School schedules reviewed
By Bret Bradigan
Skaters faced off against school
board members Tuesday night, but weren't kept spinning their
In fact, the Ojai Unified School District unanimously approved
a 20-year lease extension with the city, allowing Parks and Recreation
staff to make their deadline for a Proposition 40 grant deadline
Monday to make the Ojai Skate Park a permanent part of the Ojai
If the grant is approved, the skate park would expand from 7,300
square-feet to 10,000 square feet. The original lease ended at
the end of 2000. Under the new terms, similar to the old terms,
the city will pay the school district $194 a year for each of
71 parking spaces at the Park Ride, and $4,268 a year for the
Carol Belser, the city's Parks and Recreation Department director,
teamed up with Jim Berube, the district's assistant superintendent,
to bring the board up to date on the project. Berube said the
three-year temporary skate park has met or exceeded expectations.
"I can say for myself, the experiment has been nothing
but a positive ... We have little problems here and there, but
Belser said that the lease was critical, "regardless of
whether we get this grant or not. The city is interested in a
long-term lease." The new skate park, with a cost estimated
at $365,000, would include lights, bike rack, new restrooms,
and misting devices to keep spectators cool at events. "It's
what Ojai kids want," she said, as she handed out preliminary
About a dozen skaters in attendance introduced themselves, and
some spoke for the need for a permanent park. Kevin Offerman
said, "This park has been really good, but it's falling
apart and it's really scary."
The busy agenda also included an update on last year's contentious
school calendar issue. A committee of parents, teachers and administrators
met about 10 times, and conducted a poll of 556 parents at all
district schools. Their representative, Beth Cohen, presented
Parents rated various portions of the calendar - from start dates,
winter break, spring break to school end dates - either favorable,
unfavorable and no opinion. Most parents, 61.5 percent, favored
their current calendars, though only 31 percent favored the start
date for high school and only 16 percent favored having separate
calendars for different schools.
Noting the fact that only one parent was in attendance, as opposed
to the auditorium full last winter when the issue heated up,
Superintendent Dr. Tim Baird saw that "as a statement that
the community feels they've been heard."
The most opposition to the current split schedule came from parents
with children spread across the district - K-6, junior high and
high school. They rated the current separate schedules as unfavorable
by 84 percent, with only 6.25 percent in favor, though those
same parents favored the current winter break schedule by nearly
Overall, Cohen said, "It seems people are relatively happy
with the start and end dates," though separate start dates
for high schoolers and elementary school students proved to be
unpopular, as did separate spring breaks.
Cohen ended with a plea to the district to continue the concept
of task forces, such as was formed for the calendar issue. She
called it "a great way for you to gather input ... and a
real opportunity to bring people together and build networks."
The slumbering topic of start and end times for the school day
was also revived at Tuesday's meeting, in the guise of dealing
with the 45-minute waits students face for Nordhoff buses. Eric
Ordway, the district's transportation supervisor, presented the
board with four options for rescheduling bus schedules, all of
which either created extra expense - such as adding a new bus
and driver - or extra inconvenience - such as doubling up with
other buses, thereby increasing wait times for some elementary
"These are tough options," he said. "It will impact
the students, and not very positively."
Ordway said about 80 students were currently congregating around
the bus station after school, a drop from the fall numbers, as
students either resigned themselves to walking home, or made
The fourth option, to make no changes this year, but to re-route
bus schedules next year for the entire district, put the "bell-time
issue up for grabs," said Rikki Horne, the board's newly
The board agreed that more supervision at the bus stop was the
best solution for the time being. They also agreed to review
both the bus schedules and school start times in the future.
One reason for tabling that issue is that the district expects
fewer students to bus around next year. Baird presented estimates
that show the district dropping from 3,622 regular education
students in its October census this year, to 3,504 students next
year. All schools except San Antonio Elementary and Nordhoff
High School will suffer an enrollment decline, with Matilija
Junior High absorbing the biggest loss at an estimated 68 fewer
This could mean the loss of the equivalent of 6.2 full-time teaching
positions, though Baird cautioned that these were estimates would
be further refined. "This is our first shot out of the box."
The ever-shrinking budget also
loomed large, as the district's budget officer, Danielle Pusatere,
presented the first of four of her interim financial reports.
Guessing that the state of California's financial disarray make
mid-year cuts likely, Pusatere said that a rollover of $670,000
in categorical funds from the prior year will help absorb those
cuts. That does not include tapping into any of the 3 percent
reserves. Baird said, "The sky would have to be falling
and the creeks rising before we go there."
Pusatere said it appears the district should be able to meet
its obligations for the next two years, barring any financial
meltdown in Sacramento.
That said, the district approved sending out to bid several construction
projects, including renovations at Matilija Junior High School's
auditorim and track. The auditorium project is set to start after
the Nordhoff spring musical concludes in the spring, and should
be completed by the start of the school year in August, 2004.
Besides handicapped accommodations and a ticket booth, Berube
said the $600,000 renovation will increase capacity from 220
seats to 298. The $80,000 track project will eliminate the chronic
drainage problems, that keep part of the junior high track under
water for six of the nine months of school.
Speaking of Matilija, student board representative Kevin Horswell
said he visited Doug Becker, the school's principal, during a
job-trade day, when a lucky student, Tyler Stallings, got to
be principal for the day, and Becker took her place as a student.
He received detention for having his cell phone ring during science
class, while Stallings declared that there would be no homework
and running during physical education classes for that day.
The meeting began ceremoniously, with the conclusion of Tim Peddicord's
reign as board president, and the assumption of Rikki Horne to
that rotating role. Bob Unruhe became vice president and Kathi
Smith became clerk of the board. It ended quietly, as Baird said
due to the lateness of hour, approaching 11 p.m., he would forgo
his superintendent's report. "There's no burning issues
for you to hear about," he said.
The Ojai Valley News
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