The Sweetwater Union High School District, headquartered in Chula Vista, California, is placing a $403 million bond on the November ballot. The school district runs middle and high schools in Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, National City and San Ysidro.
The measure would approve a 30-year bond that would add $24.5 per $100,000 of assessed property value, according to the district. The money would be used to renovate aging facilities and includes measures that would prevent the money from going to pension or salary costs.
School districts in the South Bay are still recovering from bribery scandals that affected many districts in 2011. An investigation revealed that school officials were bribed to get work under a $664 million construction bond. Eighteen people were charged as part of the scandal, including people in the San Ysidro and Sweetwater Union districts.
Since then, Sweetwater Union has made efforts to change their ways. A new superintendent and board were put in place in 2015. Regaining the public’s trust has been their top priority.
With the board’s vote to place the measure on November’s ballot, the district staff will now work with the Registrar of Voters to draft the ballot’s language.
But some taxpayers have voiced concerns about the bill. If approved, it would add two cents for every $100 in property taxes.
Among the items on the project list are surveillance cameras, alarms, gates, and fencing.
These upgrades are in addition to the recent efforts to improve security at schools. In May, the district completed its 6th Annual Safety and Security Workgroup training, which included more than 250 employees. During the one-day training, personnel take part in eye-opening discussions and hands-on training activities, such as threat assessment, positive climate, violence prevention, infrastructure needs, reunification protocols, active shooter drills, and practices and procedures.
Upgrades are also planned for portable buildings, drop-off areas and bathrooms.
The project list also includes plans to purchase land and construct new schools. The district has been struggling to find a place for the growing number of middle school and high school students in the area.
Schools in the district have been facing public scrutiny in recent years, which fueled the board’s desire to regain the public’s trust. In June, the district announced that after an investigation, it concluded that Chula Vista High School teacher Anthony Atienza groped and sexually harassed at least three female students. Atienza allegedly made sexual comments, spanked the girls and ran his hands over their thighs.