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May 21, 2008 > Taking the measure of Hayward schools

Taking the measure of Hayward schools

Measure I - what does it mean?

By Denny Stein

Hayward's Yes for Kids on Measure I campaign is in full swing and gathering momentum as Election Day, June 3, approaches. Volunteers are answering phones, calling voters, and making yard signs. Parents, students, teachers, administrators, and just-plain-citizens are walking door-to-door to convince Hayward voters of the tremendous need for safe, clean, modern schools in the Hayward Unified School District (HUSD). Their bottom line? Vote YES on Measure I on June 3rd.

In January, the HUSD School Board decided to bring the city's schools into the 21st century. The Board voted to put a bond issue on the June ballot, to raise funds needed to upgrade and modernize, or replace, deteriorating Hayward schools. Measure I on the Hayward ballot needs 55% of those voting to vote "Yes." The Vote Yes on Measure I campaign, spearheaded by Rick Hart (an involved Hayward citizen, parent and business owner) was conceived to educate the people of Hayward on what a bond issue is and how it will affect them individually and collectively.

There is little, if any opposition to Measure I, and certainly no organized opposition. Volunteers and staff of the campaign have found that most fears are allayed when the bond measure is explained and questions answered. The cost will be spread over 20 years and qualifies for state matching funds. The icing on Hayward's cake is that these school improvements will raise property values. The Hayward Chamber of Commerce has been tremendously supportive of the Vote Yes for Kids Campaign.

It has been 45 years since the last school bond was issued in Hayward. The usual life expectancy of a school is 30 years. Most of Hayward Unified's schools are 50 to 60 years old. School systems depend on bond money to maintain buildings, make capital repairs, and update anachronistic systems. Due to the absence of bond funds over all these years, the Hayward schools are falling into disrepair and deteriorating from age alone.

The current school board has decided that now is the time to go to the voters for the funds desperately needed to improve the Hayward schools. If Measure I passes, five of Hayward's elementary schools will be the first in a 4-phase plan to benefit from the long needed infusion of capital funds. A Design Team, made up of community leaders, teachers, and school staff, chose these schools. The Team worked with an experienced school building contractor, Vanir Construction Management, to reach a consensus on the magnitude of need for each school, and thus the order in which repairs would be made. First in line are: East Ave, Fairview, Schafer Park, MLK, Jr., and Tyrrell. Of these five schools, Schafer Park and Fairview will be totally re-constructed; the old school buildings torn down.

This reporter went with Karen Mangon, Public Information Officer for the Hayward Unified School District, to visit one of the schools, Schafer Park Elementary School, slated for total reconstruction. We also toured a new school, Stonebrae Elementary, and discussed the new model Burbank Elementary School, which will open in August.

At Schafer Park, built in the heart of Hayward in 1957, Principal Zarina Zanipatin-Genera is young, excited, and dedicated to her school. She has managed to cover graffiti-strewn walls with a new coat of paint, and, with help from parent volunteers, has rescued two dirt courtyards, turning them into grassy, learning areas for students and teachers. But Principal Zanipatin-Genera cannot replace all the corroding pipes or the scratched windows hung with dilapidated curtains. The classrooms and children need their chalkboards replaced with dust-free whiteboards; computers are needed in the classes, with up-to-date wi-fi for 21st century learning; and the teachers need a staff room. Security cameras are required to see who is coming in and out of the school yards, especially since no fences separate community playgrounds from the school's blacktop areas, and the main office looks out on the street.

The entrance to Schafer Park is a low, dark, covered walkway (where on rainy days, children huddle to stay dry). There is one multi-purpose room at Schafer Park. It is used for gym, assemblies, and as a lunchroom. The room is so small that children eat in multiple shifts, and assemblies must be repeated twice. The school sits in the middle of its community, surrounded by streets and houses, yet has no appropriate fencing. Principal Zanipatin-Genera has had to deal with ruptured pipes, a sewage spill, and two "lock-downs" as unauthorized persons ran through the open schoolyard. Schafer Park Elementary School is the first Hayward school in line for replacement.

Stonebrae Elementary School, a new school built with financial assistance by the developer of Stonebrae, has a bright open courtyard, visible from the main office, with a welcoming sculpture of large bright numbers decorating a silver fence. The classrooms are built around a soft-surfaced courtyard, again, visible from the main office. Doors open onto this sunny space, and busy children in their classes are reading, writing, studying butterflies, engrossed in their education. The walls are covered in bright, white marker boards, which double as sliding doors to storage areas. Computers are available for the up-to-date media type learning that children intuitively absorb these days, the combination of auditory and visual input that surrounds us all in the modern world.

At Schaefer Park and the new Burbank Elementary School, the city has worked with the school board to build and operate a new kind of school - a community based learning and playing environment. Not only will these schools be used for their traditional educational purposes, but, after school hours and weekends the schools will become neighborhood centers, hosting programs for senior and youth citizens, and community meetings. The school playgrounds will be maintained by HARD (the Hayward Area Recreational Department), so that the community can use them soccer, baseball, basketball, etc. Newly installed security systems and cameras will make all this possible, without jeopardizing the safety of the children.

The three other schools in Measure I's Phase 1, Martin Luther King, Jr., East Avenue, and Tyrell, will be modernized, with new buildings replacing portable classrooms, larger gyms and multi-purpose rooms, new libraries, modern media learning centers, new roofs and landscaping, where appropriate.

The need throughout the Hayward School District is so great that this first phase - $205 million dollars - cannot address all the construction and improvements considered necessary throughout the District. Thus, the bond measure will be repeated twice, at two to four year intervals. Hayward citizens should be aware that school bond issues are regulated by the state, so that regular audits are done of all spending, no bond funds can be used for administration or staff salaries, and a Citizen Oversight Committee is required by state law to monitor the spending of all funds.

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