CUSD: School site slump should lift

With a certified environmental-impact report and tentative federal permits in hand, Chico Unified School District officials say they are closer than ever to building Canyon View High School.

But parents apparently don’t know what the heck is going on.

On Aug. 21, the Bond Oversight Committee met for the first time in eight months with half of the four committee members attending: Gary Fowler and Richard Matson.

They were frustrated with the seemingly snail-like progress of Chico’s third comprehensive high school. The soonest the school can be finished is 2007 or ‘08—10 years after the bond to fund it passed.

“I just want the darn thing built,” Matson said.

Fowler said dinner party discussions find parents and other Chico residents skeptical about the high school: whether it will ever be built, if it’s still needed and if it should still be located in southeast Chico even though growth seems headed north. Meanwhile, inflation has eaten away at the buying power of the $40 million the bond allotted for the school.

“Is there a point where this cost creep starts making it doubtful that this high school’s ever going to see the light of day?” Fowler asked. “The general sense I get from parents is it’s slipping away from us.”

The district is OK there because it has been squirreling away enough money from developer fees to offset the increase, CUSD Facilities Manager Mike Weissenborn said.

The situation brings to mind Marsh Junior High School, funded by a 1988 bond and finally completed in 1998. With Marsh, the state building fund went broke. With Canyon View, the holdup has been environmental constraints and unwilling sellers.

Fowler suggested that the CUSD could do a better job getting the word out that the school effort is not just stagnating. “I don’t think everyone out there in the community is as patient.” Families, he said, are “in the dark.”

Good PR will be even more essential, he said, if the CUSD decides to acquire the land though eminent domain, forcing a parcel on the west side of Bruce Road near the Skyway away from property owners the George Schmidbauer family of Eureka. Lately, the district has been dealing with Schmidbauer and his attorneys directly rather than Jim Mann, a Chico consultant.

“It’s a new face and a new purpose in the discussion,” said Superintendent Scott Brown. Once the district owns the land, “the involvement with third-party variables goes to almost zero [and] we can move quickly.”

George Schmidbauer did not return a call for comment by press time.