Construction poised to begin at MVLA high schools

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
The 600 wing at Los Altos High School, above, as well as portable classrooms near the softball field, will be demolished to create a new two-story classroom building and adjacent single-story building housing engineering and robotics programs. The construction is part of the $295 million Measure E bond passed by voters last year.

The start of the school year is coinciding with the start of major construction projects at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools.

In the coming weeks, demolition and construction will begin at both schools as part of the first phase of construction funded by the $295 million Measure E bond passed by voters last year.

The Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District intended to break ground after school ended in June but was delayed while it waited for approval from the California Division of the State Architect.

“They’re understaffed for the amount of projects they’re reviewing,” Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen said. “It just took time.”

Despite submitting construction plans last December, the district only secured state approval recently. Los Altos High was cleared in late July, while Mountain View High’s plans got the green light Aug. 14.

Contractors are currently working to mobilize equipment and crews, Mathiesen said, with demolition expected to begin soon.

The Measure E construction projects are split into two phases. During Phase One, which will start soon, both high schools will get new classroom buildings, and a new auxiliary gym and multipurpose space will be built at Los Altos High.

During Phase Two, expected to begin in early 2021, new student services buildings will be built on both campuses, along with an auxiliary gym at Mountain View High. Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts and Technology will also get new buildings around the same time.

The construction is meant to accommodate the district’s growing student population. In recent years, the district has grown dramatically, from 3,625 students in the 2010-2011 school year to 4,394 last year.

Phase One

District officials decided to front-load building classrooms during Phase One of construction, leaving administrative buildings to be completed second.

“Classrooms are the priority, that’s the emphasis,” Mathiesen said. “That’s where learning happens – in the classrooms, not in the admin building.”

More teaching space is also needed as the district continues to grow.

Both campuses will get a new two-story general purpose classroom building. Mountain View’s will be located near the athletic fields and will also house the Life Skills program, which serves special-education students with moderate to severe needs. Los Altos’ building is located at the rear of the campus near the softball field and will include a specially designed room for the culinary program.

Next to the two-story classroom building at both schools will be a single-story building housing engineering and robotics programs. At Mountain View, it also will house computer science classes.

At Los Altos, a new auxiliary gym and multipurpose space will be built where the “small gym” currently stands. The auxiliary gym will include a full-sized basketball court but won’t have bleachers like the school’s main gym does.

During the spring sports season, the gymnastics team will use the multipurpose space. Currently gymnastics equipment fills the small gym during the spring, which restricts its use by other groups.

The space also can be used by other sports and for physical education classes and certain assemblies, though gatherings of the entire school will still be held in the existing large gym.

Phase Two

Once all of those projects are complete, Phase Two will commence. Currently that is scheduled for the first quarter of 2021, but it can’t begin until Phase One is complete.

According to Mathiesen, the district is now building in approximately nine months to get approval from the Division of the State Architect. That will be done while Phase One is being completed, so there isn’t any lag time before Phase Two begins.

Construction will include a new student services building on both campuses, which will house the school’s administration, counseling department, mental health services, college and career center, and a student union space.

Neither school currently has a student union. Many students congregate in their school’s library, but Mathiesen said that as the district’s population has grown, the libraries have become more crowded.

The Mountain View building also will include a cafeteria and kitchen. The school’s existing cafeteria will be gutted and turned into a performing arts space.

Los Altos High’s existing cafeteria will remain but will be reorganized to create more space for students to eat. The school already has an existing performing arts building that also will remain.

In addition to the student services buildings, Phase Two will include construction of an auxiliary gym at Mountain View High. Originally, the gym was going to be completed after the student services building, but the plan is now to construct it simultaneously, Mathiesen said.

The school’s existing small gym will remain but will be remodeled and may be used by the dance team or wrestling team. A larger weight room also could be put in.

Beyond these major projects, a number of other smaller changes will occur at both schools, including installing new heating and cooling systems, updating roofing and refreshing classroom interiors. There is also money in the bond for a second synthetic turf field at each school.

The walls of some existing classrooms at Mountain View also will be pushed out to expand the interior space.

Freestyle Academy

It’s not just the main high school campuses that will undergo renovations. Freestyle Academy, which is housed behind the district office, will be getting new digs.

The district had been considering leasing a patch of land from the city of Mountain View at the end of Bryant Avenue, next to the Alta Vista High School campus, for Freestyle.

According to Mathiesen, however, there didn’t turn out to be as much available land as the district was seeking, because the city is considering creating a landing there for a pedestrian ramp that would cross Highway 85 from Bryant Avenue to Remington Drive. The site is close to the freeway and would have required sound mitigation, Mathiesen added. He also noted that Freestyle teachers liked their current location behind the district office.

In the end, it was decided that Freestyle’s current buildings will be demolished and new ones built in their place. That will likely occur during Phase Two of construction on the main campuses, but Mathiesen said it could potentially start slightly earlier.

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