High school bond cruises to victory

Support for a local high school funding bond only ticked higher as ballots were counted over the past week, with more than 67 percent of local residents favoring a measure that needed only 55 percent to pass.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District’s Measure E represented a far larger financial commitment than previous local high school funding measures. The $295 million approval for bond sales, intended for major building projects at both Los Altos and Mountain View highs, will be financed on a 15-year schedule to limit the interest that increases total debt, according to Fiona Walter, district board of trustees president.

Walter said volunteers walked, called and emailed across town to sell the idea that the high schools needed help continuing and expanding the already “great education” the district has been providing.

The district expects 500 additional students in future years, and plans to grow to accommodate them. Because the district can predict enrollment based on students currently attending elementary and middle schools – a relatively concrete head count – its enrollment growth estimates rely less on the complicated demographer projections that bedevil debate about projected growth at the elementary level, Walter noted.

A 2010 bond measure updated classrooms across the district and added energy improvements including solar panels for $41 million. Before that, a 1995 bond provided $35 million in funding. The new measure, larger by nearly an order of magnitude than either of its predecessors, will fund rebuilds of libraries, cafeterias and athletic facilities, as well as construction of purpose-built space for the district’s Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts & Technology and new two-story buildings at both high school campuses.

Freestyle Academy – an immersive program focused on digital technology and the arts – has $15 million set aside in the bond plan for an upgrade from the 40-year-old portables that currently house the “academy.” A total of 120 students attend the morning or afternoon Freestyle tracks in addition to their main campus coursework.

“We believe in the program, it’s got our full support, and it deserves a better space,” Walter said.

Going to two stories

The district’s existing master plan includes two-story buildings – and the substance of what each will contain, and look like, was scheduled for discussion at a board meeting after the Town Crier’s press deadline Monday. Los Altos High already has two-story classrooms, but Mountain View High does not.

Walter said the district is preparing to process its plans through the state’s department of architecture for a fall 2019 construction start date.

“We plan to put kids in those in 2020,” she said.

The new buildings will primarily take the space of portables, providing 15 new classrooms for Los Altos High and 13 for Mountain View.

Walter said she wanted to extend a “thank you to volunteers for the campaign, but also to the community, just to say thank you for believing in us and supporting our kids. We promise to be good stewards – we have a plan, we’ll stick to it.”

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