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School funds hang by a thread

Hart district may have $1.6M grant yanked

Posted: December 13, 2008 8:32 p.m.
Updated: December 14, 2008 4:59 a.m.
 
State budget cuts mean a hard-earned $1.6 million grant for new vocational education facilities could be snatched from the coffers of the William S. Hart Union High School District.

The change came a day after a state official lauded the influx of money into schools.

"Thanks to the passage of bond measures by voters, California is able to invest in the state's school facilities that are sorely in need of repair, modernization and construction," state Superintendent of Public

Instruction Jack O'Connell announced Thursday. "Even as the state is embroiled in a fiscal crisis, the people saw fit to help create more safe and modern school environments where their children can learn so they can compete in a more global, technologically challenging world after they graduate."

But on Friday, Tina Jung, spokeswoman for the California Department of Education, said threatened budget cuts to state public-education funding could mean no such money is available.

"We are not sure if the state allocation will be (affected by the current state financial crisis), but we are going to continue to process these projects until we are told to stop," Jung said. "We just don't know when we will find out because there is no timeline."

The $1.6 million award announced for the Hart district followed a long, complicated application process.

Hart, Golden Valley and West Ranch high schools are in line for some of the funding to help in improving vocational-education training programs by building new facilities and adding student-interactive equipment to existing facilities, said Ron Rudzinski of the Hart district.

The $460,541 allocated to Hart High School was expected to be used to create vocational training facilities for entrepreneurship and culinary arts education, district spokeswoman Pat Willett said.

Golden Valley High School, allocated $591,330, and West Ranch High School, allocated $460,541, have unfinished auditoriums and performing arts facilities in need of completion.

To qualify for the California Department of Education money released because of taxpayer-voted bonds, Rudzinski and Mike Otavka, director of facilities and new construction, spent months creating an extensive proposal outlining the student-specific actions the district would take to improve the career-technical programs in area high schools.

"What you have to do is come up with how something (you plan to spend money doing) is going to be instructionally used to teach students," Rudzinski said. "We chose our targeted areas and wrote separate requests for the proposal.

"We had to explain how the money would directly benefit the students."

Rudzinski said the career-technical side of education has exploded with new classes, like those in video production, sound engineering and theatrical lighting.

So buying equipment and fitting it into the unfinished auditoriums at Golden Valley and West Ranch was perfect.

Not all statewide district proposals were accepted for the allocation process.

In total, more than $724 million was approved by the state Allocation Board for a variety of education-related purposes, O'Connell's announcement said.

Hart district officials look at the allocation as an opportunity.

"We are looking at putting (the projects) out to bid in January and may start construction as early as February," Otavka said.

"We are looking at about a five-month process and are hoping to be finished by the beginning of school next fall."

The building project translates into more than 100 different employees working on different aspects of the project, he said.

"It's also a great time to be getting things out to bid," he said.

The depressed economy aids in getting the district the most amount of work for the least amount of money, which translates to more services for students, he said.

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