MARTINEZ -- The school district will build a new campus for Vicente Martinez High and Briones Independent Study schools.
The board voted 3-2 last month to reject school board member Denise Elsken's proposal to allocate up to $200,000 to explore options for the Vicente-Briones campus rather than spend $5 million for a new facility.
In April 2012, the board also split 3-2 on whether to dedicate $640,000 to fix up the decrepit buildings that house Vicente and Briones or to build a new 12,000-square-foot campus for the two schools.
School board members Kathi McLaughlin, Bobbi Horack and Vicki Gordon, who in November won a seat on the Contra Costa Community College governing board, voted in favor of new construction. Board members Elsken and John Fuller opposed the project because it wasn't included on the original bond project list. Deidre Siguenza, who replaced Gordon in January, cast the deciding vote this time.
Although the Vicente-Briones buildings have been fixed up before, they are still rundown. Many of the residents and school staff who urged the board to build a new campus cited a need for equity and fairness for the students, many of whom come from families that are struggling financially.
"I asked myself the question if not now, when," Superintendent Rami Muth said. "I think we could make it look better than it does, but it would never be anything other than a 60-year-old building with a face-lift."
Muth plans to meet soon with staff from the two schools to discuss the features they would like to see included in the new building, which will be modular construction.
Muth would like to include flexible space so that classrooms can be combined to facilitate collaboration. Naturally, the campus will include wireless Internet. The design process should be completed by the end of the school year, Muth said.
The board learned last summer that the proposed site for the new campus is near underground natural gas, gasoline and oil pipelines running under Alhambra Avenue and G Street. However, the state Education Department found that the pipelines' odds of failure are below the threshold for "acceptable risk."
Muth said the new campus will be built on the opposite side of the property, closer to the Walgreens drugstore; although there are pipelines in that location, too.
In addition to building the new Vicente-Briones campus, the district also plans to use part of the $5 million in bond funds to renovate the existing brick-and-mortar classrooms for the adult school, which currently occupies the portable buildings.
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.