WATSONVILLE — Pajaro Valley High School senior Pedro Lomeli will go to the polls and cast a ballot today for the first time in his life.
“I’m really excited,” he said, with a big smile on his face.
Lomeli, 18, said he studied up on the election in his economics class, and is up to date on all the issues.
That includes California propositions 30-40. He also knows which candidate he’d like to win the presidential election.
But perhaps the most important issue for Lomeli, and for hundreds of students across Pajaro Valley Unified School District, is one that hits closer to home.
Measure L, upon which Pajaro valley Unified School District residents will decide today, would raise $150 million for the district by adding about $38 per $100,000 of assessed value for homeowners in PVUSD.
Lomeli joined dozens of other PVHS athletes at Main Street and Green Valley Road Monday for an afternoon rally, hoping to convince passersby to support the measure.
The students waved signs and shouted to motorists as cheerleaders chanted, “We want a football field, yes on L.”
With an average age of 50, the district’s 40 or so facilities are badly in need of repair, with a $242 million list of projects that includes fixing leaky roofs, upgrading technology and repairing playing fields choked with gopher holes.
Pajaro Valley High School, the youngest school at 8 years old, stands to get a new athletic field, a baseball diamond and a performing arts facility, among other things.
Lomeli, a basketball player said that would be a boon for the school.
“I want to give the youngsters opportunities I didn’t have,” he said.
One student who could benefit from the bond is Sergio Ibarra, also a basketball player.
Ibarra, 16, said students currently have to be bussed to Watsonville or Aptos high schools for games.
“We want this bond to pass so we can finish our school,” he said. “We want to play at our school.”
Cheerleader Leslie Regalado, 18, agreed.
“This is important because I want other kids to have a field of their own,” she said.
Former PVHS assistant principal Ron Sandidge said the measure is important to him as am educator and a parent.
“I want to make sure we have comparable facilities at all our schools,” he said. “I want to see modern technology and safe campuses.”
Voters in the past have amenable to similar bonds. In 2002, South County voters passed Measure J, which raised $58 million for PVUSD schools.
According to Sandidge, students, teachers and administrators who have been making calls for the past eight weeks report that approximately 70 percent of the people they reach support the measure.
Pajaro Valley Unified School District Chief Business Officer Brett McFadden said the enthusiasm among the students is rare.
“I’ve done four of these (school bond measures) in my career, and I’ve never seen kids this involved,” he said.
McFadden said most of the students at the rally were juniors and seniors who won’t see the direct benefit of the bond’s passage.
“They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
Parents and students have told the board that the bathrooms at some schools are in such poor shape that students refuse to use them.
In other schools, coaches say that students are getting injured by hidden gopher holes in playing fields, while teachers lament outdated technology.
With the list of needed maintenance and repairs constantly growing at the district’s dozens of facilities, McFadden has told the trustees that the district will run out of deferred maintenance funds in 18 months.
In December, the trustees agreed to consider the bond after a survey showed 35 percent of 460 likely voters would definitely vote for such a measure.
After initially agreeing to pursue a $195 million bond, and heeding concerns from community members about increasing financial burdens, the trustees compromised on the $150 million bond that focuses on essential projects.
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