Forward-thinking educators accept that tomorrow’s school facilities need to look and function differently than they do today, but Colusa Unified School District Superintendent Dwayne Newman is finding it hard to get people involved in a discussion on how a small community will solve the problem of aging and out-of-date campuses.
Once again, only a handful of Colusa residents showed up Nov. 5 for the third community meeting on facility needs. The series of meetings was intended to get input from the public on how or if the schools their children attend should be repaired or replaced.
The district needs about $35 million to modernize or build new schools, but only has about $9 million left in bond capacity, Newman said. The district will also have to look at a number of funding options, such as long-term loans.
Newman said CUSD’s mission is not just to provide quality education to students, but also to provide safety. None of the district’s three campus meets the security needs of the 21st century, he said.
Egling and Colusa High School are almost entirely open and accessible, and Burchfield, while enclosed, still has an issue with homeless people climbing the fences at night to stay out of view of the public. They also periodically use the entranceway to the old structure (built in the 1950s) where the fifth grade is located as a toilet, Newman said.
In addition to safety, the outdated schools don’t meet the technology needs of students today, nor are they entirely ADA accessible.
“It’s about safety, it’s about providing a high-quality education to all of our students, and, long-term, we want to make sure we have a sustainable system that will provide an excellent and well-balanced system of education that gives students the skills that they need to function in a world that is changing very, very quickly.”
While the meetings are intended for the public to discuss the needs of the students, they are also just conservations about how education is changing, and how the campuses will need to look in the future.
“It’s a series of meetings where we can dream about what’s best for our students, and what would it take to set the district up to be very successful in the long-term,” Newman said.
At the end of the process in May of 2019, Newman said the district hopes to have a vision for all the facilities within Colusa Unified, and a plan to fund that vision.
“It’s a challenge – that’s for sure,” said Denise Conrado, a retired educator who attended last week’s meeting. “I wish the state could provide more.”
The school board suggested that before the district goes out for another bond, they should decide if certain features of the schools are repairable, or if new classrooms, kitchens, restrooms, and other facilities will need to be built from the ground up.
“Does it make sense to modernize when we have buildings that are 40, 50 plus years old?” Newman said. “That simple question has brought us to the place where we needed to find a way to engage the community.”
The next meeting will be held at 5:30 PM, Dec. 10, at the Colusa Unified School District auditorium, 745 10th St., Colusa. ■