RODEO -- The John Swett School District took the first step in replacing its aging middle school April 9, when the board commissioned a poll that will test the community's receptiveness to placing a $50 million bond measure on the November ballot.

After a long period of indecision, the board recently gave up on the idea of retrofitting Carquinez Middle School in Crockett because it would cost between $5 million and $6 million more than building a new school, according to district Superintendent Rob Stockberger.

A seismic study released last fall recommended that the nearly 100-year-old building be brought up to earthquake standards, he said.

"Although the building isn't in imminent danger of collapse (in an earthquake), there were many serious concerns about its structure," Stockberger said.

The middle school has an outdated electrical system and the gymnasium cannot be retrofitted and would have to be torn down.

"You don't just go in and do a mini renovation -- you have to bring everything up to code," Stockberger said. "There would be no option but to do the total renovation."

The new school would be built on the other side of the 5.7-acre middle school property, away from the existing school, which would remain in use during construction.

After the new school is completed, the old building would be torn down and a new gymnasium would be built on the site that would be used by the middle school and John Swett High School, which is directly across the street.

The bond measure would earmark $39 million to be used for the middle school construction and $11 million to complete a renovation of the high school.

The cost of rebuilding the high school was originally estimated at $40 million. The district has received about $10 million above that but still needs another $11 million to complete the work, said district financial adviser Paul Disario.

"There was considerable unforeseen damage to the brick exterior of the entire campus and toxic soil was discovered that needed to be cleaned up," Disario said. "We received money to fix some of it, but not enough."

Stockberger said he plans to have the district's polling firm present the survey results at the May 14 school board meeting.

The bond measure would need a 55 percent vote to pass, but recent district school bonds have received votes more than 70 percent majorities, Disario said.

Property owners would be charged about $60 per $100,000 in assessed valuation, he said.

"The district has been very successful with bonds in the past," Disario said. "We really don't have a Plan B at this point (if the poll results are negative)."

The district, with headquarters in Rodeo, also operates Willow Continuation High School in Crockett and Rodeo Hills Elementary School in Rodeo.