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  • Voters to decide bond to renovate Mountain Empire schools

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         Residents in the Mountain Empire Unified School District are being asked to find out more about Measure JJ, a $15-million bond to renovate aging facilities at eight schools in sprawling rural East San Diego County.
         There are 1,750 students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade in the huge 1,660-square mile district. The measure is intended to improve the quality of education in the district, advocates said.
         About 6,500 registered voters in the desert, mountains, and valleys will decide whether to approve the bond on Tuesday, Nov. 6. If 55 percent of voters approve the measure, it will have a tax assessment of $37 a year per $100,000 of assessed valuation.  
         “Most of our schools are over 40 years old and have never been renovated,” said District Supt. Kathy Granger. “We’ve maintained them, but not updated them. At a lot of them, we’re looking at roofing, updating plumbing and electrical systems, heating, and ventilation to improve school safety and security.”
    Granger said all the schools need to meet current American Disability Act standards so there’s safe access for students, parents, teachers and the visiting public.
    The schools include Mountain Empire High School; Camp Lockett and Pine Valley middle schools, and the Campo, Descanso, Potrero, and Clover Flat elementary schools. 
         Descanso’s main building, constructed in 1935, has never been modernized, Granger said.
         The bond would make a big difference at the schools, where coping with heating and air conditioning problems, leaking roofs and other building issues are challenging, said Patrick Keeley, principal of Mountain Empire High School and Measure JJ campaign chair. 
         “The science labs were built in the 1970s and I went to them (as a student) in the 1980s,” Keeley said. “The kids now need to see what a current science lab looks like. It (district) doesn’t have the same advantages as a kid going to a school district 30 miles away.”
    Keeley said he sees the measure as an investment in the area’s children and communities.
         The district is a member of the Alpine Mountain Empire Chamber of Commerce, which helps provide annual career days for the Mountain Empire and Alpine school districts.
         Granger said the San Diego County Taxpayers Association is among those who have endorsed Measure JJ. It requires a community oversight board to be sure the funds would be used only for the facilities.
         “We have several individuals that are opposed, but there was no (formal) argument against the bond measure in the county’s voter guide,” Granger said.  “We have some good parent support, staff support, and volunteers. In the end, it’s all about the kids.”
         People can learn more about the proposed bond at the www.yesonJJ.org website, Granger said. 
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