By Miriam Raftery
Union High School District’s superintendent and four of five GUHSD
school board trustees agree that Proposition U is critical to repair and
replace aging buildings throughout the district—and build a long-awaited
new high school for Alpine.
“We can’t modernize the old industrial classrooms abandoned years
ago without Proposition U,” GUHSD Superintendent Robert Collins said
at an East County Chamber of Commerce meeting.
The bond measure will provide funds for career tech courses as well as modernization
of buildings. Some campus buildings date back to the 1920s and lack air
“Prop U is an investment in our community,” Collins said. “Does
it raise taxes? Yes, a little bit. Will it bring people into East County” Yes,
he predicted, noting that parents place high value on modern schools for their
children when choosing a place to live.
Voters in the district approved Proposition H in 2004, which allotted $274
million to repair crumbling buildings and provide access for disabled students.
At the time, board members acknowledged that the total was not enough to fund
all needed improvements. Now Proposition U aims to complete the job.
Prop U, which requires a 55% approval to pass, would allocate $417 million,
or about $29.70 per $100,000 of assessed value. That’s $60 a year
for the average home, or slightly over $1 a week.
San Diego Taxpayers Association supports the bond. The current board voted
4 to 1 in favor of putting the bond measure on the ballot. Board president
Jim Kelly voted against the bond, which is also opposed by the San Diego Republican
Of five candidates running for the GUHSD board, three support Prop U: Larry
Urdahl, Priscilla Schreiber, and Carroll Boone. The other two, Meg Jedynak
and Gary Woods, oppose the measure.
“If you are against this bond, you are against children,” Urdahl
told East County Magazine. “Prop U will bring every high
school up to current standards that you seek in a modern high school. It will
get rid of all the portables. It will complete what Prop H didn’t finish,
plus it will enable us to build multi-purpose rooms in all the schools.” Multi-purpose
rooms can be used as cafeterias, theaters or study halls and can also be rented
out to communities to use for conferences or events.
Boone agrees. “Part of making quality education an investment
in our communities is to maintain and repair the facilities,” she said. “We’ve
just got to do it, even though people are feeling that it’s hard economically,
it will only get more costly. We have buildings in disrepair; I’ve
heard tales of electrical wires hanging down and parts of ceilings falling
The bond will also provide capacity for career tech classes, which Urdahl
describes as upgrades over vocational education. Students graduating
from career tech classes will be guaranteed actual jobs with local companies
or hospitals, he said.
Jedynak called the bond measure a “waste of taxpayers money’ at
a GUHSD candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters and American
Association of university Women. She also faulted Urdahl and Kelly for
adding $65 million for building of an “unnecessary school” – a
proposed high school for Alpine.
The bond measure would also allow construction of a new high school in Alpine
if district enrollment exceeds 23,000 students. District enrollment
beat projections by 500 students this year “because we went door to door
and talked to all the kids who dropped out,” said Superintendent Collins. “They
said `There is nothing there for us.’ We can bring them back.” Career
tech programs are crucial to bring drop-out students back into the schools,
Jedynak and Woods oppose an Alpine High School, as well as the bond measure,
based on cost. Kelly has called this the “worst time economically” for
a tax increase.
Boone, Schreiber and Urdahl have all voiced support for an Alpine High School.
Alpine has actually been promised a high school several times and then the
funds have been used for something else, Boone observed. “It’s
a matter of fairness, and we do need a new high school. Granite Hills is overcrowded
and a lot of students are coming down from alpine to go that school. It just
makes sense to have them go to Alpine.”
“I am absolutely committed to fight for Alpine High School if this bond
passes,” said Schreiber.
Urdahl, an Alpine resident, said inflation raised costs for other projects,
preventing funds from being used for a new high school in Alpine.
|Grossmont High School, open since 1922, is one of several
aging campuses in the district in need of upgrades, proponents of Proposition
He expressed concerns over safety of students commuting from Alpine to other
areas on Interstate 8. “We’ve already lost one student in
the past year,” he said. “Somebody came across the freeway…a
football player was killed who was going to San Miguel.” A year
earlier, another student’s death in a traffic accident led to the proposed
Zach’s Law, which would if approved would require schools go back to
teaching driver training. Urdahl also noted that with rising gas prices, more
students in Alpine are taking the bus—and missing out on after school
He predicts enrollment will increase, not decline, due in part to an influx
in population including Chaldean Christians from Iraq when the war ends. “Our
goal now is by 2010 we will have purchased land and had EIRs and grading done,” he
said, adding that the new high school could be open by 2012 or 2013.
“If the current makeup of the board remains the same and the bond
passes, the timetable I gave you is very real,” he pledged. “The
school in Alpine is part of the Superintendent’s vision.” But he
added, “If there is a change this election, then the incoming board to
vote to remove a high school altogether.”
Miriam Raftery is a national award-winning writer and graduate of the
GUHSD district. Both of her children also graduated from GUHSD schools.