Tour highlights Prop. AA improvements at schools

Tour highlights Prop. AA improvements at schools
Garry Thornton, assistant principal at Torrey Pines High School, explains how the new prep area allows science teachers to collaborate and plan lessons without encroaching on teaching space. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

REGION — Parent representatives, the board of trustees, members of an oversight committee and staff from the San Dieguito Union High School District received onsite updates describing how money from voter-approved bonds is being spent during a Proposition AA fall 2015 projects tour on Oct.8.

This year’s tour was limited to Torrey Pines High and Earl Warren and Pacific Trails middle schools, all located in the south end of the 10-school district.

The group started at Torrey Pines to view the new chemistry classrooms, student store and weight room.

They also got a peek at special education classrooms that were built in collaboration with teachers to accommodate student needs.

Eric Dill, associate superintendent of business services, said they are the first classrooms in the district designed and built specifically for special education students.

“Normally we retrofit older classrooms,” he said. They include special quiet rooms, meeting rooms and furniture.

The main campus at Torrey Pines was built in 1974, with the main B building expanded in 1980.

Enrollment jumped from 1,800 students in 1995 to 3,600 in 2003. A 40-classroom structure was added in 2004.

The current project includes some “modern” amenities such as air conditioning, a restroom in the health office, new classroom projectors, more bandwidth and improved Wi-Fi.

The chemistry classrooms are larger and include flexible furniture that can be reconfigured to accommodate labs. There is also a prep room for teachers, which allows them to better collaborate lessons, Assistant Principal Garry Thornton said.

“It’s a wonderful area for teachers that doesn’t take up any instruction space,” he added.

Building a new weight room wasn’t part of the initial plans but construction forced its relocation. It was originally slated to be housed in portables, but because the facility really only required “four walls, a roof and a slab,” building a new one was less expensive than leasing temporary structures, Dill said.

Hallways in the B building now feature skylights, solar lighting and polished concrete rather than carpeting.

The second stop on the tour was in Solana Beach at Earl Warren Middle School, which is in the process of being razed and rebuilt.

Principal Adam Camacho walked the approximately 35 people around the interim campus created with 35 portable classrooms over the summer.

He said the temporary classrooms are a “vast improvement” over the old campus, which was built 60 years ago.

He described it as “safer and cozier,” with limited access points that are locked down once school begins — a security feature not possible at the old campus.

“Our academic delivery has not been sacrificed,” Camacho said. “It’s actually improved.”

About 600 students are now enrolled at Earl Warren. That is down from just over 700 last year, not as a result of the construction, Camacho said, but because the district opened a new middle school in Carmel Valley.

Dill said it was more cost effective to demolish and rebuild Earl Warren rather than renovate the original structure, which was not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The new school, which is expected to be ready when classes begin in fall 2017, will be on two levels rather than five. It will also include air conditioning, improved Wi-Fi, the ability for full lock-down and a better drop-off and pickup area.

“Our oldest middle school will soon be our newest middle school,” Camacho said.

Proposition AA is a $449 million bond initiative approved by voters in November 2012 to “provide safe, modern schools and prepare students for success in college and careers by repairing and upgrading outdated classrooms and schools … and supporting career training and math, science, and technology instruction with 21st Century instructional technology and facilities,” according to the district website.

Work is expected to continue districtwide in phases for at least a few more years.

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