The state giveth and the state taketh away.

Two East County school districts were on a list of California schools chosen to receive hundreds of millions of dollars for construction, modernization and emergency repairs. However, those projects were put on hold when a state board pulled the plug on nearly $4 billion in loans this week.

The Pittsburg Unified and Brentwood Union school districts were picked to receive more than $20 million for new construction, career technical education facilities and replacement of portable classrooms.

Pittsburg would have received nearly $8 million in state money for a revamped Pittsburg High School; $3.8 million for career technical education facilities; and about $4.03 million to replace 10 aging portables.

However, the lending freeze would halt all of the money for portables replacement and about $1.6 million for career technical education, said Tim Galli, the district's director of new construction and facilities.

The money would act as an additional funding stream to Pittsburg's Measure J, an $85 million obligation bond voters approved in 2006, primarily to rebuild the decades-old high school. The state money would help "add some of the bells and whistles" students deserve, Galli said.

Galli said the Pittsburg district is still looking over the actions taken by the Pooled Money Investment Board and state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and how long funding could be delayed.


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Further, Galli said the 2006 voter bond is sufficient to cover school construction costs, but there could be cash flow issues if the district is unable to tap state funds to fill any gaps in funding. Construction began this week on the new school.

"It's a cause for concern," he said, adding the district entered into construction with the idea state money was available; there are no guarantees the state will put the deferred money back into the project.

The career technical programs would include transportation, construction and information technology training — giving support to kids seeking careers in technical fields, Superintendent Barbara Wilson said.

Many students "feel connected to learning when it applies to something real," she said, noting funds would provide modern equipment, newer facilities and staff.

The automotive training curriculum would be based on National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation standards, certifying students as mechanics, and teaching eight areas of car care. Mechanics with this background can start at $85,000 per year, Galli said.

The construction program would teach skills such as framing and electrical work, Galli said, adding graduates would be either ready to enter the work force or could seamlessly transfer to similar programs at Los Medanos College or Diablo Valley College.

The money for the IT curriculum would go toward teaching students to use software such as CAD or Rivet — programs used in drafting and architecture.

The Brentwood Union School District recently learned it should be getting $19.5 million from the state to build two new schools and modernize a third.

The district wants to use $14.6 million to build an eighth elementary school — a K-5 campus that will be at Sand Creek Road and Garin Parkway and hold about 800 students. Construction is scheduled to start in the spring, and the school is tentatively set to open in July 2010.

Administrators plan to use the remaining $4.7 million to buy land for a fourth middle school near the intersection of Smith Road with Lone Tree Way.

Also, the district has earmarked $210,375 for planning as-yet undecided upgrades to Garin Elementary.

Reach Paul Burgarino at 925-779-7164 or pburgarino@bayareanewsgroup.com. Reach Rowena Coetsee at 925-779-7141 or rcoetsee@bayareanewsgroup.com.