Grass Valley School District officials eye $24M facilities bond |

Grass Valley School District officials eye $24M facilities bond

A patched up crack in the retaining wall of Bell Hill Academy School in Grass Valley, is indicative of the upgrades needed on the 1950s era campus. Grass Valley School district is considering a $24 million bond to fix key issues around the districts' campus' including Bell Hill and Hennessy School.
Elias Funez/

Grass Valley School District, formed in 1853, can lay claim to being the first school district in Nevada County, with the oldest school buildings and the oldest continuously operated school site in California, district officials say.

Hennessy School, now the home of Grass Valley Charter School, was built in the 1930s; Bell Hill Academy dates back to the 1950s.

So the district was not surprised that a 2015 facilities master plan uncovered a host of issues that include health and safety code violations, facility preservation and modernization needs, along with wish-list improvements such as new multi-purpose rooms or gyms.

“Our facilities are in need,” said Assistant Superintendent Brian Martinez. “We’ve done our best with the resources available — but when the rains come, the roofs leak.”

“We’ve done our best with the resources available — but when the rains come, the roofs leak.”— Brian Martinez, Grass Valley School District assistant superintendent

No modernization improvements have been done in the district’s schools since about 2000, Martinez said.

“Those were tech upgrades, and that was almost 20 years ago,” he said.

According to Martinez and Superintendent Eric Fredrickson, the district has sought state funding to improve its facilities, but the price tag is high — the cost estimate for everything on the district’s wish list stands at $40 million and change.

But once the district breaks that wish list into priorities — with health and safety and preservation needs at the head of the list — the top priorities pencil out to approximately $22 million.

And that falls into line with a potential facilities bond being eyed by the district for possible placement on the June 2018 ballot; the maximum threshold for this general obligation bond — which would require a 55 percent yes vote to pass — is $24 million.

The district is developing a 40-question survey on the issue that will go out to the community by phone or email between Halloween and Thanksgiving, Martinez said. A letter also will be going out to residents, outlining the need for the bond and inviting them to tour the schools.

“That will help us determine if these (improvement) priorities resonate with the community and whether the concept of a bond measure is likely to be successful,” he said. “From that, the board will decide, probably in December, if they will move forward with a bond measure.”

The success of the bond measure will depend on whether the district can clearly communicate the need and connect with the voters, Martinez said.

“We’ve used things well beyond their life expectancy,” he added, noting a sagging and many-patched roof of Hennessy School as an example.

The last time the Grass Valley School District went out for a bond was 50 years ago, Fredrickson points out. He stressed that voters need to understand that none of the funding generated by the recently passed bond measure by Nevada Joint Union High School District goes to Grass Valley’s elementary and middle schools.

“We want clean, safe schools for the kids,” he said. “That’s the message.”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email or call 530-477-4236.

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