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School bonds' Measure U campaign kicked off at rally
A standing-room-only crowd attended a Wednesday campaign kick-off event for Measure U. About 300 persons attended the "Ceres Kids Need U" campaign rally held at Central Valley High School.

"We were expecting 150, but they kept coming - we nearly doubled the number of people," said Eric Ingwerson, a member of the Ceres School Board and co-chairman of the Yes on U campaign committee. "Ceres clearly showed that it supports its schools and recognizes that our kids need U. We're off to a great start."

Those who showed up were told of the importance of passing the measure to raise $60 million to upgrade Ceres schools as well as build a new junior high school. A number signed up to work on the campaign, including work on phone banks.

"It was fabulous to feel the energy in the room and to realize how strongly the Ceres community supports its schools," said Nicole Chapman, a teacher at Ceres High School. "Passing Measure U will improve the quality of education at every Ceres public school."

Officials with the Ceres Unified School District say an important rallying cry for Measure U is to create more vocational education classes in agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare and technology jobs for Ceres youth.

"We need to give every student in our schools, whether or not they are college bound, a reason to stay in school and the opportunity to be successful when they graduate," said teacher Al Azevedo.

Nearly 200 residents have endorsed Measure U, including the Ceres City Council and Police Chief Art de Werk. The Ceres City Council has gone on record in support of it.

"YES on U funds more than $100 million in Ceres construction projects, creating hundreds of good-paying jobs, stimulating the Ceres economy at a time when our residents and businesses are struggling," said Ken Lane, a member of the Ceres City Council and Measure U campaign fund raising coordinator.

If approved, Measure U would allow CUSD to issue $60 million in bonds to upgrade all Ceres schools and designate $25 million for a third junior high school. Matching funds from the state would also be provided to help pay for the upgrades.

The measure would place an assessment of up to $60 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation annually for 30 years. Property owners within CUSD already pay $30 per $100,000 for Measure J, passed in 2001 for construction of Central Valley High School. If the new bond measure passes, a property with an assessed valuation of $200,000 would be assessed by another $120 per year.

The measure would allow all five recently built schools - Sinclear, Berryhill, La Rosa, Adkison, and Hidahl - to receive a library/computer lab/ classroom complex. The feature wasn't built originally because CUSD didn't have enough money.

Measure U would also allow CUSD to replace aging portable classrooms and upgrade bathroom facilities at the older schools.

CUSD officials will be concentrating on two aspects of Measure U: improving vocational education at Ceres High School and adding a third junior high schools to avoid overcrowding.

A big chunk of the bond funds would pay for $25 million of a $30 million junior high school somewhere on the east side of Ceres. A new school would allow the existing two junior schools to stay at a manageable side. CUSD would like to open a third junior high in August 2011 or 2012.

CHS would also receive a $3.8 million 8-classroom wing and replacement of portables. The interior of the small gym and the Doghouse structures would be rehabilitated.

Measure U would also help pay for a $10.5 million 16-classroom wing at Central Valley High School. CUSD would like to have the new wing completed for the 2010 school year. The new building will house 400 students.

Most of the schools would see a replacement of older portable classrooms with more permanent modular classrooms. Hanline said that the modular classrooms would look like permanent buildings and set on concrete pads and have a life of 80 to 100 years.

CUSD officials are optimistic that the measure will pass despite the economic times. The School Board proceeded with the election after learning two independent surveys indicated approximately 58 percent were in favor of it. The phone survey was taken in July.

Those interested in joining the Measure U campaign may call Kathi Foster at 484-6432.