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With heavy rainfall fittingly blanketing the Lompoc Valley, a group of local school supporters gathered in Vandenberg Village on Wednesday night to officially begin an effort they hope will lead to major improvements at area schools.

Eighteen people, including Lompoc Unified School District staff, board members, students and other community members, assembled in a meeting space at Valley of the Flowers United Church of Christ to kick off the campaign for Measure Q2018, a $79 million Lompoc school improvement bond measure that will be on the June 5 ballot.

The meeting was arranged by the Committee for Quality Lompoc Schools, a grassroots organization that was created to campaign for the bond measure. Committee member Bree Valla, who is also the district’s director of certificated human resources, said she felt like Wednesday’s rainy weather only helped to magnify how critical the bond measure is to LUSD’s future.

“We were at Lompoc High School (on Wednesday) for lunch and as we’re standing in there, a giant stream of water came gushing through the roof of the library onto a table,” she said, also noting that sandbags were being used at Cabrillo High School to prevent water from seeping underneath walls.

“I think (the rain) makes people all the more aware of the need," she added. "When we have nice, sunny, warm weather, people don’t necessarily recognize how bad our roofs are. That library is a permanent building and there was just a giant stream of water rushing down.”

Repairing and/or replacing leaky roofs are among several upgrades that LUSD officials say will be made with the bond money, if the measure passes.

Other work will include upgrading inadequate electrical systems; improving student access to modern technology; repairing or replacing outdated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units; modernizing classrooms and other facilities; and making health, safety and accessibility improvements like upgraded fencing, lighting and security systems.

“(LUSD) is focused on providing top-quality education to prepare our students for the future,” read a portion of a campaign flyer that was mailed by LUSD to Lompoc voters this year. “Our schools are focused on helping local students achieve their best so they can go on to college or compete for good-paying jobs. In Lompoc, our students deserve the same educational opportunities as others in our region.”

The campaign notes that if the bond is successful, LUSD could also be eligible for matching funds from the state. No range was given for how much those matching funds could be.

Repayment of the bond isn’t expected to increase tax rates for local home or property owners but, rather, extend the payments from Measure N, which was passed by voters in 2002 and remains Lompoc’s most recent successful school bond measure. The new bond, according to LUSD, would be limited to $60 per $100,000 of assessed (not market) value.

LUSD had a similar bond measure on the November 2016 ballot, but because of the way the LUSD board of education approved of its placement, that bond needed 67-percent approval from voters. Measure L2016 ended up receiving support from 58.5 percent of voters, which put it in the unusual position of failing despite receiving a higher percentage of “yes” votes than successful bond bids in Santa Ynez, Santa Maria and Orcutt.

Measure Q2018 will need approval from only 55 percent of voters to succeed. Its placement on the June 5 ballot was supported 4-1 by the five-member LUSD board of education at its Sept. 26, 2017, meeting.

LUSD Superintendent Trevor McDonald, who was among the attendees at Wednesday’s campaign kickoff, said he was excited to see so many people volunteering to help with this year’s bond campaign push.

“If it takes us maybe losing first to understand that we really need to win, I’ll take it,” said McDonald, who revealed his intention to push for another bond measure early last year. “Now, I think everyone understands the massive effort that we need to put in our schools.”

Wednesday’s gathering was led by Alex Wara-Macapinlac, a consultant with TBWB Strategies, a San Francisco-based firm that specializes in helping entities package and pass ballot measures.

Wara-Macapinlac went over the ways in which the Committee for Quality Lompoc Schools can spread awareness. These included holding phone banks, walking door-to-door in precincts and connecting through social media using the VoterCircle program.

Attendees at the meeting were able to sign up for specific dates to volunteer, and the meeting also allowed them chances to practice phone calls and work on packaging the information they will present to voters.

Valla noted Wednesday that there was no organized campaign push for the 2016 bond. Supporters, she said, began trying to spread awareness about a month before that year’s election.

“We recognized that we needed to start earlier (this year),” she said.

Teresa Acosta, an administrative assistant with LUSD and member of the campaign committee, has spent a lot of time in Lompoc-area schools, both as a student, as an employee and while raising three children in Lompoc. She said she and other district staff members get regular up-close views of all the infrastructure work that needs to be done in the district.

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“I was born and raised in Lompoc and for me, it’s kinda like I see all the stuff (in the schools) and I’m like, ‘Dang, this is still here?’” she said.

“As an employee, we get to see a lot of the things that parents perhaps don’t get to see — the things that need to be renovated,” she added. “I wouldn’t be part of the committee if I didn’t feel there was a need for (the bond).”

The committee members encourage anyone who wants to help in the effort to volunteer. Information about the committee, including how to join, is available at https://qualitylompocschools.wordpress.com/.

Phone bank volunteers are sought for each week between April 23 and June 4, and precinct walks are planned for the weekends of May 5, May 19 and June 2.

More information on the bond can be found at www.lusd.org/shapingthefuture or by calling 742-3300.

McDonald said he was grateful that so many people were already supporting the campaign.

“We have students here and we have people who really want to make a grassroots effort to help our students in Lompoc and are really excited to build a platform for the next 30 years,” he said Wednesday.

He noted that he will be a part of that effort.

“I’m gonna phone bank,” he said, “and I’ll do a little walking and help out wherever I can.”

Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.

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