At McClatchy High School, the girls’ soccer field is often unplayable. The football field has bare spots. And the tennis courts have new and dangerous cracks, say parents and alumni.
After years of frustration, community members and civic groups are building momentum toward change, said Denis Ishisaka, president of the school’s Restore the Roar booster club.
They have plenty of civic clout and community resources to draw from: The school built in 1937 sits adjacent to one of Sacramento’s most prosperous neighborhoods, a favored home of many Capitol movers and shakers. The school has a long list of prestigious alumni, including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy and California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye.
On Monday night, the booster club called a community forum at the high school to hear the latest from the district. More than 100 people were there.
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“We have the worst school facilities in the city,” said Bernie Church, the school’s former longtime baseball coach, adding that he had listened to explanations from the district for years. “I’ve been to too many meetings like this. I’m sorry for being a little bit upset, but I’m mad.”
The audience applauded in loud agreement.
The problem has long been that McClatchy is not alone in needing upgrades and renovation. The district facilities staff in 2016 evaluated the district’s athletic fields and found McClatchy fifth among 15 campuses based on need. The school was behind Sam Brannan and John Still K-8 middle schools, both cited for having gopher infestations. And it was ranked behind the needs of Hiram Johnson High and Kennedy High schools.
Jay Hansen, Sacramento City Unified School District board president, appeared at the booster club’s meeting Monday night and said he hopes the district can find up to $4 million in bond proceeds to fix McClatchy’s aging facilities.
Voters in 2012 approved two bond measures – Q and R – to raise more than $400 million for district improvements.
Measure Q authorized $346 million for academic facilities and technology. But that money cannot be used on athletic fields.
Measure R, which authorized $68 million in funds, can be used for athletic field improvements. But those funds have all been earmarked. The district committed $28 million for projects at 19 schools, including a $6.2 million stadium at Kennedy; $3 million gym renovation and HVAC system at Hiram Johnson High School; and $2.2 million at McClatchy for its recent gymnasium renovation.
Last month, trustees locked up the remaining $40 million when they approved a land swap to make way for a central kitchen.
Hansen said he plans to ask the bond oversight committee to reexamine how it allocated project costs between the two ballot measures.
The idea, he said, is to free funds from Measure R for use at McClatchy. He said he also will seek support from other trustees to move McClatchy farther up the priority list.
“That’s going to be a political decision for myself and board members,” Hansen said. “To me, that was the promise made to the voters when they voted for Q and R.”
Hansen said at the rate the projects were moving, “we probably wouldn’t get back to (McClatchy) for a couple more years. But I think we have a duty to do it sooner than that. That means if we have to slow some projects further down in the queue … it’s a valuable prioritization.”
McClatchy parents and alumni say school conditions make it difficult, if not impossible, to hold practices and competition. Teams regularly drive to other facilities because their own are in such disrepair, while their competitors enjoy acres of groomed fields or all-weather surfaces at home.
The dirt track behind McClatchy, for instance, floods every rain storm.
“When it dries, it’s inundated with weeds and rutted, just waiting for a sprained ankle to happen,” Ishikawa said.
Brian Nelson, a board member for Restore the Roar, acknowledged that the recent $40 million kitchen decision has added to the frustration that funds aren’t being spent at McClatchy.
“I don’t think categorically there is a problem with the kitchen,” Nelson said. “Some of us question the need. But I think everybody is in consensus that healthy food” makes for good learning.
He said the problem is schools where the athletic fields haven’t been touched in decades.
“The track is a joke,” he said. “The baseball fields are a wreck. The tennis courts are cracked, substantially cracked.”