Parents, teachers and students from Da Vinci High School came forward during public comment on Thursday asking the board to put the long term facility needs on their agenda. At the end of public comment, the board agreed to agendize the issue for discussion.
When the voters passed Measure M, the facilities bond, they allocated around $150 million for prioritized projects, but Da Vinci High School was not one of them. Since then, many involved in the program have come forward asking the district to re-examine the problems with the facility that is the site of the now closed Valley Oak Elementary.
One parent noted that his son, 10th grade, is talking about transferring to Davis High. He said that Da Vinci “is a unique option for students looking for a unique approach to learning.” However, he said, “these words really fall short when you look at the status of the school. It really appears like a neglected campus that does not emulate or support what is going on inside.”
A staff member at Da Vinci read a letter on behalf of one of his colleagues – Windy Pickett.
She wrote, “at the heart of the Da Vinci pledge, which all students know and believe is the concept of innovation. At any given day at Da Vinci, you can hear somebody say, read, fire, aim. Which speaks to our philosophy of not only being bogged down by the details, but being willing to take the risk for the greater good.”
“At Da Vinci we trust each other to try new things in a safe community and we are reminded regularly that this method pays off,” she wrote.
“Right now Da Vinci Charter Academy has kinds of thoughts on how our school can continue to harness its best energies of its teachers and its students to continue to improve,” she wrote. She added that they need the district and board as partners, and they would be happy to share their thoughts about programmatic and facilities needs.
Another Da Vinci parent speaking in representation of other advocates asking the board to put their facility needs on their agenda. A few weeks ago a group formed the Da Vinci Facilities Improvement Committee – they have started a petition signed by over 140 community members and voters.
They are asking for one simple thing – “we the undersigned urge the Davis School Board to agendize the programmatic vision and facility needs of Da Vinci.”
Kendra Norton speaking on behalf of the Da Vinci Alumni Network – she is both a 2010 graduate of Da Vinci high and a first-year teacher at Da Vinci Junior High School.
“With the passage of Measure M, I’m glad to see that the district has the money to address its facility needs, however, I’m disappointed with how little of that money will be going toward Da Vinci Facilities,” she said.
She explained, “I’m especially concerned about the fate of the awkward and aging high school campus which has been home to the program for the last 12 years.”
She laid out the high priority needs of the high school campus, “which include a dedicated science classroom, PE locker rooms and an appropriately sized parking lot. The students of Da Vinci deserve a campus that reflects the high quality of work that they do.”
A high school parent on the Da Vinci Advisory Board told the board that one of the three core area of concerns identified earlier this year was facilities needs. “The focus has driven our interest in funding disparity and specifically the needs of Da Vinci for a facilities plan.”
Their facilities subcommittee drafted a letter to the board – and all students, parents and community members signed it. She and a ninth grader on the advisory board read from the three page letter. Their request was put Da Vinci on their agenda for discussion and consideration.
“They have (been successful) with subpar facilities,” she read. “The Da Vinci High School is currently housed in the back of one of the oldest campuses in our district. A campus that was built to hold an elementary school and is inadequate to meet the needs of high school students.”
“The Da Vinci students have been promised an appropriate facility for the past 15 years and thus far those promises have gone unfulfilled,” she said.
She expressed disappointment that the needs of Da Vinci is not a priority for the facility bond money.
“Currently the district and the school board do not have long term vision for the Da Vinci Charter Academy program,” she stated. “This has negatively impacted our facilities vision.”
She said this has led “to immediate safety and educational shortfalls.” She added that while other sites have facilities needs, “we do not see the same level of need at any other campus.”
The student added “the current facilities do not adequately accommodate our students or staff. There’s no long term facility plans.”
She noted that Valley Oak was built in 1953, modernized to meet elementary school needs in 2000, but “not modernized to accommodate a high school.”
She identified the following immediate needs of the high school: space where a school community can gather, high school level science facilities and labs, appropriate administrative office space, PE and locker room facilities. She said, “Da Vinci has no gymnasium and no locker rooms.”
She also cited inadequate parking for students, staff and parents. “Safety is a concern here,” she explained.
“15 to 20 percent of DJUSD high school students attend Da Vinci Academy, and yet we are not seeing equitable facilities,” she continued. She pointed out that Davis High is scheduled to received $41 million in Measure M facilities upgrades in addition to the several upgrades in recent years to its facilities. She listed off a dozen and stated, “although not all of these upgrades are brand new, they are all much newer than the facilities that Da Vinci students are using.”
“The Parking situation at Valley Oak is an immediate safety concern,” she said. She said, “Despite these concerns being shared with the district staff since 2009, there have been no meaningful changes. Parking related issues are being addressed at other sites with Measure M money, but not Valley Oak.”
Another student said, “At Da Vinci we don’t currently have a space that can actually hold our entire student body. Tomorrow we’re having a rally, but it’s hard to have a rally when you have to split the school up into smaller groups because there’s nowhere for us to meet.”
She said they have a spot on campus that’s supposed to be our library, tech zone, student lounge and presentation room, “but it’s too small to do any of those things.” She said, “We need better science facilities – we currently only have one classroom that is meant for science and even with that, when we do labs, we can’t fully do them… half the people have to sit out because we don’t have the space or the resources we need.”
Doing chemistry last year, they could not do half the labs in the required textbook due to lack of space or facilities.
The board agreed to agendize further discussion on this topic at a later time.
—David M. Greenwald reporting