With facilities ranging in age from 60 to 97 years old, Lone Pine Unified School District faces issues not uncommon to home owners with old houses and dated infrastructure.
Pipes burst and heating systems took a dive during a cold snap in mid-January at Lo-Inyo Elementary School and parts for a cracked boiler radiator had to be custom fabricated and are still in transit.
Staff and students have adapted, serving breakfast in the classrooms instead of the unheated Multi-Purpose Room, which serves as the school’s cafeteria, with temperatures below what is legal. The Williams Act dictates that school facilities have to maintain temperatures between 65-80 degrees; the Multi-Purpose Room hovers around 55-degrees in the morning. Funds are available to replace the boiler this summer, but the list of systems that need attention extend beyond available funding.
One solution, approached at the district’s Feb. 13 board meeting, is to explore the possibility of a bond measure. The board was receptive to at least listening to the possibilities. That discussion may begin as soon as the board’s March 13 meeting.
District Superintendent Victor Hopper pointed out that Lone Pine is the only Owens Valley school that has yet to mount a bond initiative.
As part of the district’s five year plan, the State Allocation Board provided grant funding for the boiler, a 60-40 split between the state and the district, respectively. The district’s $400,000 share will come from its reserves that stand at $1.3 million, almost 20 percent of the annual budget.
The district will have $300,000 left in its modernization fund, according to Financial Officer Camille Cervantes. But, the list of upgrades needed far exceeds that balance. Included on that list are replacing the swamp coolers with more efficient cooling systems, the kindergarten facilities and administration buildings, the intercom and fire alarm systems as well as replacing at least one of the middle school’s modular buildings.
“There are partnerships out there that prepare students for careers in engineering. We need to be in a position to take advantage of those opportunities,” Hopper said in reference to the high school’s outdated science lab.
“It’s time to start talking about a bond,” said Hopper. That first step will go over the details and begin to address the concerns of the community. Board members expressed the need for a very specific bond initiative. “Listening to a presentation doesn’t mean we’re going to agree to with a bond,” said Board Member Catherine George.
Teachers serving breakfast in the classroom began as a necessity, but Hopper said there have been some benefits. “We’ve seen tardiness decrease,” he said. Prior to mid-January, the school served breakfast in two tiers to accommodate students who couldn’t make the first serving. Now, everybody eats, not just those eligible for the program, and the meal is served from 7:45-8 a.m.
There will be a meeting this Friday at 3:15 p.m. in the elementary school library to discuss the pros and cons of continuing to serve breakfast in the classrooms.