FREMONT -- The school district's aging facilities are in such need of major repair that board members have placed Fremont Unified's largest bond, a $650 million campus-improvement measure, on the June ballot.
The five-member board's unanimous decision came last week in response to a report that found the district's renovation wish list could cost as much as $1.6 billion, Superintendent James Morris said.
The bond money would be spent to remove asbestos, renovate deteriorating classrooms and science labs, update technology infrastructure and repair faulty electrical wiring in a district with 33,000 students using facilities nearly a half-century old, he said.
"All 42 of our (campuses) are aging, out-of-date and need significant repairs," board President Lara Calvert-York said in a news release. "Upgrading our schools and classrooms will protect the quality of academic instruction in core subjects."
American High hasn't had a heating ventilation system for five years, and an elevator at Ardenwood Elementary hasn't worked for some time, Morris said.
"These are basics that will cost us a lot more money later if we don't fix them immediately," he said. Also, state standards demand more student access to the Internet, "which requires us to expand our bandwidth and upgrade our technological infrastructure," said Raul Parungao, the district's assistant superintendent of business services.
The bond measure would be the district's first since 2002, when voters approved a $157 million health and safety bond. The district is still paying it off, Parungao said, noting that Fremont property owners each year pay nearly $31 per $100,000 of assessed value for the 12-year-old bond measure.
If the new measure passes in June, property owners might be asked to pay the annual maximum of $59, pushing their combined payments for the two bonds to more than $89 per $100,000 of assessed value, district leaders said.
Keeping schools up-to-date is worth the cost, Morris said.
"Any Fremont resident knows the reason our property values are what they are is because of our schools," he said. "Our kids deserve to have a safe place where they can be educated and prepare to be the leaders of tomorrow."
Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.