Local News

Concerns Persist over Public Access to School Facilities

FJUHSD and the community passed facilities bond Measure I eight years ago and now a majority of the projects are finished or set to end within the year. Initially proposed to raise $146 million, ultimately the bond added supplemental state funds to grow to over $176 million and its projects transformed every comprehensive high school site.

Bond projects replaced or updated science classrooms, stadiums, theaters, gymnasiums, and aquatic facilities. The Fullerton Auditorium even received long-needed upgrades to ADA access, seismic safety, and nomenclature.

Prior to these transformations, the surrounding communities often accessed district facilities and treated the fields, stadiums, and theaters as community areas with little to no fees or reservations in many cases.

After all this financial investment, tougher use agreements, higher fees, and less community availability seem to be causing some confusion and neighborhood frustration.

The district’s centrally located campuses and stadiums were once the weekend destination for local walkers and runners. Stadiums provided stages for Fullerton celebrations like the 4th of July fireworks, music, and food truck nights. Local dance companies, choirs, elementary schools, boy and girl scout troops, and community clubs could utilize multipurpose rooms, theaters, and libraries for meetings and performances for very low rates with minimal fees for custodial and security.

The Fullerton College football team practices at the Fullerton High School stadium. Photo by Jesse La Tour

As new upgraded stadiums installed fake grass and rubberized tracks, now retired Director of Construction, Todd Butcher, reassured community members that traditional access would be maintained and potential advertising banners would not face outward into the community. The currently locked stadiums and outward facing banners along the newly installed chain-link fences surrounding the stadiums show these reassurances did not come to pass.

The artificial turf, or carpeting as Mr. Butcher often referred to it, was funded by deferred maintenance money, not bond money as the carpeting does not last 20 years, which trustees use as criterion for all bond funded projects. For the last 8 years, the district now allocates $600,000 every year for the future replacement of the stadiums’ flooring. Guests may still enjoy food and beverages in the stands, but only water is allowed on the track and field area at all times.

Updated California education law coupled with the upgraded facilities increased the cost to utilize these areas. Recently retired FJUHSD Superintendent, Dr. Scott Scambray, decided to reexamine the district’s educational and nonprofit group definition to use these facilities on a case-by-case basis. The confusion this policy created and a now a new Superintendent led to some changes in rates and how facilities may be reserved by the district and community organizations that previously utilized the grounds.

After a year with new FJUHSD Superintendent Dr. Steve McLaughlin in charge of policies, Executive Director of Administrative Services, Dr. Karl Zener and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Ruben Hernandez, now oversee upkeep and setting new policies regarding pricing, access, and reserving sites.

Mr. Hernandez admitted that with so many new and upgraded facilities, FJUHSD and the community’s relationship has changed. He is proud to lead the new district effort to balance prioritizing student access, responsible stewardship of the modernized facilities with ongoing community access. Mr. Hernandez emphasized that the campuses are still open overall and although renovated facilities areas are often locked, local non-profit and education entities can reserve many facility venues through the newly installed Facilitron program located under the Facilities Department tab at http://www.fjuhsd.org. Reservations are required at least 7 days prior to the event and for non-profit rates an organization must be able to show 501c3 documentation.

The traditional Fourth of July Fireworks celebration at Fullerton High School Stadium appears to be over. Dr. Karl Zener said he was unaware of any city to district talks concerning restarting the fireworks show. Anissa Livas from Fullerton’s City Manager’s Office said that due to the stadium improvements (the artificial turf areas at both Fullerton College and Fullerton High School campuses now) and the installation of solar panels, the fire department and the city have determined that there is no longer “safe drop areas” for the fireworks to occur in this area. The city acknowledged that the community values this celebration and they are currently waiting for the Parks and Recreation Department to submit viable alternative sites, but the fireworks are finished for now at Fullerton Union High School.

As for advertisements displayed along the fences surrounding the modernized stadiums, there is currently no board policy concerning this issue and the current administrative policy is vague. Dr. Zener said his team is moving forward to craft a more nuanced and detailed policy. He said he has spoken with community members about this matter and welcomes additional community input. Interested community members can contact him by email at kzener@fjuhsd.org or their local trustee for input.

4 replies »

  1. “After a year with new FJUHSD Superintendent Dr. Steve McLaughlin in charge of policies, Executive Director of Administrative Services, Dr. Karl Zener and Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Ruben Hernandez, now oversee upkeep and setting new policies regarding pricing, access, and reserving sites.”

    Inadvertently revealing – and funny. Of course the Board is responsible for establishing policy. But we all know the educrats do that themselves.

    • The Civic Center act was recently amended by AB 1303 and extended Ed code sec 38134 to Jan 2025. It originated in 2013 in response to the state’s extreme budget cuts and allowed school districts to charge for previously free civic areas. The act sets maximums, but not minimums (in other words the district could still offer use of these areas for free) except in the following situations: all religious or church organizations must be charged the amount equal to the district’s maintenance cost amount, and any for-profit group that is raising money, and any group (profit or nonprofit) that is raising money that will not go to serving the district’s attending children – these entities must be charged the going rental rate for use. All other groups (nonprofit, educational, community nonprofits “may” be charged up to the amount the district has at cost to maintain the facilities.

  2. Taxpayer-funded schools. Come on, district. Fern Elementary School in my neighborhood has a metal security fence surrounding the property, and has recently upgraded playgrounds and fields, but is very good about giving us access during non-school hours. Which we appreciate.