San Luis Obispo Schools Finally See Benefit of Bond Monies

By Daedalus Howell

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — Conventional wisdom suggests that high school is the genesis of most teen angst. Add to that classrooms that lack air-conditioning, porta potties in lieu of proper restrooms and swim lessons conducted on dry land, and high school is tantamount to an existential black hole. Such was the case for students at San Luis Obispo High School and Morro Bay High School on California’s Central Coast until plans put in motion nearly three years ago finally began to be realized this past summer.

In 2014, a $177 million bond measure, Measure D, was proposed by San Luis Coastal Unified School District (SLCUSD), which passed with 72 percent approval. Two years later, however, construction had only begun.

The new pool at Morro Bay High School while under construction. Photo Credit: San Luis Coastal Unified School District

The bond addresses long-standing facility, technology and infrastructure needs throughout the district, particularly at San Luis Obispo (SLO) High School and Morro Bay High School. Though raising awareness, courting community involvement and hiring architects dramatically slowed progress, it was ultimately the approval process that took the longest time to run its course, explained Ryan Pinkerton, SLCUSD assistant superintendent of business services, in an interview with the New Times.

The delay was further amplified by the fact that Measure D also had to be approved by the Division of the State Architect (DSA), which oversees design and construction for K–12 schools, community colleges, and various other state-owned and leased facilities. The division also develops accessibility, structural safety, and historical building codes and standards used in various public and private buildings throughout the state of California. In all, their process can take up to a year to complete.

Hopefully, both students and staff will find it’s been worth the wait — both high schools will have renovated classrooms, including a robotics lab for SLO High School that will be completed in time for the new school year. Both schools will also have new gymnasiums, all-weather tracks for footraces, tennis courts and swimming pools. Construction for the gyms began in late July of this year, which was actually ahead of schedule for SLO High School as work wasn’t originally slated to begin until winter of 2018.

Progress on the physical education–themed projects are an important touchstone for the community at-large since SLCUSD plans to allow the facilities to be open to the public so that they can be used for exercise classes and swimming lessons outside of the school curriculum.

Though completed, Morro Bay High’s new swimming pool has yet to be filled with water, which school administrators are keen to accomplish this month. Other upgrades already in place include new phone systems, new fire alarms and energy-efficient LED lights.

“Our community has entrusted us to spend Measure D funds wisely and, as promised, on facilities improvements. We understand our role as stewards of your resources and trust,” said Eric Prater, SLCUSD superintendent, in a statement on a website established for the measure. “We are committed to a transparent bond management process and will continue to demonstrate that your trust is well-placed.”