Outdated Mac should be included in bond proposals

CALL TO ACTION: Students, parents, teachers, community members should ask that district modernize McCallum


Dave Winter

While Fine Arts Academy director Gabe Reyes inspects the damage last April, then senior William Benson points to an all-to-common Mac malady: a water leak, this one outside of history teacher Clifford Stanchos’s classroom.

The Board of Trustees will decide this week on the details of a bond proposal to put on the November ballot.  In four meetings last week, two virtual and two in person, the board outlined two proposals that it is considering putting before voters. 

There is a lot to like about what the district is proposing. Any money raised through a school bond is immune to the state recapture system, which siphons off more than half of the district’s revenue before it spends a cent on anything. Both proposals would eliminate what it calls “critical deficiencies” on every campus. 

The proposals also identify campuses to receive complete or partial modernization. Proposal A, a $1.55 billion plan that involves no tax increase, would completely modernize eight campuses and partially renovate six. The more ambitious proposal B would allocate $2.18 billion after a one-cent percent tax increase and fully modernize 13 campuses while partially renovating eight more.

In February of the 2021-22 school year, a raccoon was found on McCallum campus at the end of the day. Other animals including rats and squirrels have continued to be a problem at the school. (Francie Wilhelm)

And here is where the problem lies if you are a McCallum Knight. The Sunshine Drive campus, home to McCallum High School since 1953 and showing every day of its 69 years of life, does not appear on the modernization list for either proposal despite the fact that the McCallum campus is arguably more desperate for renovations than any other school in the district due to its poor facility condition, overcrowded student body and significantly aged campus.

The case that Mac should be on the modernization list is straightforward. In the fall of 2021, McCallum scored a 23 on its Facility Condition Assessment, the lowest in the district (recently the district changed the facility condition assessment score to a 69 because district officials said replacement costs were vastly underestimated in the original calculation), and a 50 on its Educational Sustainability Assessment, just below the district average. The facility scores do not come as a surprise to McCallum students and faculty, as reports of mold, asbestos and wild animals around different areas of campus are common. 

McCallum is a mid-20th century building not equipped to educate 21st century students.

In the 2021-22 school year, the MacJournalism Instagram account documented these reports often: when a raccoon was caught on campus, for example, and just weeks later, a squirrel. In addition, the McCallum Arts Center building, which contains the theater auditorium and several art classrooms, experienced gas leaks during the spring semester. The leaks it turned out were the result of an old boiler discharging excess gas as it was designed to, and the boiler has since been replaced, but the whole episode required evacuations and interrupted classes and instruction time and served as another reminder that the facility is out of date and behind the times.

McCallum is one of the oldest schools in the district, founded in 1953, and is still utilizing the same campus much as it was when it opened almost 70 years ago. Travis Early College High School was established the same year as McCallum but is set to receive a full modernization in both bond proposals A and B, despite both schools being recipients of the 2004, 2008 and 2013 bond programs. In fact, Travis (and therefore McCallum) is older than any of the other high schools and middle schools on the bond proposals for both full and partial modernization. 

When combining McCallum’s age with other known deficiencies, it becomes all too clear that McCallum is a mid-20th century building not equipped to educate 21st century students. The library lacks spaces for students to work together collaboratively. The CTE rooms are not equipped with makerspace. There are no areas on campus where multiple classes can meet and collaborate. In short, the campus is not educationally suitable to serve the education needs of the modern student. 

Only a few weeks after a raccoon was discovered on McCallum campus, a squirrel was found as well. (Naomi Di-Capua)

This truth becomes even more costly to the district when one considers that McCallum is an open transfer school, meaning that any student in the district can apply to go to McCallum whether or not they are zoned to the school. During the 2021-2022 school year, McCallum exceeded its capacity limit by almost 230 students causing crowding in the hallways and full classes. A larger, modernized campus would better support McCallum’s growing student body in a safe and contemporary learning environment.

We all know from our lived experience that McCallum should be on the modernization lists. The question is what can we—students, parents, teachers and other community stakeholders—do to make that happen. The answer: speak up now. 

Although McCallum is not set to receive bond money as of now, the necessary upgrades and modernization to the campus is not a lost cause. As it has demonstrated in the past, the district is willing to revise a plan if they receive enough feedback from the district’s key stakeholders. Students, staff and McCallum families can voice their concerns and opinions directly to the district by emailing letters to [email protected]. Students, parents and faculty can also make the case for Mac’s renovation by attending Thursday’s virtual bond community conversation (the fifth such meeting), which will be held in Spanish with English subtitles.

If we make sure the Trustees understand the dire condition of our campus, then we increase the likelihood that they will make the right decision and ensure that McCallum gets the modernization it so desperately needs.