By Mark Westerburg, Superintendent
Willits Schools Won’t Fix Themselves
If school bond measures only required 50 percent approval instead of 55 percent, the Willits Unified School District (WUSD) request for a $17 million bond would have passed with plenty of votes to spare last March; we were only 8 votes shy of success. Since leaky roofs don’t fix themselves, we’ve put another bond measure on the November ballot, this time named Measure I. The only difference between this bond measure and the one in March is that we’ve partnered with the local charter schools, both elementary and secondary, so they can raise funds to repair their facilities as well.
We recognize that the pandemic has thrown a wrench into life as we know it, and if we could wait a year to put this on the ballot again, we would. Unfortunately, general elections are now held on even numbered years and our schools cannot wait till 2022.
What would this bond funding allow WUSD to accomplish?
Our older schools require upgrades to meet today’s academic and safety standards and to ensure that school classrooms, science labs, technology infrastructure, and other facilities can continue to support high achievement. With repairs and modernization, we can do an even better job of preparing students for college and in-demand careers in technology, health science, arts, agriculture, and skilled trades. In addition, Measure I funds would allow WUSD to:
Fix deteriorating roofs, plumbing, heating/cooling, and electrical systems
Pave parking lots
Repair old, outdated classrooms and school facilities
Purchase a pool cover
Update athletic facilities
In California, public schools receive State funding for operational costs like supporting instructional programs and paying teachers, but not enough funds to pay for facility improvements like the repair of heating/air conditioning units or updating science labs and instructional technology.
All of our school facilities were built with bonds, and they need to be updated through this process as well. Before COVID-19, the State offered limited funding for some capital improvements, but only when districts could match those funds. Revenue from Measure I could supply the matching funds necessary if the State continues to offer that type of program.
How can I vote on this ballot measure?
To vote on this ballot measure, you simply need to be registered to vote in the November 3 election. You can register to vote at www.registertovote.ca.gov. To find out more about voting in this election, you can contact the Mendocino County Registrar of Voters at 707-234-6819 or visit https://www.fvap.gov/california. Mail-in ballots are scheduled to arrive in homes on October 5 th , we encourage you to mail in your ballot early to ensure it’s counted.
While our school sites may be old, we can still be proud of them and with bond-funded repairs we can keep them functional and attractive for years to come. Willits High School was built in 1929, Baechtel Grove Middle School in 1952, Brookside Elementary in 1953, and Blosser Lane School in 1989. With historical buildings also comes the need for repairs and upgrades. Since March, we’ve had to spend $90,000 on the heating and cooling system at Blosser Elementary and $35,000 at Willits High School. With no other funds available the district is currently using general operating funds that take away from student programs.
Community input is welcomed and I am happy to answer any questions you may have about this bond measure. You can reach me at the district office at 707-459-5314.