San Marino Unified School District

Frequently Asked Questions

 
1. How are San Marino schools doing?
 

San Marino Unified School District (SMUSD) is the top performing unified school district among all unified school districts in the State of California, for almost two decades. All of our schools are recognized as National Blue Ribbon schools, which is the highest award any school can receive in the nation. Every SMUSD school is also recognized as a California Distinguished School.

2. What challenges are facing our schools?
 

All SMUSD schools were built between 1918 and 1953, and while many of them were renovated about 20 years ago, our schools now need further updates to keep pace with modern education, student safety, and learning environments.   Many classrooms and facilities require essential repairs and safety improvements, including security, water conservation, electrical updates, and heating and air conditioning systems.

Our students have proven themselves to be the best in the State again and again, and safe, secure, high-quality, and up-to-date facilities are required to support our continued achievement in academics, arts, and athletics.

3. How does SMUSD plan to address these challenges?
 

A Facilities Needs Assessment was completed in 2015. In 2019 the Board of Education formed a Facilities Advisory Committee (FAC) to review, evaluate and report on the needs at each of our school sites.  After an extensive evaluation process that included school site tours, District staff meetings and consultations with experts, the FAC provided a full report to the Board of Education during two of their regularly scheduled meetings in September and October. This report included a unanimous recommendation to the Board to consider a G.O. Bond Measure on an upcoming election. 

4. How would facility repairs and upgrades be funded?
 

School districts have very limited options in seeking additional funding and rely on the State for almost all resources. The State does not provide adequate funding to maintain and upgrade our facilities. As the State no longer provides separate deferred maintenance funds, repairs are made out of the general fund that would otherwise be spent on educational programs. 

While no decisions have been made, one option for the District would be a G.O. Bond Measure that would provide funding to repair and update local schools without increasing the current tax rates beyond what homeowners are currently paying.

5. What specific projects would be planned?
 

SMUSD needs to make essential repairs and upgrades, including:

    • Repair aging classrooms and replace outdated portable classrooms
    • Upgrade school safety and campus security, including alarm systems and fencing
    • Repair deteriorating roofs, flooring, plumbing and electrical systems
    • Reduce utility costs by upgrading water and energy conservation and installing energy-efficient windows and heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems
    • Update classroom technology, science and engineering labs
    • Update facilities used for arts, academics, athletics and activities
6. Does SMUSD have other options for funding these facilities repairs?
 

SMUSD has very few options when it comes to making the necessary repairs and updates to our local schools. We can’t rely on the State to complete the necessary repairs to maintain the best education for our students. In tandem with the facilities planning process, SMUSD will continue to seek out and evaluate the availability of additional funding from state, federal, and local sources to meet its capital facilities improvement needs. 

7. How do I know the funds would be spent wisely?
 

The plan to protect the quality of SMUSD schools would include protections to ensure funds are spent appropriately. All funds would stay in the District and could not be taken away by the State. None of the funds would be spent on administrator salaries. An independent citizens’ oversight committee would ensure the funds are spent on approved projects that were included in the project list. An annual audit would be performed until all of the proceeds are expended.

8. Doesn’t the San Marino Schools Foundation cover this kind of cost?
 

While the San Marino Schools Foundation and PTAs/PTSA provide millions of dollars to our schools each year, those funds go to support programs and instructional salaries that are not adequately funded by the State. These donated funds do not support our facilities needs. The funding needed to repair our facilities is beyond the scope of funding received from the San Marino Schools Foundation, parcel taxes, and SMUSD’s operating budget. SMUSD needs an additional source of funds to make necessary improvements to our schools to provide a 21st-century learning environment, and to continue to serve our students and our community into the future.

9. Didn’t we just approve funding for SMUSD schools?
 

The parcel taxes approved by San Marino residents do not address critical facilities needs. In 2019, San Marino voters overwhelmingly passed a parcel tax (Measure R) that provides the critically needed operating funds that support outstanding classroom teachers and solid academic curriculum, maintain advanced placement and honors classes, and preserve small class sizes. Local voters also approved a parcel tax in 2015 (Measure E) needed to offset inadequate state funding for instructional programs.

Unlike parcel taxes, capital facilities funding would provide funds restricted to addressing facilities needs only. These funds would be used to make the necessary repairs and updates to our school facilities. These funds could not be used for programs or administrator salaries.

10. Has SMUSD embarked on a school facilities improvement plan before?
 

Yes. SMUSD has passed two bond measures – over 20 years ago – to fund repairs and modernization projects at our schools.

While these past projects modernized our schools, technology has evolved dramatically in the past 20 years. Our schools require essential upgrades to keep pace with 21st-century technology. Schools, like our homes, also require upgrades and repairs to remain safe, secure, and up-to-date. For example, in 2000 the internet was accessed through dial-up and computers were only used in the computer lab. Today, teachers and classrooms require more than a phone line to provide optimal learning environments.

11. Have neighboring districts passed similar measures recently?
 

Yes. Multiple school districts in our area have passed bond measures to meet local funding needs. As neighboring high-performing districts continue to invest in their facilities, SMUSD must also keep its facilities up-to-date to maintain its high-quality schools.

    • La Cañada USD recently passed a $149 million bond measure.
    • Alhambra USD passed a $149 million bond for their high school and an additional $110 million bond for the remainder of the district in 2016.
    • South Pasadena USD passed a $98 million bond in 2016.
In 2016 alone, these Los Angeles County districts also passed local bond measures:
    • Centinela Valley Union High - $110 million
    • Claremont USD - $58 million
    • El Rancho USD - $200 million
    • Whittier City SD (Facilities) - $70 million
    • Whittier City SD (Tech) - $24 million
    • Garvey SD - $40 million
    • Hacienda La Puente USD - $148 million
    • Hermosa Beach City SD - $59 million
    • Lawndale Elementary SD - $27 million
    • Lennox SD - $25 million
    • Lynwood USD - $65 million
    • Long Beach USD - $1.5 billion
    • Manhattan Beach USD - $114 million
    • Manhattan Beach USD (HS Gym) - $39 million
    • Montebello USD - $300 million
    • Mountain View SD - $57 million
    • Palmdale SD - $80 million
    • Paramount USD - $106 million
    • Pomona USD - $300 million
    • South Whittier Elementary - $29 million
    • Walnut Valley Unified - $152.8 million
    • West Covina USD - $143 million
2018
    • Baldwin Park Unified School District - $69 million 
    • El Monte Union High School District - $190 million
    • El Segundo Unified School District - $92 million 
    • Santa Clara Unified School District - $720million (Santa Clara County)
    • Santa Monica/Malibu SD – $195million
    • Oxnard Union High School District - $350million (Ventura County)

 12. How can I find out more?
 
We welcome your input as we work to ensure our schools are updated to continue providing a top-notch education. For more information or to provide feedback, please contact the District office at (626) 299-7000 or info@smusd.us.