Santa Rosa City Schools to temporarily move from rotting portables deemed unsafe for staff

The Santa Rosa City Schools District is relocating its headquarters while officials decide what to do with deteriorating portable buildings that pose a health and safety threat to staff.

The district offices, which are next to Ridgway High School, are made up of about 10 secondhand portables, most which are 70 years old and rotting.

During a special board meeting on July 25, the Santa Rosa City Schools trustees approved the move in a 7-0 vote after Superintendent Anna Trunnell cited the escalating deterioration of the structures at the district campus.

The issues include roofs beyond repair, inoperable HVAC systems and the cost of rental AC units, which are $5,500 a month, district officials said in a news release.

The district decided to move quickly before students and staff return from summer break, said Lisa Cavin, the district’s chief business official.

A Press Democrat reporter toured the offices at 211 Ridgway Ave., with Eric Oden, Executive Director Facilities, Maintenance, and Operations at Santa Rosa City Schools.

He said that the portables, which were seen as temporary solutions for districts under financial strain, were used at schools across Sonoma County while leaders tried to save enough money to invest in better structures down the road.

That never happened for most schools.

Last spring, students spoke out about hazardous conditions at one of the district’s schools, Montgomery High. They described finding it hard to focus amid rotting portable classrooms, constant sewage breaks and gross bathrooms.

Several of those issues are being remediated across campuses during summer facility projects.

Coming next week: A look at improvements to Santa Rosa schools.

Once the portables were deemed no longer suitable for children, they were passed to the district to be used as offices.

One portable, which had roofing materials held in place with tape, has been condemned because of black mold and rotting structural integrity, Oden said. Most portables showed signs of dry rot on the outside and had peeling paint.

For the foreseeable future, district offices will be located in a business complex at 110 Stony Point Road, which hosts other businesses and nonprofit organizations, including the Community Foundation Sonoma, Guardian Angel Home Care of Santa Rosa and 10,000 Degrees Sonoma County.

The new rental agreement is broken up into two contracts: one is a sublease and one is a lease for space in the same building.

According to the district’s sublease for Suite 210, the district can officially move in on Monday and rent was waved for the first two months. Starting in October, they will pay base rent of $26,514 a month to the building’s owner, BPM LLP. Rent will be raised 3% every year until August 2026.

A direct lease with SR Stony Point DE, LLC allowed them to move in to Suite 225 Tuesday, with rent set at $3,355 a month starting Oct. 1 with a 5% rent increase each year.

There’s plans to eventually move into another space, Suite 105, which is still occupied by another organization. Rent would cost $28,900 a month with a 5% raise each year.

Information on which departments will be moved first will be shared once staff have been notified, Cavin said.

The cost of movers for the first phase is approximately $20,000, which will come from facility reimbursement funds, she said.

“I just want to share how grateful we are that the board is supportive of this move,” Superintendent Anna Trunnell said during the special board meeting. “It is a huge deal for us because we are a piece of the fabric for this community. And what is very exciting is that we have the potential to actually establish something more permanent, which will be part of the facilities master plan discussion.”

The Facilities Master Plan will determine a permanent plan for the district offices, Cavin said.

The master plan, which encompasses repairs and upgrades for aging facilities at all district elementary and high schools, is funded by Bond Measures C and G, which were passed by voters in November, 2022.

Right now, the district is still taking stock of what repairs and upgrades are necessary across campuses. But, in the fall, there will be opportunities for the larger school community to add their input.

Final adjustments and recommendation for the plan’s approval will come in November 2023.

You can reach Staff Writer Alana Minkler at 707-526-8531 or alana.minkler@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @alana_minkler.

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