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Pasadena schools trim campus construction plans

  • An empty lot which is supposed to be the future home of Sierra Madre Middle School. The school, which was demolished two years ago and replaced with temporary classroom space, will receive $32 million for a new campus.
An empty lot which is supposed to be the future home of Sierra Madre Middle… (Cheryl A. Guerrero / Staff…)
June 20, 2012|By Joe Piasecki, joe.piasecki@latimes.com

Plans to build a new Sierra Madre Middle School campus and make significant renovations at Pasadena’s McKinley School survived major cuts this week as officials scaled down construction projects throughout the Pasadena Unified School District.

The district is reducing projects funded by the 2008 Measure TT schools bond after announcing in May that most matching funds from the state had evaporated.

Local officials had projected that the $350 million in Measure TT funds would yield $465 million for school construction projects, but that number has since been scaled back to about $371 million.

Schools facilities chief David Azcárraga and bond construction manager Robin Brown unveiled new project budgets on Tuesday during a meeting of a three-member school board subcommittee.

Sierra Madre Middle School, which was demolished two years ago and replaced with temporary classroom space, will receive $32 million for a new campus — a budget reduction of $1.6 million.

Improvements to the athletic field have been cut, but plans for a four-classroom building to host graduates of an elementary-school Chinese language immersion program were taken off the chopping block.

In all, the new campus will include 22 new classrooms, plus science and computer labs, a library, gym and multipurpose building.

Melissa Castillo, one of the campus’s parent representatives to the district, said she was happy the campus would not suffer deeper cuts and said parents will raise money for the sports field.

Parent organizer Maria Decker said saving the Chinese language classrooms was “a big win” for the school.

McKinley’s budget was scaled down from $39.7 million to $36.2 million mostly by foregoing plans to renovate the school auditorium and build a new band room. McKinley will receive a new gym, science building and kitchen, as well as a redesigned playground and other upgrades. Work will begin later this year.

“It’s painful to have to cut things out of your budget that you were counting on for years, but I think at this point we’re comfortable with how it’s going,” said Buddy Renzullo, a McKinley PTA member and parent liaison to the district.

Cuts to school construction budgets varied from school to school, with current campus conditions and prior use of Measure TT funds among the factors.

Blair High School is taking a nearly $15 million cut — losing a new 9th-grade wing, theater space and stadium upgrades — because construction of its new middle school campus last year went slightly over budget and used $14 million in bond money.

Marshall Fundamental School, where work on new classrooms, library and gym space is already under way or complete, must give up auditorium and kitchen improvements to save $4.7 million.

John Muir High School is losing improvements to its gym, while Pasadena High School will take $10 million in cuts to what was a $37-million budget by eliminating work on the auditorium and reducing work on the gym.

Members of the district’s facilities subcommittee  also considered whether some unfunded projects should be able to draw from $10 million in funds freed up last year after board members scratched plans for a central school district kitchen.

Rose City High School, a continuation school based at district headquarters, was left out of initial Measure TT plans, but board members Ramon Miramontes and Ed Honowitz say it should receive bond funding.

Miramontes and Honowitz also want to consider renovations for the Washington Children’s Center, which may be used for a Head Start program next year.

The group will meet again on July 17, with the full board expected to approve final project budgets in late July.

District officials plan to use $5.1 million in bond funds originally slated for San Rafael Elementary School to relocate students due to seismic safety concerns. The school’s closure as early as the 2013-14 school year could result in reactivating a shuttered elementary school campus, with costs exceeding $5.1 million.

Board members will discuss the future of San Rafael on June 26 and make a final decision about the campus in August.

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