ALBANY -- MacGregor High School will be demolished and replaced with portable classrooms under a decision made by the Albany Unified School District board at a special meeting on Oct. 29.
As part of the project, the board approved an amendment to an Independent Contractor Agreement with WLC Architects to draw up plans for the demolition and the architectural design of the portable classrooms.
In addition, the board approved plans to move forward with a hardship application to a state program to seismically retrofit or replace Marin and Ocean View elementary schools.
AUSD Superintendent Marla Stephenson told the board that MacGregor, the district's continuation high school, was recently found to be without a fire alarm system because a control panel was apparently removed years ago, leaving the old system nonfunctional.
Stephenson said the school underwent annual inspections and the problem was not discovered until this year.
"Before my becoming superintendent, (the control panel) was abandoned and removed," she explained after the meeting.
Other problems were found with accessibility issues and the overall electrical system on the campus.
WLC architect Leo Ray-Lynch reinforced Stephenson's arguments.
According to a staff report, "Any substantial improvements made to MacGregor automatically triggers (the Americans with Disabilities Act) and code compliance upgrades."
Stephenson told the board that the district's facilities Master Plan Steering Committee determined that it wasn't worthwhile to upgrade the facility.
The board did not approve a contract to actually demolish the school at the meeting. But Stephenson said that in order to begin demolition at the end of the current school year and, potentially, place modular classrooms on the site by the following fall, architectural plans need to be drawn up as soon as possible.
How to pay for new classrooms could prove difficult.
Stephenson said the district currently has about $1.2 million in its building fund. Beyond that, the district has $300,000 remaining in Measure E funds and $3 million from the state Department of Education that the district applied for early in the process to rebuild the Albany Pool and was recently awarded.
Rules apply to each source of funds. The state funds were to repay the Measure E bonds approved in 2008 and it is not clear whether funds from the measure could be used on MacGregor.
The bond included language allowing construction of high school classrooms, but it was understood that the vote was on classrooms on the Albany High School campus. Stephenson told the board that she is seeking a legal opinion on this from the district's bond counsel.
Other choices for the state money are to repay the original bonds early or to take the question back to the voters.
Board members Ronald Rosenbaum and Allan Maris each expressed concern about the Measure E question, as well as the fact the votes were being taken at a special meeting with little public notice and input.
The public speakers who did show up, including Peggy McQuaid, a member of the Measure E oversight committee, questioned whether the board should be considering the matter before the oversight committee had a chance to evaluate the plans.
Stephenson said afterward that the special meeting was necessary because of the state program regarding the elementary schools and that she might have erred by including the MacGregor issue on the agenda. The mixed issues seemed to confuse both board members and public speakers at the meeting, as the discussion bounced back and forth between the issues.
The state program for seismically retrofitting schools is running out of funds, according to Stephenson, and the district needs to begin the process immediately to "get it in the pipeline." Ocean View and Marin will be evaluated to determine if they should be retrofitted or rebuilt.