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Construction and Classes in Full Swing at White Hill Middle School

The Fairfax middle school's campus looks nothing like it did last year, with portables strewn across campus, a new black top and three new bond-funded buildings under construction.

 

When school started a few weeks ago, students found themselves on a campus that’s drastically different from last year. 

Temporary changes, including more than a dozen portables strewn across campus, are part of $18 million bond-funded upgrades that will accommodate the school’s ballooning enrollment numbers.

Officials broke ground on the project last May at the end of the school year. Over the summer, outdated portable buildings referred to as the “hex plex” were demolished and the area on the northwest side of campus was razed to make way for new state-of-the-art seventh and eighth grade buildings (that will house a total of 21 classrooms) as well as a building for orchestra, band and choir.

Three temporary portables were put on the school’s front yard and 10 were placed atop the playground and blacktop area. A new blacktop and basketball courts were installed at the south end of campus. 

White Hill Middle School Principal David Finnane said the goal is to have the construction completed by the start of the 2013 school year. 

Finnane said enrollment went from around 600 students last year to 640 students this year. In three years, enrollment is expected to grow to roughly 720 students. 

During the first week of school in August, Plant Construction Company crews were in their eighth or ninth week of “moving earth,” Finnane said.

The construction site, which is adjacent to the administration building, is far from most of the classrooms on campus and won’t cause too much of a disruption. There are two newly converted art classrooms next to the site, as well as two English and history classrooms, where additional sound barriers are going to be installed, Finnane said. 

WRNS Studio architects designed project that will “create an enhanced sense of connectivity” with separate and “intimate” learning spaces, according to the firm’s website.

The three new buildings will be organized around a central outdoor gathering space.

Storm water will be channeled into the interior of campus, between the new buildings, and into planters and along “teaching patios” where students can learn about conservation, according to WRNS

The new two-story seventh grade building will include nine classrooms (each one will be 960-square-feet), a “flex space” multi-use room and the resource room for special education. 

The two-story eighth grade building will include classrooms and another multi-purpose room.

The project’s third building will include a 2,200-square-foot band room, 1,100-square-foot orchestra room and a 1,000-square-foot chorus room, as well as student restrooms, Finnane said.

Other upgrades were made over the summer to other parts of campus:

  • Two rooms in the school’s administration building were turned into modernized art rooms where carpet was replaced with concrete floors, extra doors were installed that lead to an outdoor area for art projects and new kilns were installed.
  • In the sixth grade building, lockers were removed from the hallways, upgrades were made to the ceilings for noise control and the interior was repainted.

When the project is completed, there will be a “tremendous amount of open space on campus,” Finnane said.

A second phase, slated for 2015-2016, involves building an additional gymnasium that will run parallel with the existing gym and include changing rooms and physical education offices.

In addition to accommodating the increased enrollment numbers, the new gym will also serve as extra community meeting space, Finnane said.

In November 2010, San Anselmo and Fairfax voters passed Measure A, a Ross Valley School District bond that authorized $41 million for construction and facilities improvements at all campuses.

 

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