Demolition underway at San Ramon Valley High School

New 3-story classroom building expected to open for 2018-19 school year

San Ramon Valley High School will look significantly different to returning students when they arrive for their first day of the new school year on Monday morning.

Demolition crews last week began tearing down decades-old classrooms on the south half of campus as part of the two-year construction project to add a modern three-story academic building, plus an enlarged quad and additional student parking, to the century-old school just outside downtown Danville.

"When you really look at how old this was and how inadequate that was," school district superintendent Rick Schmitt said, looking at piles of debris and ongoing demolition work Tuesday morning, "It's time for a modern, world-class facility. When you look at it, it was time."

"It's a win-win project for all of us ... modernizing a high school and adding much-needed parking," said Danville Vice Mayor Renee Morgan, who joined Schmitt and a half-dozen other district officials for a tour of the construction at the Danville Boulevard campus.

The estimated $46.35 million endeavor aims to remove and replace 45 single-story class spaces with the same number of classrooms and laboratories in a new three-story building that will offer more square footage consolidated into a smaller footprint.

Funded through the Measure D school facilities bond passed by San Ramon Valley voters in 2012, the project is expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2018-19 school year.

"Everyone is very excited about the classroom building project at San Ramon Valley High School," district spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said in an email Friday. "This project will offer state-of-the-art technology access, modern science classrooms and labs, and the opportunity for flexible learning environments in which students can innovate and create."

The three-story building will be essentially box-shaped, with classrooms, lab spaces and restrooms on three sides in roughly a "C" shape that will face the revamped quad and be oriented toward Danville Boulevard. The fourth side of the building will feature second- and third-story walkways above a ground-level opening that leads into the atrium.

The primary goals of the project include reducing the classroom footprint to create more space for parking, quad space and student assembly as well as enhancing access and supervision and allowing flexibility for future expansion as needed, according to district officials.

Work began on the project as soon as students were let out for the summer in June, with Lathrop Construction Associates serving as general contractor.

Crews spent about seven weeks on abatement work for lead paint and asbestos as well as infrastructure upgrades including electrical, data and fire alarm systems, according to Gary Black, assistant superintendent of facilities and operations.

Demolition started last Monday with the removal of the former A, B, C, E, F, G, J and K classroom buildings, most of which dated back to the 1960s, Black said. Demo work and debris clean-up is expected to last about two weeks, after which construction for the new building will begin.

The project remains on track for the scheduled August 2018 completion date, according to Black.

In the meantime, nearly half of the classes for the next two school years will be held in San Ramon Valley High's new "Portable City" -- a collection of brand-new relocatable classrooms behind the auxiliary gym and "D" building, on new blacktop where the junior varsity baseball field used to sit.

Most of the school's 2,080 students are expected to have at least one class in a relocatable classroom, according to Graswich.

"We understand that this project is a challenge for students and staff, and we appreciate their cooperation and willingness to be flexible," she said. "The relocatable classrooms are brand new. Therefore, in some cases, the new relocatables will actually be an improvement over the classrooms being demolished."

The single-story L and I buildings -- modular classrooms about two decades old -- near the work site will remain open during construction to house students, but those buildings are scheduled to be torn down once the new three-story facility opens, according to Black. The JV field is set to return after the project ends.

Graswich noted there have been several modernization projects over the decades that have benefited the campus, which was originally founded in 1910.

"Our experience tells us that while such projects include challenges, students and staff are very excited to witness the continued transformation of their campus," she said. "Our community has been very supportive of the project, as they know that the new building will benefit many future generations to come."

Schmitt also credited the public support for helping the project come to fruition, saying, "It's the community willing to invest in public facilities and infrastructure, and that's not always the case."

That supporter list includes the town of Danville, which in April 2015 pledged up to $1.2 million toward adding at least 200 new student parking spots at the high school to help reduce the number of student vehicles parked in public parking downtown or in nearby neighborhoods.

An initial design concept for the classroom project created space for 63 new parking spots to be added at a future time, but now the design calls for about 200 ground-level parking spots behind the new building at the west end of the campus, Black said.

The Danville Town Council's offer of $1 million for 200 or more parking spots, plus $200,000 in contingency funds for that effort, is due to expire in April 2020.

The new west parking lot will also help improve safety and flow for vehicles and pedestrians, in part by removing a bottleneck stretch of road that exists on that side of campus, Black said.

The San Ramon Valley school board also made the high school project a high priority.

The board accelerated the Measure D bond program by authorizing the issuance and sale of $125 million in bonds in March 2015, which helped projects like the San Ramon Valley High classroom modernization start sooner than originally planned.

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