“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax.” – Abraham Lincoln
By Sandon Schwartz, Deputy Superintendent
Abraham Lincoln was not boasting of his tree falling skills, but actually making a statement about the importance of preparation and planning. Planning plays a critical role in each and every one of our lives, and this holds especially true for our school district. While many of our staff are given the charge to plan for the immediate future, many of us are also charged with planning for future decades and a generation of students not yet born.
When dealing with facilities, staff must plan years and even a decade ahead of when a project actually needs to be constructed. This is why most large school districts prepare a Facilities Master Plan.
In 2014, Madera Unified School District worked with Darden Architects to update our Facilities Master Plan. The plan identified specific site needs for all of our existing campuses as well as future new facilities the district will require. For the purpose of this article, I would like to focus on the new facilities and large modernization projects the plan has identified.
To determine when new facilities will be needed, the district attempts to match the student capacities, at each of our school sites, with future enrollment projections. For example, if Monroe Elementary School can only hold 600 students and we project that in 5 years 750 students will live in the neighborhood, we will need to find somewhere for those additional 150 students to attend school. This can be done by shifting school attendance boundaries, if space is available, at a neighboring school, but in most cases the solution will require the construction of a new school.
In the late 1980s, Madera Unified built Alpha and Berenda Elementary Schools to help with a growing student population. At the time, the district had a student enrollment of under 14,000 students and was comprised of thirteen elementary schools, one middle school, and a single high school. Our elementary schools were beginning to see the impacts of increased student enrollments and a handful or portables were being added to our school sites.
In the 1990s MUSD experienced an explosion in the student population and, by the year 2000, had grown to 16,000 students. The district was forced to continue to add portables at school sites to deal with this growth. In fact, MUSD was forced to add over 50 portables to school sites during the 1990s. Sites originally built to house 500 students were cramming over 1,000 students onto the site. It was during this era that the district ended up moving to year-round school format in order to support all of our students’ educational needs.
In 2004, the community passed Measure B, a general obligation bond, which would help provide funding for Nishimoto Elementary School, Chavez Elementary School, Desmond Middle School, and a second construction phase at Madera South High School that would allow it to become its own stand-alone high school. This was followed by the passage of Measure U in 2006 which helped fund Parkwood Elementary, property for a future high school, and eventually Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School.
With the passage of Measure G in 2014, the district began the process of designing and building a new comprehensive high school designed to house 2,200 students. The process to construct a new school facility usually takes at least two and a half years from start to finish, and even longer for a complex project like Matilda Torres High School.
In 2016, the Board of Trustees asked staff to put together a timeline with potential funding for future new facilities. A facilities committee was organized to assist with the process. The committee consisted of MUSD Trustees, Madera City Council Members, Madera County Supervisors, and our acting Parent Advisory Committee President. An existing group of community members who were a part of our Superintendent’s Roundtable also participated in the discussions by providing input and feedback on the draft plan.
In 2016, The MUSD Board of Trustees was presented with a 12-Year Facility Plan, broken into three phases.
Phase 1 included the following projects:
Construction of Virginia Lee Rose Elementary School: a K-6 facility that has the capacity to house 850 students located on Road 28 ½ between Sunrise and A Street. This school was completed in 2017 and fully paid for through Measure U.
Construction of Matilda Torres High School: a comprehensive high school that will house 2200 students located on the corner of Road 26 and Martin Street. Construction on the project began in March of 2018 and will be completed in August of 2020. The project is completely funded through district contributions, Measure G, and matching funds from the State of California.
Completion of the athletic facilities at Madera South High School. Plans for an artificial turf field, a 9‑lane all-weather track, a snack bar, restrooms, and seating for 2500 spectators are currently in review at the Division of State Architect. Construction on the project is anticipated to start in the spring of 2019. The project is fully funded through district funds.
Modernization of the Career Technical Education Building at Madera High School. The shops at Madera High School will undergo major renovations and be purpose-built to house three CTE pathways. The future space will house Residential and Commercial Construction, Automotive Service and Repair, and Heavy Diesel Engine and Truck Repair programs. This project is fully funded through district and CTE Grant funding.
Identify and purchase land for future school complexes. The board has asked for staff to reconvene our site selection committee to identify potential sites for future schools.
Construction of a Concurrent Enrollment Middle School
Phase two of the 12-Year Facilities Master Plan includes the construction of two new schools, construction of a new district office, and modernization of Memorial Stadium.
Phase three of the plan calls for the construction of a future elementary school.
The 12‑Year Facility Plan is a working document that will be consistently reviewed and modified as we experience changes in enrollment projections and funding sources. Despite the fact that the plan could potentially change, it is still providing the district with a solid roadmap based on our current needs projections and allows staff to plan for the future of the Madera Unified School District.
“If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin