After years of hearing residents complain about shortcomings at their new high school, Marina city officials want to see if they can do something about it.
A high school "is a pivotal piece of any city. It affects progress, property values. We want to see what our best options are," Mayor Bruce Delgado said Thursday. "Getting the city, the school and the community together seems like a good way to rally attention toward improving things when improvement is needed."
On Tuesday, a group of about 40 people gathered at the Marina Library to discuss what options are available for dealing with the high school. Should it remain what it is — a school with a population of about 600 students, located at a former elementary school? Should it be improved somehow? Should it be moved to another, existing school on a larger piece of property?
Community members in attendance wanted to see more city support for the high school. Eventually, they would like to see a comprehensive campus with a football stadium, an Olympic-size swimming pool and lots of amenities.
Almost like it was envisioned in 2006 when it first opened.
That year, officials at the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District found a site to house the new Marina High School at a former elementary school, but residents believed it would be temporary.
Then the economy went south and the new homes weren't finished or remained empty. Marina High has continued at its current site on Patton Parkway.
The student body seems to thrive in the small campus atmosphere, teachers and parents say. But some community members have expected more amenities — a gym, a football stadium, a place where Marina residents can convene and cheer for their hometown teams.
City officials seem to agree. At the town hall meeting Tuesday, Interim City Manager Doug Yount said the city has $500,000 that could be used for the high school.
The money won't go very far, Yount said, but it could be used for preliminary studies and perhaps some cosmetic upgrades, such as adding a football field.
"If the school and city agree on a good way to spend money, we can do that," Delgado said Thursday. "It would not be proper to spend a lot of it — maybe $150,000 or $200,000 and save the majority of money for future needs."
Delgado wants to rally residents behind the high school and its needs as administrators explore the possibility of issuing a bond. At the Feb. 20 City Council meeting, a consultant is expected to talk about the city's borrowing capacity. The city may not be in a position to issue the bond amount needed to build a high school — which in 2006 was estimated to cost $65 million.
In the meantime, MPUSD administrators continue to chip away at obtaining needed permits. The California Department of Education needs to approve the land where the high school will be located, adjacent to the current site. The last time the department's representatives were in town, the site required more studies, said John Silvestrini, director of facilities for MPUSD.
"They want a study on the big gas line by the freeway," he said. "Since San Bruno (gas line explosion), they're very cautious about gas lines."
Additional studies discovered a buried "mass," Silvestrini said, that "may be a dump, metal cans, but we don't know."
"We sent a request for the city of Marina to have a FORA munitions expert check it out," he said.
Michael Graham, a Marina resident who helped design one of the academic programs at the high school, believes Tuesday's meeting was a step in the right direction.
"For the first time, the city said it's willing to help so the burden is not entirely on the district," he said Thursday.
Although the city has been involved from the get-go, it hasn't been this hands-on, Graham said. When plans were made to build a high school to accommodate growth, the city and school district drafted a contract to have the facilities used by the community and students, but it would still be up to the school district to see the project through.
With the town hall meeting, there are signs the city is going beyond that, Graham said.
"People are starting to see what the school can become, not just the bells and whistles," he said.
Claudia Meléndez Salinas can be reached at 753-6755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.