ALAMEDA -- Asking voters to approve a $180 million bond to fund renovations and upgrades at local public schools moved a little closer Tuesday, when trustees with the Alameda Unified School District approved a plan for how the money would be allocated.
But whether a bond will actually end up on the November ballot will be decided June 24, when at least four of the five trustees must support it before it can go forward.
The plan that trustees considered Tuesday called for setting aside $44 million of any bond money for renovations at Historic Alameda High School, including for structural work and the construction of nine science classrooms. An additional $40 million was proposed for work at Encinal High School, including building two new classroom wings to accommodate projected student growth.
But trustees decided not to identify specific projects at the two campuses so they could have more flexibility in the event that a bond is successful, including exploring the creation of a single high school for the district.
Trustees Barbara Kahn and Trish Spencer voted against the spending plan, a revision of a proposal that trustees considered last month that would have earmarked most of any bond money for the high schools.
The bond would help implement the district's Master Facilities Plan.
While Kahn said she recognized the need for upgrades at the district's schools, she said she could not support a bond now because she did not trust the district's staff to spend the money the way that trustees would intend.
Superintendent Kirsten Vital and other administrators routinely withhold information from the board, Kahn said, and trustees must have "iron clad" control before she could support going forward.
"I want to address the politics of what we are doing," Kahn said. "I have concerns."
Spencer said she wanted more public input on the issue, including on the overall future of Alameda schools. She also questioned whether a city the size of Alameda could modernize and continue to fund two high school campuses with sports, music and other programs.
"We as a board need to pull back and say, 'How do we do this fiscally responsibly?" Spencer said. "And I don't think we are there yet."
But trustee Margie Sherratt said the board needed to put aside any mistrust with district officials because its facilities are several decades old.
"If we don't have a bond, our facilities will continue to deteriorate," trustee Niel Tam said, echoing Sherratt.
Among those who encouraged the board to explore the creation of a single high school for the district was former City Councilman Doug deHaan and Nick Cabral, a longtime resident of the city's West End.
"All you are going to do is put a Band-Aid on two high schools and you will still have inadequate facilities," Cabral said.
A single campus would unify the city, he said.
David Casnocha, the district's bond counsel, said the ballot language for the bond could be broad enough so that trustees could still gather more public input on how the money would be spent after it passes.
Trustee Mike McMahon, who made the motion to support the spending plan and drop the specific language about upgrades at the high schools, noted that residents have consistently said they wanted elementary schools preserved.
The spending plan does that, he said, while setting aside money for the high schools so that trustees can still revisit what should be done with them in the future.
"We could, in fact, come together, get some input and make a decision," McMahon said.
Reach Peter Hegarty at 510-748-1654 or follow him on Twitter.com/Peter_Hegarty.