New bond for Sierra College |

New bond for Sierra College

Thirty-five years, at least two jobs and two children ago, Donna Stecker abandoned her dream of a higher education.

A paycheck beckoned Stecker to the real world back then, but Monday gave her a chance to realize a dream on her own terms.

“I have two children with degrees, and now it’s my turn,” she said at the Sierra College bookstore, a stack of texts and papers in both hands. Until last week, Stecker worked long hours at her family owned transit and storage business.

For the next few months at least, she’ll be working on her new, uncertain future.

“That job chose me,” she said of her previous vocation. “Now, I want to choose my own.”

Stecker’s sense of optimism prevailed Monday, the first day of classes for the fall semester at Sierra College. As students scrambled to add courses and purchase texts before grabbing a sandwich at a new food court in the college’s cafeteria, college officials were preparing for the second launch of a bond measure to repair, renovate and add more space to the 8-year-old Nevada County campus.

Organizing the campaign for the $44.4 million Measure G is still in an embryonic stage, but officials are confident Nevada County voters will approve a bond on Nov. 2 focused on meeting the needs for the western Nevada County facility.

Unlike Measure E, the $394 million bond that failed in March, money for Measure G is specifically targeted to voters who reside within the boundaries of the Nevada Joint Union High School District.

Support for Measure E, which failed to garner the required 55 percent passage in any of the four counties represented by the Sierra Community College District, was strongest in Nevada County, which backed the measure by 54.9 percent. In Grass Valley, 59 percent supported the bond, and 68 percent of Nevada City voters who cast their ballot approved the measure.

“Now that we’re doing this as a local bond issue, people will continue to show their support,” said Tina Ludutsky-Taylor, provost of the Nevada County campus.

For Measure G, voters will be asked to consider a tax valued at $19 per $100,000 of their assessed property value, mirroring the same tax rate they rejected last March.

Truckee voters in November will consider a similar bond, Measure H, that would be used to buy land and construct a permanent eastern Nevada County campus.

For the Grass Valley campus, the passage of Measure G would provide for 112,000 square feet of additional space, including a public-training facility for police, fire and emergency medical technicians, more computer laboratories and additional physical education and nursing facilities, in addition to new furniture and technology upgrades.

The addition of computer labs and classrooms is especially critical, said Ludutsky-Taylor, noting that the Nevada County campus has only 23 classrooms, each capable of holding 25 students.

More than 3,000 students take at least one class at Sierra College’s Nevada County campus each semester.

To make this campaign successful, Ludutsky-Taylor said she plans to bring the message directly to the students and professors on campus, in addition to traditional electioneering. Last time, the provost said, she discovered that many with close ties to Sierra College were unaware of the bond issue.

“What I learned from Measure E was that we’re a very small, close-knit community. We should have had more of a grass-roots campaign, going neighbor to neighbor. That’s what works in this community.”

With more than two months to go, however, students focused their attention on just making it through the first day.

Dave Roberts, the owner of Grinders in Grass Valley, was doing his part to make Monday memorable, serving up sandwiches, salads and smoothies in the new food court. The campus cafeteria closed nearly two years ago amid budget cutbacks.

“It’s a pleasure working with brand new, government-issued equipment,” he said.

Depending on the demand, Roberts said he would keep his operation open long into the night if necessary.

“I’m loving the idea,” Roberts said, “if for no other reason than to take summers off.”

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