Sunday, July 22, 2018     Volume: 19, Issue: 20

Santa Maria Sun / School Scene

The following article was posted on August 9th, 2017, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 18, Issue 23 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 18, Issue 23

High School District spends millions on summer construction


Santa Maria Joint Union High School District has spent more than $30 million on a plethora of construction projects this summer as part of its mission to improve its facilities for staff and students, and it's only the beginning.

The district, which is the largest high school district in Santa Barbara County, also plans to build a fifth school this winter.

Science teacher Manuel Cassillas guided students during this year’s summer classes aimed at helping English learners and migrant students develop skills for their futures.

Construction on the district's newest addition is slated to begin in January of 2018, according to a press release. The 25-acres, formerly crop-farming property north of the Elks Rodeo Grounds, was purchased for $3.6 million by the district through bonds, and will soon be home to the Agricultural Education and Career Technical Education centers.

"It's geared toward career technical education," district Public Information Officer Kenny Klein told the Sun. "It will teach kids skills because we know not everyone is going to college."

Currently at Ernest Righetti High School, $22 million worth of construction continues on a 38-room classroom complex that will be placed on the west side of campus. The construction is being paid for by C-2004 Bond funds, according to the release.

The campus expansion aims to increase permanent classroom capacity, eliminate portable classrooms, and utilize advanced classroom technology. The finished complex will include movable whiteboard walls, mounted big-screen monitors, desks and chairs with wheels, and energy-saving lighting.

A walk-in freezer will also be added to hold food for the school's 2,000 students and staff.

"The new classrooms have huge TV screens, and the teacher uses a laptop to display the lesson on the screen, and the students do their work on their tablets," Klein told the Sun. "All of our students here we issued tablets. It's very expensive but it's an excellent learning tool, and kids get to take them home for their whole high school careers."

On the Pioneer Valley High School campus, final touches are still being added to its new $9.6 million Performing Arts Center, which spans 16,411 square feet and includes three classrooms, a stage, and 298 seats. The project, funded by C-2000 and 2004 bonds, is scheduled to be finished this fall, according to the district's release.

A digital rendering shows what Ernest Righetti High School’s expansion will look like after construction is completed.

Meanwhile, Santa Maria High School staffers are preparing for an energy-saving lighting project and construction that will replace five buildings, all erected in the 1920s and '30s.

Fresh pavement will also be added around the school's stadium and pool, all paid for by Measure H, which was approved by voters last year.

District-wide solar power designs for the schools and district office are also awaiting approval from the Division of State Architects. Solar power could save the district an estimated $140,000 in electric bills the first year after installation, and about $7 million throughout 25 years, according to the release.

If approved, construction could start this fall.

"It's great to see these projects come out of the ground,'' Superintendent Mark Richardson said in the release. "We look forward to seeing our kids working in these educational facilities.''

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