SSUSD asks public to join in ’Building Schools for Tomorrow’

SSUSD asks public to join in ’Building Schools for Tomorrow’By LAURA QUEZADA

News Review Staff Writer

Volunteers are asked to register for the Building Schools for Tomorrow Committee by January 17 by calling the district business office at 760-499-1604. The committee will meet four Tuesdays, January 25 to February 16, from 6 to 9p.m. Dinner will be served and there will be no homework. All particpation takes place during the meetings at the multi-purpose room of Murray Middle School.

About three or four years ago the Sierra Sands United School District (SSUSD) prepared a Facilities Master Plan. “Now we’re at a point in the district where we want to broaden the analysis and include community members, citizens, taxpayers, business owners, parents, anyone, everyone,” says Dr. Dave Ostash, Superintendent of SSUSD. Educational partners, teachers, staff, classified staff and parents have had opportunities to contribute but in order to be thorough the district is reaching out to the community to participate. Ostash says, “We wanted to take a big sweep and say, ‘What about other folks who have a real vested interest in the school system here, but who don’t have normal opportunities to contribute?’” This is important because the outcomes could lead “to an identified need that would require some significant decision like do we go for a general obligation bond? Do we apply for different kinds of grants?”

Discussion points include SSUSD facilities, school funding, public information and community opinion, and recommendations to the SSUSD Board of Trustees. “At the end of the four week committee we will generate a report that describes the process and where this committee went with it.” The report will be provided to the board. “There will be an indication of what this committee was able to develop consensus on.” The board will be able to factor in the feedback from all of the educational partners. The Building Schools for Tomorrow Committee report will help assure “that the board has the best information possible to then move forward with whatever actions would be most appropriate to reach the goals of our community.”

Ostash clarifies, “Primarily, it’s for the physical plant. It’s for things like facilities, classrooms, fields, places, etc. But, really, everything’s interwoven; because you need you need state of the art facilities in order to house innovative state of the art programs.” He provides an example, “Look at our engineering building that we were able to build about 10 years ago. We’ve been able to house incredible coursework there. We have a partnership with China Lake and with the college. We have a robotics competitive team and we house equipment there that is similar to some of the equipment you’ll find on base as far as engineering and machinery.” Aptly illustrating, ”Facilities are interwoven with how you’re able to develop and sustain programs.”

High on the list of priorities is the state of Monroe Middle School. Ostash explains how school buildings are evaluated using the Facilities Conditions Index (FCI), “A zero would be if something is brand new the first day you open it; it’s brand new, right? And then 100 would be that it’s dilapidated, it’s ready to be demolished. All of our schools are ranged somewhere between 00 and 90. A lot of our facilities are somewhere between 40 and 60, which is in the range where it’s worth continuing to maintain, to modernize, to fix up, to keep going.

The Monroe Middle School is our highest FCI score school; it’s approximately 90 which means it’s nearing end of life. It needs one of two things: it needs either to be demolished and built new, or it needs significant considerable modernization. Conventional wisdom in facilities master planning is the higher the FCI score is the more you ought to consider building new because you get to a point where you’re throwing good money after bad.”

The community is invited to be a part of the conversation and contribute so that an action plan can be put into place with the voice of the community and all educational partners being heard.

Laura Austin Photo: Superintendent Dr. Dave Ostash and Administrative Secretary Diane Naslund review the Facilities Master Plan.

Story First Published: 2022-01-07