ATASCADERO — The last day of school for Monterey Road Elementary School was Thursday. School let out at 1:30 p.m. At the groundbreaking ceremony at 9 a.m. the following morning, the construction crew was already hard at work on the campus.
Atascadero Unified School District Director of Operational Services Stuart Stoddard said the $8.2 million modernization project — paid for with part of the $117 million Measure I bond — is expected to last through this summer, the 2012-13 school year and summer 2013. But, he added, it’s not going to be much of a hardship for anybody. In fact, he said — and Principal Kirk Smith confirmed — the teachers are excited.
They’re excited, Stoddard said, because “the focus is the classrooms.” Two buildings with eight classrooms each will be completely renovated by the end of the project. The focus is to make the rooms more usable than they’ve ever been before and to bring in natural light.
“All the studies show that children learn better when there is natural light,” he said.
He added that, obviously, natural light will not work 100-percent of the time. So there will be artificial light, but it sure won’t be traditional fluorescents.
In the meantime, active classrooms have been moved from their normal spaces in the 200 and 300 building to portables which were installed at the school in the 1980s to help deal with a population boom at the time.
These days, however, the district has seen a decline in enrolment, architect Alan Kroeker said. The good news is that means there are more classrooms than students at Monterey Road Elementary School. Many of those rooms are currently used for storage or serving roles as drama or music rooms.
Project Manager Annie Rendler said the plan is to move students into the portables for the 2012-13 school year while construction on the existing classrooms is completed. Students will head back to the newly renovated classrooms in 2013-14, and the portables will be taken away from the campus entirely.
Portables are obviously not the best solution, Rendler said. That’s why they’re portable. But she said and, again Smith confirmed, that the portables are large and very usable.
“I spent a lot of my career teaching in portables,” Smith said. “It will be uncomfortable and a little awkward, but what we’ll get is awesome.”
Besides, Rendler pointed out, “it’s a real streamlined process; I think [everybody] realizes the end benefit.”
“We’re honored and delighted the community made it possible, passing the bond,” Superintendent Dr. Deborah Bowers said. “We’re excited for the future of the kids.”
She went on to say that since the voters of Atascadero OK’d such a large and useful bond, the district was sure to stay local with its hires. Atascadero’s own Wysong Construction is the primary contractor, Mike Frederick Paving will take care of all the paving needs, and architect Kroeker is the husband of Monterey Road Elementary School’s former PTA president, Michele Kroeker, and father of recent sixth-grade graduate, Jake.
And reaching out to other community members was Smith, when he realized the school’s current fire escape plan wouldn’t work. He asked Atascadero Fire Inspector Tom Peterson to come take a look. Smith said the visit lasted about 15 minutes, including modifying the plan, and everybody on campus is back to safe and sound.
“It really does take a community,” Smith said. “I’m not worried about safety.”
For the complete article see the 06-20-2012 issue.
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