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Board changes Measure G priorities

The NUSD Board of Education voted 4-3 to delay IT and classroom upgrades at a board meeting on October 2.

A motion by Trustee Greg Mack was passed by a vote of 4-3 to approve $4.4
million in air conditioning improvements at Lynwood, Loma Verde and Olive elementary schools. The motion also authorized $8.4 million in improvements tothe baseball, softball and practice fields at Novato High using money from Measure G.

To pay for the projects, funding for $10.1 million in IT and classroom upgrades, as well as $4 million in turfing projects for the San Marin softball and baseball fields, were delayed until 2021.

The construction of the new air conditioning systems and the returfing of Novato High School’s fields are expected to begin this summer. According to Trustee Greg Mack, the Board decided to approve the field upgrades after visiting the fields of both campuses and hearing from people concerned about the safety of Novato’s fields.

“[There was] a very long string of people coming in, filling out blue slips and giving us their three minutes of opinions and concerns,” Mack said. “The Novato community hosted board members out there multiples times to walk [the fields], and that really made it clear what was going on. I think every trustee except Ross [Millerick]
walked that field. Most [trustees] walked the San Marin field as well and there
was a marked difference.”

Given the finite amount of money available from the issuance of the Measure G bond, $10.1 million had to be deferred, or delayed, until 2021 to leave enough money for the air conditioning and field projects. The projects deferred were IT upgrades, flexible furniture and classroom toolkits. $7 million was deferred from IT upgrades, reducing the
budget for upgrades from $12 million to $5 million.

“I know that there are different funds for different issues, but I feel like we should be focusing those funds on education more than sports,” senior and Student Board Member
Jimena Lara said.

The district is also in the process of rolling out its One to the World Program, which aims to provide a chromebook to every student at NUSD from third to twelfth grade. The district is expected to add another thousand devices onto its WiFi network next year as the third phase of chromebook distribution is completed.

According to NUSD Network Analyst Joan Finkle, the district’s IT infrastructure may not be able to support the additional devices being added to the district’s network. Finkle noted that hardware in place at several elementary schools is stored in unventilated places and lacks enough space on their racks for upgrades needed to support the One to World device rollout. She also indicated that a key conduit at the Hill Education Center is also in need of repair. These sentiments were echoed by District Technology Support Technician III Nonny David.

“All of the time, I’m running into places where the wiring is really old,” David said. “We have lots of good wireless coverage. It’s not 100 percent ideal and there are times, like in the STEM lab, where you’re running a lot of computers that are pulling a lot of data. You need a robust wired network to support that. You cannot pull adequate data over a wireless network.”

An additional $1.4 million was deferred from flexible furniture upgrades, which would have replaced aging furniture in the district with newer furniture designed to meet 21st century learning standards. $1 million was also deferred from classroom toolkits, which would have modernized classrooms with a wireless microphone system, television and network device

“I’ve been to quite a few schools, and San Marin High School has some of the poorest conditions of anywhere I’ve been,” Principal Mark Sims said. “Our rooms need upgrading. Our desks are old and not part of current practice in classrooms. Technology is poor and not up to what teachers and [students] deserve. We have seven projectors out of service. It will be very hard for us to continue to move forward without having the support needed to do so.”

According to Trustee Mack, the Board decided to make the deferments because they believed that the other work happening simultaneously on the school sites would delay the IT and classroom upgrades. “We’re not reducing the scope [of the work] in any way, shape or form,” Mack said. “All we’re doing is spreading [the work] out over two summers instead of trying to cram it all into one summer.”

The District’s Bond Implementation Committee is scheduled to reconvene in 2020 to make recommendations on the second phase of bond-funded projects. District officials plan to fund the deferred projects in 2021.

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