The Southern Humboldt Unified School District board of trustees met with students at South Fork High School last week to field questions and respond to concerns about planned construction projects on campus. Many students vented frustrations about the bathrooms on campus, which are roughly half a century old and were described by one student as "horrifying" and "unacceptable." The lack of hot water in the sinks was also a cause for several complaints.
Kevin Tedder of Semingson Architects, the firm hired to plan and oversee construction projects throughout the district, told a group of sophomores and seniors that the bathrooms will be completely redone by next year. Most of the new bathrooms will not have hot water due to cost constraints. Plans for the next three years include a new gymnasium, however, complete with new locker rooms and hot showers.
Students and educators alike raised questions about whether or not the student body will take adequate care of the new facilities. Board president Thomas Mulder urged South Fork to nurture a culture of responsibility, school spirit, and respect for school grounds, but many students expressed apathetic viewpoints on this issue. A small percentage reminded their peers to take responsibility for their own role in creating unclean conditions.
One issue is that most of South Fork's current students will graduate before this round of projects is complete. Despite attending school on a campus that's been partially turned into a construction zone, few of them will still be there to see all the new facilities.
When asked for their input on the construction projects planned for South Fork High, many students questioned the need for spending district funding on new facilities when schools are understaffed, and class sizes could be smaller. In three separate assemblies, each group of students suggested spending the money on expanding elective offerings like foreign language and shop classes.
The funding, however, comes from Measure L, the $25 million school bond that local voters approved in 2010. Despite the substantial pool of funding at their disposal, the school board is barred from spending any of it as the students requested. Bond money can only be spent on facilities. It cannot be spent to increase school staffing levels, even if some students say they'd prefer more teachers to new facilities.
"Many of your years of education have been right in the middle of the lowest point of funding in California's history, as far as education. You've been in the hole," said trustee Dennis O'Sullivan, former board president.
The good news, according to superintendent Catherine Scott, is that there are modest funding increases coming from the state next year. Trustees have also debated the possibility of putting a parcel tax on the ballot in 2014. Whereas Measure L funds can't be spent to increase staffing, revenue generated by a parcel tax could be used to hire new teachers and expand course offerings.
REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY DAVE BROOKSHER
The Southern Humboldt's board of trustees met with student assemblies at South Fork High School in Miranda on Wednesday.