MPCSD Considering $123M Bond for Upgrades, School Safety

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The Menlo Park City School District (MPCSD) is expediting a $123 million bond to pay for critical facility needs. The MPCSD Board has yet to approve the final bond measure but have reviewed plans for improvements in four areas: school safety, outdated facilities, climate resilience, and modern technology. 

MPCSD highlighted the importance of approving these updates as soon as possible––with building costs expected to rise 5% annually. By acting now, MPCSD claims they can save millions of dollars by avoiding future higher costs and using current federal and state funding. 

If MPCSD does not approve a bond measure to send to voters by their final meeting on June 13th, the next opportunity to vote on a bond will be during the 2026 election. In Superintendent Kristian Garcias’ presentation on May 9th, she said, “There is undeniable [student safety] risk in waiting.” 

In a flier mailed out to voters, MPCSD highlighted the need for newer security measures such as access control, intruder detection, and fire alarm upgrades. Their draft proposal earmarks $1,375,000 for fire alarm upgrades, $654,500 for alarm and security camera upgrades, and $2,506,804 for electrified door access and key cards.

MPCSD also highlights the need to update older buildings, including seismic upgrades. The proposal includes almost $18 million for upgrades for buildings older than 20 years. They are considering adding an additional $19.7 million to upgrade buildings built less than 20 years ago, which would bring the bond total to $150 million. 

The draft proposal also includes $42 million for new construction: mainly $36 million for new buildings at the Lower Laurel campus in order to replace buildings built in 1959, which no longer meet building code.

To prepare for hotter days, MPCSD is budgeting for one new shade structure at each site and updated Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems across the district. New HVAC systems is one of the most expensive line items, costing $26 million across all sites.

Among other new technologies, MPCSD hopes to install classroom displays that also function as a way to visually and auditory provide safety alerts and instructions in the classroom during an emergency.

For the bond to be approved by voters, 55% must vote yes. In December, MPCSD contracted data analytics firm EMC Research for $30,000 to assess voters' opinions about the District’s potential bond. EMC Research found that, initially, if voters were asked to vote on a bond, 59% of the 300 potential voters surveyed would vote yes. After EMC provided additional information about the need for a bond, 62% of respondents said they would vote to approve the bond. However, when EMC showed voters some potential arguments against the bond, approval fell to 52%, meaning a coordinated opposition group could sway voters. 

EMC concluded that the most important area the District should focus on is explaining to voters why MPCSD needs the bond. EMC Research Senior Principal Sara LaBatt told the board, “Because voters don’t know that MPCSD needs this bond, it is easy to convince them to vote against it and that is an opportunity to educate and engage voters so people understand what the need is.”

Arden Margulis was a junior in his second year of journalism at the M-A Chronicle before he tested out of high school. He was the M-A Chronicle's Webmaster when it was a finalist for the Online Pacemaker. During his first year, Arden wrote a two-part series on Paper Tutoring, which won First Place News Story from Santa Clara University. Arden was a finalist for Writer of the Year from the National Scholastic Press Association. He also won First Place News Writing from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association for an article on FERPA and M-A's No Privileges List. Arden focused on news and legal research along with sending Public Records Act requests to government agencies. He was most proud of an editorial he worked on about M-A's treatment of sexual assault survivors. He left the M-A Chronicle to intern at the Almanac and go to college earlier.

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