When students leave, the work begins
When the last bell rings on June 12 in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, the frenzy will have only just begun.
Much of district’s staff will be rolling up their sleeves in preparation of major construction projects scheduled for completion by the time students return on September 9.
“This is the biggest project we’ve ever taken on in one summer season,” said LTUSD Facilities Director Steve Morales. “We’re on a very ambitious time schedule.”
Two of the district’s oldest schools – Al Tahoe and Tahoe Valley elementary schools – will be “modernized” to the tune of $1.4 million and $1.5 million, respectively. While the school district will kick in $950,000 from their developer fee fund, Business Manager Ralph Johnson said securing well over $2 million in modernization funds from the state was no easy chore.
“This is a major accomplishment,” said Johnson. “We’ve done a good job of maximizing our local dollars by supplementing them with state dollars.”
Due to major interior upgrades, Morales said teachers are asked to have all classroom materials packed up on the last day of classes.
“I don’t know where this rumor started about classrooms having to be empty by the last day of school,” chuckled Morales. “It’s not a rumor – it’s true. The staff is anxious to get started.”
By the time the general contractors arrive on June 23, all school furniture, books, and equipment will have been loaded into 13 on-site storage containers soon to be provided at each site.
Under contract is TRP Construction of Sacramento – the same company that remodeled a wing at South Tahoe Middle School two years ago, said Morales.
The district learned last year that modernization funds would be apportioned by the State Allocation Board for Al Tahoe and Tahoe Valley schools, both of which were built in the late 1950s.
The money was made available from the statewide educational facilities bond measure – better known as Proposition 203 – which was approved by voters in March of 1995.
“There will be some demolition, but really very little structural work,” said Morales. “We’ll still have the basic bones of each school – no one will mistake them for brand new schools, but they will be up-to-date.”
The footprints at each site are very similar, added Morales, which has helped to simplify plans.
Among the projects scheduled at both schools are new floors and floor tiles, ceilings, toilets, sinks, wall coverings, cabinets, marker boards, lighting, heating, new central boilers, phones with intercoms and Internet access in every classroom. All new hardware, including locks, will help with security, said Morales.
In addition, many walls will be penetrated for new wiring and pipes and – at long last – classrooms will have warm water.
Portables on the way – adding another 23,000 square feet of classroom space districtwide
As if modernization wasn’t enough, Morales said 24 portable classrooms – costing $49,699 each – will be arriving in July to ease room shortages caused by the new state class size reduction plan implemented in December.
While the state will reimburse the district $25,000 for each portable, Johnson said the district will have to pay the balance from capital facilities funds, including an estimated $600,000 in site preparations.
“But it’s not as though we have to pay this all right now in cash,” said Johnson. “We’ll be lease-purchasing the buildings over nine years.”
The portables will be distributed among the district’s five elementary schools – with six going to Al Tahoe, two to Meyers, six to Sierra House, six to Tahoe Valley and four to Bijou.
But before they arrive, Morales said foundations for each portable need to be built at each site – as well as installing underground wiring, phone systems, natural gas, fire and security alarms, common walkways and landings as well as a computer data network.
Tahoe Valley Principal Jackie Nelson, whose school will be part of both projects, couldn’t be happier.
“There are times when the old facilities just don’t support our needs – like problems with uneven heat,” she said. “I’m absolutely thrilled that we’ll open up in the fall in what will appear to be a new school. Everything will be clean – it’ll be wonderful. I think this will motivate everyone to take special care of our school in the future.”
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Update 9:15 a.m. — Power has been restored to about 3,700 customers, according to the Liberty Utilities outage map.