PINOLE -- Incidents and crimes reported to the police are way down at Pinole Valley High School this school year, and West Contra Costa school officials have completed a plan to replace the school with a new, $180 million campus by 2018.
The exchange of information came during a joint meeting between the Pinole City Council and school trustees Tuesday evening.
Pinole police Chief John Hardester had reassuring news for the trustees more concerned than ever about violence and truancy at its campuses following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Crimes, including fights and vandalism, have fallen to 19 since the opening of school last fall, far below the 81 reported during the 2011-12 school year. At the same time, there have been 153 incidents, such as suspicious persons on campus, reported so far compared with 397 a year ago.
Hardester said the difference might be explained by the district's installation of 35 surveillance cameras at the school.
"There's been no change in policy, so I attribute it at least in part to the cameras," Hardester said.
The number of reported crimes and incidents is up at Pinole Middle School, although the total numbers are far lower than at the high school.
Pinole Valley High has two school resource officers, police officers assigned to the school, and Pinole Middle School has one.
Trustees told the City Council that campus security would be a priority
The school board plans to approve $60 million more for the project, bringing the total budget to $180 million, at its Feb. 6 meeting, board member Charles Ramsey told the council.
The district will begin work on the project this summer by bracing the hillside behind the school.
Next, the school will move into portable classrooms to be set up on the western area of the campus during the summer of 2014, said Kevin McCrory, the chief architect on the project.
In the fall of 2014, the district will begin tearing down the old school and building the new campus, which will have a single, three-story classroom building with an outlying library and 600-seat performing arts center.
The school will move into the new building in the fall of 2018, the portables will be dismantled, and the baseball field on which they will sit will be restored.
Some council members and residents voiced concerns over traffic issues during and after construction on Pinole Valley Road, and the board promised to look into drop-off areas and traffic calming in front of the school.
Ramsey said the board will hold a public meeting in April to address questions about noise, traffic disruption and other issues.
The last phase of Pinole Middle School reconstruction, a new athletic field with artificial turf, will be finished next spring, with the help of a $500,000 contribution from the city.
The district intends to replace Shannon Elementary in Pinole using funds from Measure E, the bond issue passed Nov. 6, and wants to build a new Collins Elementary.
District administrator Katie Von Husen gave the council an optimistic picture of the academic progress of Pinole students.
About 74 percent of Pinole Valley High 10th graders passed the high school exit exam in math and 82 percent in English during the 2011-12 school year, Von Husen said.
"The students who don't pass as 10th graders still have two years to pass it," she said.
Pinole Mayor Debbie Long expressed concern about Academic Performance Index scores at Pinole Valley, saying that the school had fallen behind De Anza High in Richmond and was only ahead of Richmond and Kennedy high schools in the district.
Superintendent Bruce Harter told Long that the problem has been remedied. Pinole Valley had a turnaround last year with a 38-point improvement in its API scores, the highest in the district.