The project to move Joe Serna Jr. Charter School from its current Lodi campus to Houston School in Acampo may be delayed by up to a year.
The Lodi Unified School District Board of Education voted in May 2018 to move Serna from its current location on Central Avenue — citing concerns about Serna’s campus such as overcrowding, narrow stairwells and a kindergarten class being taught in the basement — to Houston’s campus in Acampo. The two schools will share the Acampo campus.
The school board learned during Tuesday night’s meeting that installing a new fire suppression water tank at Houston School and connecting an electrical main to a new switch gear may be delayed until August or early September, instead of mid-July as originally scheduled.
“At this point, I do not believe it will be mid-July,” said Leonard Kahn, LUSD’s chief business officer.
Kahn said the contractor hired to complete the project has not yet received a response from Pacific, Gas and Electric Co., the only entity that can complete the necessary electrical work.
Board member Courtney Porter asked whether the district could hire another company instead of PG&E to complete the switch gear portion of the project, which Kahn said would not be an option.
Although Houston School’s campus will be ready for the Serna students and staff should the water tank and switch gear be delayed, Kahn said the Department of the State Architect will not authorize the use of six portable classrooms until the tank and switch gear are complete.
If the water tank and switch gear portions of the project are delayed until August or September, Kahn said, the earliest possible move-in date would be Serna’s one-week fall break in October.
Erika Alvarez, a Serna teacher and parent, said that would not give her and her fellow teachers enough time.
“It is impossible to pack up, move and get everything ready for your students to continue the quarter,” Alvarez said.
Moving the entire Serna program in a week would cause a disruption for teachers and students alike, Alvarez said, and she would prefer that Serna remain at its current campus until next summer.
“Let’s work all these things out first,” Alvarez said.
Board Member Joe Nava agreed with Alavrez that the move should be postponed until the Acampo campus is ready to accommodate the Serna students, teachers and staff.
“I’d want to move into a facility that is ready,” Nava said.
Although he was glad to hear the board members ask questions about the project’s timeline, Serna parent Aaron Lange expressed concerns that the district did not plan for the potential delays sooner.
“I think we owe ourselves the analysis of where this went wrong and what we can do to fix it moving forward,” Lange said.
Michelle Orgon, president of the Lodi Education Association, said that multiple Serna teachers had come to her with concerns regarding where Serna’s music and physical education programs would be housed after the move to Houston School.
“We’ve got 17 days to end this school year,” Orgon said. “Please give them some concrete answers moving forward.”
Board member Susan Macfarlane said that if the project is going to be delayed, the district needs to come up with a plan for the coming school year and do so quickly.
“Out of respect to the families, a decision has to be made,” Macfarlane said.