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Publication Date: Friday, September 27, 2002

Changing campuses Changing campuses (September 27, 2002)

Millions allocated for school expansion, rebuilding

by Jeb Bing

Pleasanton's oldest school - Amador Valley High - is now also one of its newest. Set to celebrate its 80th anniversary Oct. 25, Amador will also use the occasion to dedicate its new $4.3 million library and media center, and nearby new music building - now the tallest building on the campus - which cost $1.5 million. Both new structures replaced older, crowded facilities, including a band room where the school's famed Jim Campana - known throughout the area as "Mr. Music" - once played.

The new buildings at Amador High are among more than $44.5 million in construction projects under way or just completed at Pleasanton schools to expand, rebuild and add classrooms and other facilities to meet continued enrollment pressures, particularly in the secondary schools. With class-size reductions limiting kindergarten through third grade classes to no more than 20 students and high school enrollment this year at a record-high of 4,233, more facilities are needed to serve the growing Pleasanton district.

Among the projects are: * New two-story classroom buildings for both Amador and Foothill High schools, costing $13.9 million. * A new competition swimming pool, including a water polo facility, at Foothill, costing $2.4 million. * $9.1 million to rebuild classroom buildings at Walnut Grove Elementary School. * $8.1 million in modernization just being completed at Harvest Park Middle School. * A $10.3 million project that has changed the face of Fairlands Elementary School, with a new multipurpose room and refurbished and modernized classrooms. * A 3,260-square-foot care facility to serve up to 40 children of school district employees from infants to kindergarten age. The $730,000 facility, which will be operated by the Tri-Valley YMCA, is under construction at the corner of Bernal and First Street and is projected to open in December.

Librarian Ellen Bell said the Amador's new library, with its spectacular atrium entryway, contains more than 23,000 books, videos and books-on-tape. Centrally located is a battery of computers that students can use to find and order books and to research on the Internet. Also available are study rooms and two large classrooms that can be combined into one for lectures and school and community meetings. The high school's original dedication plaque has been moved to the library entryway, listing the first members of the Amador Valley Joint Union High School board of trustees, including the late board president Dr. Hal Kope.

"The media center is designed to be open, spacious and exciting, just like we wanted it," Bell said. "My own office is right out in the open, not behind closed doors."

The music building is soundproofed so that marching band and jazz band practices aren't heard across the north end of the campus as before. A sound wall also separates the choir room and the band room, allowing both groups to practice simultaneously.

Work is already starting on the new classroom buildings at Amador and Foothill. These will be the first two-story classroom structures on the high school campus since the old administration and classroom building was removed from the front of what is now Amador Theater.

With available building space becoming scarce on both campuses and land acquisition costs soaring, two-story buildings are more economical to build and maintain, according to Hugh Anton, the school district's coordinator of architectural planning and management.

He said Amador's construction project will be completed first, with two separate two-story, 12-classroom buildings to be built on the site of the old band room just off Santa Rita Road at a cost of $5.3 million. From the front, a semi-circular structure will connect the two angled classroom wings with an elevator, stairways and walkways. Anton said Sierra Bay Contractors Inc. has assured the district that the project will be completed in time for the opening of school next August.

At Foothill, the new classroom buildings will be constructed over two years at a cost of $2 million. The first project - a single-story, 13-classroom building at the north end of campus, is scheduled to be completed late next summer. When it is finished, Anton said portable classroom facilities on adjoining acreage will be moved to allow for the second phase: a two-story building with 17 classrooms.

"With funds in place, we're now able to move forward on these important projects at both high schools," Anton said. "I think these two campuses will look just great with these new buildings."

Also at Foothill, Principal Kevin Johnson showed off the school's new swimming pool - or at least the 15-foot-deep hole that has now been dug to accommodate it. Up to now, the 30-year-old high school has had to send its swimmers to the city's aquatic center, not only time-consuming but long an embarrassment in competitive meets with other schools, including Amador, that have their own pools. Foothill's pool, which will include changing rooms, is located near the football field and should be ready for use by January.

Among other school projects under way or nearing completion, the most significant this year is the complete rebuilding within a 12-to-18-month time frame of Walnut Grove Elementary School, an aging facility built in the 1960s with open classrooms. Over the years, the school was converted to conventional classrooms. Now it is one of the district's largest with more than 700 students, and the school board authorized $9.1 million to replace the old facility, sparing only the newer multipurpose room, library and administrative offices.

Principal Bill Radulovich, working with Anton and contractors, arranged to take over 23 portable classroom structures that are no longer needed at Harvest Park, Amador and other schools to create a temporary campus at Walnut Grove Park. Those were set up just in time for the opening of school Aug. 27.

Radulovich placed the portables along boulevard-like walkways, with third, fourth and fifth grades in a section next to Harvest Park, and the lower grades on their own separate, but connected, campus. Teachers have decorated their otherwise bland portable structures with colorful artwork, and some have posted street signs to direct students and parents to the right classroom.

"These have turned out to be absolutely stunning both inside and out," Radulovich said. "We may find it hard to leave them when our new school facility is completed in the next school year."

Other schools that have undergone major renovation work include Harvest Park, where classrooms have the latest in technology equipment and teaching aids, and an expanded outdoor lunch area and perimeter canopy structure.

At Fairlands Elementary, former students and neighbors hardly recognize the completely renovated structure that includes a new multipurpose room, updated library, modernized classrooms with new windows, wall and floor coverings and technological improvements.

Taking visitors into Fairlands' large multipurpose room with its fold-up benches and basketball hoops, Principal Bill Faraghan said he might even start fielding a few teams among his fourth- and fifth-graders.

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