School district to open Lincoln Crossing on time

Majority of construction to be completed by mid-July
By: D.E. Kern, News Messenger
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In a move met with a smattering of applause, the Western Placer Unified School District's trustees voted Tuesday night to move ahead with the scheduled fall opening of the Lincoln Crossing Elementary School. "I think we ought to do this," board member Brian Haley said before making a motion on the topic. Trustee James McLeod provided the second, which was followed by a unanimous voice vote. The board accepted the terms of the more aggressive of two opening plans proposed by Superintendent Scott Leaman, or "Option A." Under that scenario, the district will effort to have students housed in Lincoln Crossing for the first day of school on Aug. 23, just weeks after construction is set to be complete on a majority of the school's buildings. But Leaman warned parents that meeting the timetable would take an extraordinary effort. "We've heard from many of you who told us that you would be willing to help us anytime, anywhere," he said, turning to a crowd of more than 100 residents. "We may just have to take you up on that. You might just get a call saying 'Hey, slip on your Levis and come on out.'" That request would be just fine with Rich Leeson, a parent pleased by the board's decision. "I think the community will pitch in to do it," he said. "The big scare was the possibility of it not opening at all this year. "I think people wanted to see good faith from the school board," he added. "And I think the board has made incredible strides." Leeson and his wife, Susan, are looking forward to having their incoming first-grader attend the same school as their next-door neighbors' first-grader. The couple added that they believe community schools make for strong communities, meaning that the board's action will improve life in Lincoln Crossing in a broader sense. Leaman agreed. "This is an important school because it's the first school in Lincoln Crossing," he said. "I think the community will do what they need to do to get us over the hump." Discussion of the Lincoln Crossing matter came a few minutes after the board heard a report from Cathy Allen, director of site development, during which it was told construction at the school site is on schedule. She added that the school's buildings will be completed in a phased manner, with the majority of the structures being turned over for occupancy by late-July. However, Allen said she suspected that should the board approve Option A some building would still be going on at the school after it opened. But neither that prospect nor the idea of spending the $239,000 needed to open the building swayed a board seemingly intent on forging ahead with at least one of its building projects. In November, serious problems in the district's facility planning and funding mechanisms came to light. Most dire was the $127 million in facilities-related debt, which coupled with $189 million in total debt led to significant questions concerning the WPUSD's overall health. Adding to the uproar was a decision to delay the construction of the proposed Twelve Bridges High School until such a time as when the district can enact a new facilities master plan attached to a steady revenue stream. Tuesday, the board took a step toward that goal when it adopted several of the recommendations made by financial analyst Curt Pollack, the man brought in to critique the district's current facility funding methodology. Among them were: postponing new projects based on the district's ability to house students for the next two years; hiring a qualified financial agency specializing in facilities planning; reviewing the building requirements for future schools to match income to expenditures; establishing a budget for each new school; and transferring the administration of facilities finances to the facilities department. However, at the suggestion of McLeod, the board rejected Pollack's suggestion that the district renegotiate current joint-use agreements with the City of Lincoln. Instead, McLeod convinced the board to amend the suggestions to include a stipulation whereby the district will become an active participant in the development-approval process.