Over the summer, all five FUHSD schools were renovated with bond funds from Measure CC. The measure was passed on Santa Clara County’s November 2018 ballot, with 64.61% of the community voting yes. In order to provide bond funds to renovate FUHSD schools, Measure CC came with an increased annual property tax for residents.
The district’s most recent “experiment” was at the MVHS campus, where the goal was to update 25 classrooms in 10 weeks. Superintendent Polly Bove explained that the renovations entailed “new ceilings and floors, heating and air conditioning, new technology, new lighting [and] updated fire alarm systems.”
Because of the successful completion of the MVHS project, the district is considering large scale renovations over the summer as it continues to move forward with construction of parts of campus at all four sites.
“It’s all about staging it correctly,” Bove said. “We interrupt [school] as little as we possibly can and [prioritize] it, so that the things that are most in need are done first. Since most classrooms in the district are filled with students in the day, we can’t say to you guys, ‘I’m sorry we’re going to take away 12 classrooms at [your] school site and you’re just going to have to figure it out.’”
Bove played a major role in the construction planning and execution process by attending district construction meetings, reviewing renovation plans and managing the budget. She also oversees the Citizens Oversight Committee, a group which includes citizens of the community, to ensure that bond funds are being appropriately used. She explained that school administration at all five sites assesses areas of need, after which appropriate funds are allocated to each school.
Steven Eaton, assistant coach for the Homestead HS robotics team and a local resident, believes that the school is typically short on funds for renovation projects and for that reason, he chose to vote for Measure CC. Moreover, he has felt the positive effects of past bonds firsthand, with some of the money being used to create a new robotics building at HHS.
Despite being a FUHSD employee, MVHS social studies teacher Pete Pelkey is also a homeowner in the district and ultimately voted against the bond, questioning why there was a constant need to build new buildings and classrooms.
“[The district] isn’t in a lot of debt,” Pelkey said. “I happen to be very fiscally conservative and think that [building] is not necessarily a good thing to do. Eventually, [the money] has to come out of our property taxes, and so they’re either going to have to cut service or raise taxes to pay for all this stuff. As a homeowner, I was like, ‘why do we need another building, don’t we have enough nice buildings?”
Bond money replaces money taken from the general school fund, which shifts unspent school funds into staff salaries. Despite this added benefit, Pelkey believes that the increased property tax in a way cancels the increase in salary, resulting in his personal distaste for the bond.
On the other hand, HHS parent William Cuan thoroughly supports the decision of the school board to move forward with the modernization. However, he understands why opposition exists, especially for homeowners who don’t have children attending an FUHSD school and therefore don’t necessarily directly benefit from these renovations.
“But not all owners have children, and they contribute to the community,” Cuan said. “That’s an aspect that may not be equal across the board.”
Bove acknowledges that while some homeowners may not benefit directly from the bond, she’s appreciative of the community support she’s seen for the school district.
“I am absolutely blown away by our community — that means your parents, that means other people who live in this community and their priority about all of you,” Bove said. “But there are also people who live here and continue to live here and never have had children but support the schools. This is a place that thinks education is important and they show it by every action they do.”