$6.2 million Nordhoff expansion
by Bret Bradigan
Despite being $1.2 million short because of higher-than-expected
bids, the Ojai Unified School District voted unanimously Tuesday
to proceed with construction of the $6.2 million Nordhoff High
The recent passage of state Proposition 47, which puts the district
in line for $14.8 million in construction bond money, was the
deciding factor. "We will know the afternoon of Dec. 11
exactly when our checks will arrive," said Superintendent
Van Riley. That's when the bond committee meets, and it has already
voted to fund the entire list of construction projects.
"In a worst-case scenario," he said, "we won't
build the science building." And most of the deficit could
be made up from developer fees and existing building and grounds
budget. The district already has $4.6 million in the bank from
Measure S, the local school issue which district voters passed
Representatives from the project contractor, Lundgren Management
Corporation, were on hand to explain why the bids came in high.
They said that the demand for school construction projects has
exceeded the supply of contractors available to build them. As
an example, the Nordhoff project was estimated at $150 per square
foot, and they hoped to find
low bids to reduce the project cost to $130 to $140 per square
foot. Instead, it came in at $150 per square foot again, which
is still a bargain compared to other school projects that exceeded
$180 per square foot. "We're convinced you will be getting
fair market value," said, Lewis Carolla, Lundgren's vice
president of operations.
And while inflation has been low across the broad spectrum of
the economy, it has been higher in the building trades , said
project manager Dan Holmquist.
Before casting his vote, board member Bob Unruhe said, "The
community wants this, they voted for it, and we have a fallback
plan if necessary."
The district's assistant superintendent for instruction, Dr.
Tim Baird, presented the district's plan to improve Academic
Performance Index test scores, which fell in most schools across
the district last year, with the notable exceptions of Mira Monte
Elementary School and San Antonio Elementary School. Nordhoff
scores fell 45 points, and that was the focus of the remedial
effort. Some of the factors that may have led to lower scores
this year, Baird said, were an increase of test takers with English
as a second language and an increase of test takers in special
education programs. Another important factor, he said, was that
students "didn't see a meaningful impact between this test
and themselves," Baird said. "Many students essentially
tanked on this exam."
The API score is not the result of one test, he said, but a compilation
and condensation of different test scores for different grades,
including the Stanford 9 and California Achievement Tests.
Motivating students to do better is the key to future improvements,
he said, and that starts with educating the teachers, as well
as the students, on the importance of the test. Board Chairman
Kathi Smith said "Colleges look at scores when they don't
know the schools," to assess graduates for admission. And
board members discussed the importance of test-taking skills
for later in life.
The improvement plan included:
· Improve curriculum by designing remedial plans for low-scoring
students, and improving procedures for English as second language
students, such as class placement, tracking and tutoring.
· Increase motivation by informing students of the importance
of the test, particularly the STAR exam, and create incentives
for them to do well.
· Improve testing conditions by staff training, schoolwide
focus on preparation, and review of the test-taking plan.
Baird concluded his presentation with a prediction. "I'm
confident we'll be talking about something different next year."
In other business, the board received an updated bus safety plan
from Eric Ordway, the district's transportation supervisor. He
also discussed the percentage of students who ride buses to school,
which was 45 percent last year. The ridership survey will be
done next week for this year, he said. "It would be great
to have more kids riding buses," he said, "especially
since it's the safest transportation."
A parent representative, Carri Jacobs, from the district's calendar
committee, requested more time to devise a school calendar and
schedule for next year. The committee's belief is that parents
need time to go through the current calendar before making any
changes. They plan to poll the community in May, and again in
August or September.
Muriel Lavender, a long-time previous board member, was appointed
to a three-year term as the board's representative to the Classified
Personnel Commission, replacing Larry Hartmann.
The district set Dec. 10 as its organizational meeting, when
officers of the board will be appointed, and the newest board
member, Pauline Mercado will be seated.
Tuesday marked the final board meeting, after 23 years of service,
for Vince France, who took a few moments prior to the meeting
to eat cake and accept either congratulations or condolences,
depending on the speaker.
© 2002 The Ojai Valley News
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