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The San Diego Unified school board opted today to delay modernizing schools for up to four years to deal with the slowing flow of money for school construction under its facilities bond. The projects add up to $96 million in spending that will now be delayed.

Board members chose to defer those projects, which include a laundry list of repairs and upgrades at each school, instead of putting off technology upgrades. Doing so means that the school district will forge ahead with a data center to support classroom technology and databases, classrooms for the youngest students will get technology on the same schedule as originally planned, and children are still slated to get individual “netbooks” — laptop-like devices for each student.

Other projects have actually been moved ahead in the schedule: Plans to place a charter school in the downtown library are moving ahead four years from 2014 to 2010.

The tough choices come as the school district faces a funding squeeze: While San Diego Unified will eventually get all of the money it planned for under Proposition S, which voters approved last November, the money is trickling out to the school district more slowly. That’s because as property values drop, the school district is getting less money than originally expected out of taxes levied for the bond.

That means that some projects will be delayed to make sure that the school district can foot the bill. The school board also weighed in on several other school construction and renovation issues:

  • Rebuilding Mann Middle and Crawford High in City Heights. School board President Shelia Jackson said she was worried that the two schools would be neglected while waiting for a sweeping makeover of the campuses, which could be funded in part by the city. “We can’t not do maintenance until 2020,” she said. Stuart Markey, who oversees the facilities bond, said he would come up with a plan and bring it back to the school board. No decisions were made.
  • Auditoriums for Patrick Henry High and Morse High schools. Board member Katherine Nakamura spoke passionately about the need for auditoriums at the two schools, which hold assemblies and other events in the cafeteria or other spaces on campus. The projects weren’t included in the specific list of bond plans. Markey said he would do more research on the issue and come back to the board.
  • Air conditioning for Normal Heights Elementary and adjustments to schools to meet the fire codes. The school board gave a green light to moving ahead on the projects, which were not specifically outlined in the bond. Air conditioning is planned for schools in the easternmost stretches of San Diego Unified; Normal Heights is on the very edge and was built for air conditioning but lacks it. The fire code issues came up after schools were already approved by the State Architect; they are supposed to allow for separate emergency exit paths for kindergarten-through-second-grade students and their older classmates. Markey said he felt that funding would be available to cover both projects. The total costs are $7.57 million.
EMILY ALPERT

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