SVUSD Suspends Woodland Star School Building Project – Sonoma Index-Tribune | Salisbury Pipes

A project that includes building a new multipurpose room at Woodland Star Charter School has been put on hold as the Sonoma Valley Unified School District reviews its funding priorities.

“To be clear, the project has not been cancelled,” said Superintendent Dr. Adrian Palazuelos. “It has been temporarily suspended while the district conducts an evaluation and consideration of how best to execute the remaining projects of the district’s Measure E bond program. These decisions will be made as quickly as possible, with communication on the matter direct to Caroline Hopewell, Executive Director of Woodland Star.”

The modernization of Woodland Star should be completed in August. The plan was to demolish the old administration building and replace it with a building with a new multi-purpose room.

The first phase of construction included upgrading the school’s fire safety system, replacing a ramp to a classroom, providing new front fencing to accommodate the new multi-use building, reconfiguring drop-off and pick-up lanes and creating a new car park behind the garden was localized.

“Much of the construction of the first phase was designed to accommodate the new hall (multipurpose room),” Hopewell said. “We are awaiting phase two, which is primarily the multipurpose building that will have additional student bathrooms, a warming kitchen and flexible space for large gatherings, school-wide events and performances. It will also house our music and craft programs.”

Hopewell said operating without a multipurpose room causes problems.

“The main hall (multipurpose room) is the heart of our school community and without it we struggle to gather as a whole community,” she said. “We consider the coming together of our community to be essential.”

The multipurpose room of the old administration building was also used as a music and crafts classroom, which are now housed in a planned science and woodworking workshop at the school.

In addition, the building was used for lunch, breaks and physical education on bad weather and bad air days. Class games, a tradition of the Waldorf school, were also performed in the room.

SVUSD plans to provide short-term replacement facilities at the school, which is adjacent to Altimira Middle School, if needed.

“Unfortunately, both schools would need to use the multipurpose room at Altimira at the same time, so I don’t see Woodland Star being able to use it for meal distribution, break and exercise classes on inclement weather or fire days,” Hopewell said. “I’m still waiting to hear if our middle school students can use the Altimira restrooms across the street from our middle school.”

She added that Woodland Star has been given permission to hold its board meetings once a month at the district office.

The modernization of Woodland Star is expected to cost $8.7 million instead of the original estimate of $6.4 million and the current estimate of $8.2 million.

SVUSD received $120 million from the issuance of the School’s Measure E bond, which will be used to fund the Woodland Star project and several others, but at the June 21 Board of Trustees meeting, Associate Superintendent Bruce Abbott stated that the expected cost of the Exceed funding by $463,000.

At the same meeting, Palazuelos expressed concern about the construction costs and the declining availability of skilled workers.

“At a time of significant construction cost escalations and rising inflation, the district is doing its best to find the best way to meet facility needs and fulfill its obligations to the community under the E-Bond measure,” Palazuelos said Monday .

The remaining projects resulting from Action E funding are Sonoma Valley High School’s Aquatic Complex, scheduled for completion in October; Modernization of Prestwood Elementary School’s multipurpose room, to be completed by Spring 2023; a new multipurpose room, playground and courtyard at the Sassarini Primary School, due for completion by summer 2023; and a science wing at Sonoma Valley High School to be added by summer 2024.

At the June 21 meeting, the SVUSD Board of Trustees voted to go ahead with improvements to the Sassarini Elementary School, even though they will cost an estimated $9.4 million more than the more modest project originally proposed.

Trustees Melanie Blake, Cathy Coleman and Troy Knox voted to fund the project, which is now estimated to cost $13.6 million, and Trustee Anne Ching voted against. Trustee John Kelly was not present.

“I’m definitely in favor of Sassarini having a new facility,” Ching said at the meeting. “I think that’s really important. But I think it’s very irresponsible of us to go ahead with such a big investment project with such a huge cost increase when we have so many unknown factors out there.

“We have not made any decisions or had any discussions about the impact of falling enrollments [in the district] and I don’t want to jump to any conclusions about how this discussion and decision-making process will end. I would like to put this project on hold while we prepare our strategic planning document.”

Reach staff writer Dan Johnson at

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