Christina O'Haver, The Union Democrat

Sonora Union High School District's Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved the construction timeline for projects funded by Measure J, the $23 million bond measure voters passed last November.

In a 3-2 vote, with trustees Katryn Weston and Rob Lyons dissenting, the board approved a plan recommended by Sonora High Superintendent Mike McCoy, Construction Superintendent Jeff Miller and the district's architecture firm.

The plan is divided into three phases, with construction beginning March 31 on the Humanities Building and track and field. The second phase will focus on cafeteria renovations. Upgrades to Centennial Hall and construction of the new swimming pool and tennis courts make up the final phase, which is expected to wrap up Dec. 2, 2016.

Bond sales are scheduled for May 2014 and May 2015. The school's first bond sale in May of this year yielded $8 million.

The construction plan was one of five prepared by Folsom-based WLC Architects and presented to the board by McCoy at Tuesday's meeting.

The board discussed possible timelines over the past few months but requested at the Sept. 17 meeting that the architects compile five detailed plans for its review.

The architects and Sonora High administrators decided this plan was the most cost-effective and efficient, according to McCoy.

He said the plan prioritizes the Humanities Building because the facility is consistently regarded as the most needy. The schedule for other projects was created to minimize disruptions and hazards on campus and avoid spending bond money on temporary classrooms during construction.

"If you do the classrooms first, you're going to be investing $1 million in a trailer park you have to pull out three years later," McCoy said. "You're really building another small campus."

The other proposed plans involved either temporary classrooms, a more compressed schedule, or extended timelines that McCoy said would minimize impacts of construction but likely result in higher construction costs.

The approved plan focuses most of the work in summer 2015. The Humanities Building, the cafeteria, Centennial Hall and the aquatics center will all be under construction during that time.

McCoy said the architects were conservative when estimating the construction timelines for each phase.

"We built contingencies in all of the scheduling so these are worst case scenarios you're seeing," he told the board.

He noted that with this plan, Sonora High's current freshmen will be able to enjoy all Measure J-funded facilities by their senior year.

Because the track and field will be under construction from March to August, the school will have to use alternate facilities for spring sports and commencement.

Citizens who attended the meeting questioned which local facility could accommodate the graduation ceremony. McCoy said the district is taking suggestions and that possible venues include the Mother Lode Fairgrounds and Columbia College.

Board President Jeanie Smith said planning commencement is one of many reasons school staff and students need a construction schedule.

Former Sonora High teacher Angela Brown worried that trustees, who received the proposed plans last week, didn't have enough time to review the options before Tuesday's meeting.

"I'm questioning your ability to choose the (timeline) that's going to be best for Sonora High School," she said.

Smith said the options are similar to those presented by the architects at previous board meetings.

Lyons suggested tabling the vote, not necessarily to give the board more time to review the plans but to gather more public opinion.

Sonora resident Larry Coombes spoke in support of the "Fifth Optional Schedule," which proposes six phases - one for each project. He said that plan, for the most part, prioritizes classrooms without requiring portables. Construction would still begin March 31 but would take an additional year to complete.

Weston also suggested the board delay a vote, but to ask the architects to provide projected costs for the recommended and "Fifth Optional" plans.

"To be fair, it's worth investigating," she said.

The board can still alter the timeline throughout the process, McCoy said.