snag that is likely to delay the project at least a year.
Santa Rosa City Schools has been awarded a $5.1 million grant, and officials had planned to secure a $5.1 million state loan to cover the required local matching funds. The loan was to be repaid with redevelopment and developer fees, but those dollars were put in limbo after Gov. Jerry Brown dissolved 400 local redevelopment agencies on Feb. 1 to use their funds to help close the state budget gap.
"We absolutely need the state funds in hand to move forward," said Associate Superintendent Doug Bower.
The delay is complicated by the fact that the $10.2 million upgrade to the Humboldt Street campus includes significant expansion and construction, requiring the entire school population to relocate for a full school year. That complicated arrangement was expected in 2013-14 but is now put off at least a year.
The ripple effect of that move would be felt elsewhere in Sonoma County's largest school district, as another campus would likely have to share facilities with the 340-student arts charter for a year.
"It's not just relocation; you are displacing something else," Bower said.
The delay comes as the arts charter is experiencing significant growth in popularity. The school has seen its kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment grow 93 percent since it was opened on the former Fremont Elementary School campus in 2007.
The expansion plan proposes to add a two-story classroom building, black box theater, 1,440-square-foot dance room and new administration building among other additions. The new facility would accommodate 430 students.
"In a way, we have this problem of our own success," Principal Elizabeth Evans said. "We have more kids than we have space."
Officials are pressing forward with plans to continue to offer two kindergarten classes for 2013-14 and hold a lottery for any classes with more students than space.
"This is not a bad problem to have, that a school is having such success," school board member Donna Jeye said.
The district will know better what options are available after the Nov. 6 election in which California voters will decide on the fate of two school funding measures: Propositions 30 and 38.
"I think we are not going to know anything definitive until after this election," Jeye said. "We are experiencing frustration on many levels, and so far there is not much relief in sight until we see what happens next week."
Evans, who credited her staff and parent community for making temporary adjustments to address the packed campus, said students and staff need some relief.
Temporary fixes, like converting a staff room into a classroom need to be addressed, she said.
"We really need to get them a staff room. It's a union issue," Evans said. "Teachers need to have a space to eat lunch, make copies and prepare lesson plans. Right now we have a refrigerator in the library."
In some cases, drama production holds practices in a vacated third-grade classroom and music classes are conducted on the stage in the multipurpose room while a district after-school program uses the rest of the space.
"It's a little bit hectic," said Kim Jason, arts coordinator on campus. "She just pulls the curtain and carries on."
Staff Writer Kerry Benefield writes an education blog at extracredit.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. She can be reached at 526-8671, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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