Leslie O’Connor loves his school.
That fact would be apparent even if it weren’t Homecoming Week and he wasn’t wearing a school-color-appropriate bright yellow shirt with a matching bandana tied around his head. O’Connor is the indefatigably proud principal of San Luis Obispo High School.
- PHOTO BY KAORI FUNAHASHI
- BOXED IN: Many of the classrooms at San Luis Obispo High School are cramped and have no windows.
Marching around campus at a frenetic pace, he greeted staff members and students in the same warm, friendly manner, asked them how they are, and compared spirit gear with them. He’s proud of his students, his faculty, and his staff members, but the only thing he’s not so thrilled about is the state of the school’s buildings.
“I think that most of our buildings look nice from the outside,” O’Connor said. “But then you get inside, and you think: ‘Shouldn’t we have more? Shouldn’t this be better?’ I mean, we have great students, and we have great teachers, but now our facilities need to be modernized to match that.”
For the first time in more than two decades, a school district bond measure will be on the ballot for the upcoming Nov. 4 election. Measure D would raise $177 million to fund several renovations and refurbishments for the schools in the San Luis Coastal Unified School District.
Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo high schools—the campuses that have the highest need for this money—would each receive $60 million in order to upgrade their campuses.
The last time a school improvement measure was passed in this district was in 1990. Those funds, however, were primarily focused on renovating and improving the district’s elementary and middle schools, which is why—if passed—Measure D would primarily be spent on the two high schools.
Both Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo high schools have already created a comprehensive renovation plan should the measure pass.
Both high schools are planning on moving their administration buildings to the front of the campus, renovating their cafeterias to make space for multipurpose rooms, and redesigning their welding shops and science labs. In addition, both schools have proposed adding swimming pools and all-weather tracks to their campuses.
“Most of our renovations will be infrastructural,” said Kyle Pruitt, principal of Morro Bay High School. “It’s about modifying our buildings and facilities to bring our school up to 21st century teaching and learning. I think that the payoffs would far outweigh any of the cons.”
Measure D would cost property owners in the district around $49 per $100,000 of assessed valuation per year. Assessed valuations—unlike market values—are assigned to properties by the county, and are generally lower than market values.
While there’s no organized opposition to Measure D, O’Connor said it’s possible some property owners will be less than thrilled if the measure goes through.
“We aren’t looking to pilfer money from people, but some of our facilities are just embarrassing,” O’Connor said. “We should be doing better.”
If Measure D passes, the district board of trustees would form a committee made up of students, parents, teachers, and administrators to plan their course of action—ensuring that the money granted to the schools would be spent only on construction and renovations.
“We live this every day, we come here every day,” O’Connor said. “So it’s about all of us coming together and saying: ‘How do we want to do this?’ We want to make sure that our space is better utilized, and that we get rid of the stuff that isn’t necessary.”
Space is one of the big issues at SLO High. As of now, there’s no designated storage space. The backstage area of the high school theater is filled to the brim with all manner of miscellaneous items: paint cans, ladders, desks, and chairs.
In addition, there are barely any operable windows in the classrooms. According to O’Connor, this doesn’t exactly create an environment most conducive to learning for students.
“I know I’m biased, but I don’t see this as a con,” O’Connor said. “We are a community school, so this is really for the community. And we are in desperate need of renovations. Our location is beautiful, but it’s our facilities that need to be upgraded. They just need some TLC.”
Intern Adriana Catanzarite can be reached via Executive Editor Ryan Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.