This time next month, Liberty Ranch High School’s library shelves should be stocked with books — nearly two years after the Galt campus opened.
During the process of building Liberty Ranch High School, items were removed from the budget due to funding changes and budget priorities for the project as a whole.
“Unfortunately, library books were one of those items that were cut out of the project budget,” Audrey Kilpatrick, the district’s chief business official, said in a recent email. “They are now being funded with alternate funds.”
At the beginning of March, she ordered approximately $95,000 worth of library books to fill the now-empty shelves of the media center which also houses the school’s computer lab.
Principal Brian Deis was told by the supplier last week the books should be delivered the week of April 25.
Len ReidReynoso, president of the Galt Citizens’ Independent Bond Oversight Committee, said the now-defunct group had no financial say in anything except the building.
Personally, he is disappointed that his son, who is a freshman at Liberty Ranch, has had to go elsewhere to check out books.
“We are a family of avid readers. In our house we have 10 bookcases,” he said.
But former trustee Gus Prouty, whose son also attends Liberty Ranch, said books should be the district’s last concern given the state of the education budget.
“As I parent I think it’s unreasonable to expect the school to provide books for pleasure reading. Research, yes. A quiet place to catch up on homework, yes. But pleasure books? Let’s be real,” Prouty said. “Computers for research, yes. Please, not books in these (budget) times.”
Longtime Lodi Unified School District librarian Carol Grenko knows from experience that starting up a library can be expensive. She opened Bear Creek High School’s library in the early 1990s.
“We didn’t have much money for books, yet we needed computers too, so which do you choose?” she said, adding that she accepted book donations to help fill the shelves in the first few years. “To help afford more computers, we were able to do a lease-purchase. It all worked out over time, but I know what it feels like to have a half-empty library when you are first starting out.”
Galt Joint Union High School District trustee Kathleen Amos has mentioned the lack of books in Liberty Ranch’s media center before. In January 2010, she addressed the issue when the board voted to spend $2 million for an agriculture building.
“There is such a high lack of resources on campus, they are calling the library a media center because there aren’t any books,” Amos said at the time. “There are shelves, but nothing there — the money should go into the library.”
However, the money received from the federal government could only be used for construction and funding for books had to come from another place, according to Kilpatrick. She hoped the district would have books in place by the beginning of the current school year.
Construction at Liberty Ranch, which opened in fall 2009, has had more than a few setbacks.
The district started construction on so-called “Building 700” in 2008 when Liberty Ranch was being built, but had to delay the project because funds were frozen by the state in December 2008. They money was not released by the State Allocation Board until last June, and the school board voted to repay a bridge loan that paid for the building’s completion.
Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at firstname.lastname@example.org.