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Sonoma schools furniture order will be a 7-year process

School site furniture replacement timeline

Year 1/2018 - Dunbar elementary school pilot

Year 2 – Sassarini gets furniture

Year 3 – Middle school pilot, four classrooms at each school

Year 4 – El Verano, Prestwood, Flowery, Adele get furniture

Year 5 – Altimira gets some new furniture

Year 6 – High school furniture pilot

Year 7 – Altimira gets rest of its furniture

Year 8 – High school gets new furniture

In early 2016, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District planned to update its furniture in order to bring it in line with 21st century schools and classrooms.

District officials announced plans to place a $4 million furniture order that would replace every table, desk and chair at every school site across the Valley. The expectation at that time was that the 10,000 pieces of new furniture would be in place at all sites within 18 months.

Fast forward two years, and none of the schools have received the new furniture and, not only that, but the district has announced plans to start all over again with a new furniture pilot that will culminate with all campuses installing new furniture in stages by 2024.

The new budget for the furniture order is $5 million.

The original furniture order was to have been purchased with Measure H funds, the 2010 bond measure.

The new order will be covered, in stages, using funds from Measure E, the school facilities bond measure passed by district voters in 2016.

According to Bruce Abbott, the district’s associate superintendent for finance, because of delays to the initial furniture pilot program and what he referred to as a “slow down and re-group” decision, the district swapped its heating and air-conditioning projects from Measure E to Measure H, and the furniture order from H to E.

More than just the cost will be different this go-round.

At the start of the 2015-2016 school year, each school site except the charter schools received one or two classrooms of new furniture for teacher and students to try out.

The new pilot plan, however, will start by refurnishing all of the classrooms at a single school – Dunbar Elementary – this summer with furniture options. Students and teachers will then test the options in the fall and provide feedback to the district on their preferences. So what happened to the original furniture plan?

According to the district report following the initial pilot program, teachers “expressed concern with the furniture and the process of the program.” Specifically, the district technology team expressed concern regarding the “lack of technology integration” in the furniture pilot – meaning, for instance, classroom desks need a design to accommodate student laptops and other modern technologies.

“After reviewing this feedback,” continued the report, “the district leadership team determined a need to facilitate the furniture adoption from a different approach.”

The new furniture consultant chosen by SVUSD is Florida-based Meteor Education. Meteor, according to its website, specializes in creating “high impact learning environments” and offers a product catalog of several different furniture companies (catalog.meteoreducation.com).

The Sonoma Valley pilot furniture order presented to the school board on March 20 includes pieces primarily chosen from offerings by National Office Furniture and Interior Concepts.

Meteor began its work with the district in mid-2017 by visiting each Sonoma Valley school site and assessing its current furniture, based on signs of aging, assigning a score from 0 to 3. None of the SVUSD sites scored higher than 1.3 and six of the nine sites scored lower than 1.0. The poorest furniture was gauged to be at El Verano Elementary and the most serviceable at Adele Harrison Middle School.

Some district staff have estimated that most of the furniture currently in use in Sonoma Valley classrooms is around 30 years old.

School site furniture replacement timeline

Year 1/2018 - Dunbar elementary school pilot

Year 2 – Sassarini gets furniture

Year 3 – Middle school pilot, four classrooms at each school

Year 4 – El Verano, Prestwood, Flowery, Adele get furniture

Year 5 – Altimira gets some new furniture

Year 6 – High school furniture pilot

Year 7 – Altimira gets rest of its furniture

Year 8 – High school gets new furniture

District technology director Jen Matthews has taken the reins of the project from Flowery Principal Esmeralda Mosely, who oversaw the original pilot. The new furniture is expected to be in place at every school by 2024.

Matthews said that Meteor’s advising services, under a separate contract, will include training and support during the furniture-placement process, at a cost in addition to the price of the furniture itself.

“Their coaches will show teachers all the options in how to configure the new furniture,” said Matthews. “The furniture is mobile and adaptable and Meteor’s staff will even sit in on classes right after the new furniture is in place.”

Matthews is enthusiastic about serving as the point person on the district’s “furniture leadership team.”

“I’m excited that we are updating the classroom environment to fit 21st-century learning,” said Matthews. “I’ll be able to help integrate the technology piece – we expect to add new audio-visual components as well.”

The new furniture options can be viewed on the district website at sonomaschools.org. Feedback can be left on the site as well at goo.gl/zN3ko3.

Email Lorna at lorna.sheridan@sonomanews.com.