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Water bills could force Island High and Woodstock to move

Submitted by on 1, August 23, 2010 – 5:00 amNo Comment

Officials at Alameda’s cash-strapped school district may seek to move Island High School and the Woodstock Child Development Center to avoid water and sewer bills they’d otherwise need to pay if they keep the schools at their current location.

District officials told the Board of Education on August 10 that they are anticipating that as soon as September, they could begin receiving bills of as much as $14,000 a month for water and sewer use and line maintenance at the Singleton Avenue site that hosts both schools. Superintendent Kirsten Vital said district staff would make recommendations on whether to move the schools and where in September.

Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell said that staff will look into whether it makes sense to keep Island High and Woodstock at their current site and pay the bills or upgrade the site’s existing water and sewer lines or whether the district should move the schools to district-owned property. He said that any move that does take place could happen mid-year.

The district has leased the site from the Navy at no cost since 1965, though it does pay other utility costs at the site. The Navy is conducting toxic cleanup on a portion of the site and is hoping to begin the process of handing it over to the school district in 2012.

District officials, the Navy and the Coast Guard came to an agreement in 2008 to share water and sewer use and line maintenance costs at the site when the Coast Guard took possession of the Navy’s former North Housing area, which uses the same water and sewer lines as Island High and Woodstock. But the Navy never sent the school district a bill.

But the Coast Guard is close to completing its own, brand-new water and sewer lines, and it plans to disconnect from the existing system, leaving the school district as its sole user. Alan Lee, base reuse manager for Alameda Point, said the Coast Guard anticipates completing its new water and sewer lines by December.

Lee said the Navy met with school district officials in May to let them know the Coast Guard planned to disconnect from the parcel’s existing service entirely and that the district would be responsible for those lines’ maintenance and upkeep and for payment of the water and sewer bills.

Shemwell said Navy officials told the district at that meeting that they could be responsible for the bills as of September 1, though Lee said that the Navy has not yet asked the district to begin paying for water and sewer use on the site.

District officials have also announced plans to close down the toddler program they offer at Woodstock for lack of state funds, which would leave half the classrooms they currently use empty. They said on August 10 it might not make sense to keep the remaining preschool program at its current location under those circumstances. (The board is set to decide Tuesday whether to maintain the toddler program and before- and after-school programs for school-age children for another 45 days.)

Assistant Superintendent Sean McPhetridge told the board the remoteness of the Singleton site might not serve parents as well as another arrangement could. And Shemwell said last week that the buildings that house Island High and Woodstock need maintenance upgrades, including a new heating, ventilation and cooling system for Island High. He said replacing water and sewer lines for the schools could cost “a few hundred thousand” dollars.

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