The money’s right: CUSD, landowner agree

Canyon View High School is finally in sight.

The Chico Unified School District and the Schmidbauer family of Eureka have agreed on a price for the sale of 52 acres near Bruce Road and the Skyway.

“The discussion now is over terms, not price, so that’s a step forward,” said Superintendent Scott Brown at a March 25 meeting of the district’s Bond Oversight Committee.

Chico voters approved a bond including $40 million to build a high school in 1998, but the project has been delayed by environmental constraints and an initially unwilling seller of the chosen south Chico land.

Another piece of good news for the district is a response by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control that the initial environmental assessment of the site shows no areas of concern.

The cost for the campus keeps rising with inflation and is now estimated at $48 million, including $3 million for the purchase of the land. The school was originally scheduled to open in fall 2002; now the estimate is fall 2008.

Planning will take two years and construction another two, with architects ready to move forward as soon as the deal is final, said Mike Weissenborn, facilities manager for the CUSD.

Brown mentioned that the education specifications for the school, approved in March 2000, were done with a 1,800- to 2,000-student school in mind. “These cost estimates are based on a very ambitious design,” Brown said. “Clearly we’d want to rethink that.”

Committee member Gary Fowler said that, even though enrollment is declining now, it will go back up. “We don’t want to underbuild. The kids are coming. They’re going to be here eventually.”

Also at meeting, Weissenborn gave an update on the other bond-funded projects, including playfield renovations still scheduled at a handful of schools.

Weissenborn said that improvements at Nord Elementary School’s kitchen are estimated at $175,000 rather than the budgeted $20,240. “With the future of the campus up in the air based on the budgets … is it a project that the community wants to continue to pursue?” he wondered.

Attendees also welcomed the committee’s newest member, banker Roger Hart, taking over for Mark Francis.