Ian Yale, principal of Columbia Elementary, has patrolled the school’s playground in Burbank during 13 years of recesses.
Given that experience, he wants a proposed new gym, part of the Columbia School District’s $4.5 million bond request, to be near the school.
Ballots for the Feb. 14 election have already been mailed to district voters.
Roughly 80 percent of the bond money is earmarked to build the new gym and two additional classrooms.
“It’s not like we’re tearing down the 50-year-old building and building something new,” Yale said. “We’re utilizing what was built originally. We’ve taken care of it. Then we added to it. Now we’re doing another addition.”
The classrooms in the 1967 section of the building were built around the multipurpose room. An addition in the 1980s doubled the size of the school, but left the multipurpose room unchanged.
“There are no hallways,” Yale said. “So physical education is in there, and that’s where our primary classrooms are, and the amount of noise has always been an issue.”
The principal told the teachers not to change their classes, despite the sound from the physical education and music classes affecting other students.
While the design made sense in the early days of the district, school board members said it now forces the roughly 390 kids to eat lunch in the classrooms, meaning teachers need additional time to eat their lunches, Superintendent Lou Gates said.
Allowing the kids to use the larger room as a cafeteria would add an estimated additional 25 minutes of instruction time per day.
It’s not like we’re tearing down the 50-year-old building and building something new. We’re utilizing what was built originally. We’ve taken care of it. Then we added to it. Now we’re doing another addition.
Ian Yale, Columbia Elementary principal
Initial plans for the gym include a high-school-size competition floor, along with a few rows of bleachers.
The two new classrooms would be connected to the new building. Gates said the need for additional space is being driven by decreasing kindergarten through third-grade class sizes, adding preschool and extending kindergarten to a full day.
“We really are out of space at the elementary,” Gates said.
Facing space issues, district officials turned to the community and asked what they wanted. Most community members balked at moving fifth-graders to the middle school or adding portables, said school board member Mike Scrimsher.
“We’re not going to build a huge, fancy Taj Mahal, but it’s not going to be a pole building with a couple of basketball stanchions in it either,” he said.
The remaining portion of the bond is aimed at other improvements at the school, including fixing the high school roof and the track.
Property owners are likely to see a decrease in their tax bills even if the bond passes. The district is making the final payment on a $12 million bond this year. The bond, which paid for improving the high school, accounted for $1.78 per $1,000 of assessed value this year.
The estimated first payment for the new bond would be about $1.54 per $1,000 in 2018. A person with a $200,000 home would pay about $308 per year.
This is part of a 10-year trend that has seen the property tax rate for the district drop from $7.68 per $1,000 of assessed value to an estimated $5.31 per $1,000 of assessed value if it passes. The number includes all of the levy and bonds.
“Parents have asked, ‘Why have you waited so long if it’s such a need?” Yale said. “I answered, ‘You can make do because you don’t want to overburden your taxpayers.’ ... Two classrooms is the right amount.”