Covington, Egan first on the list for renovations slated at all nine Los Altos School District sites

Covington and Egan schools are slated to get facelifts next summer as part of the first phase of construction in the Los Altos School District.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved a construction schedule for the renovation of the district's nine schools at the regular meeting March 15. The schedule sets in place the order and time frame that each school will be renovated.

Voters approved the renovation of the schools, which district officials say are outdated and overcrowded, last November with the passage of a $94.7 million bond measure.

According to the schedule, two school sites will be renovated each year beginning in summer 2000, with construction work expected to be finished at all school sites by the summer of 2005.

Renovation work is scheduled to begin at Covington and Egan schools in 2000 and to be completed by fall 2001.

Tania Granoff, a member of the Long Range Facilities Planning Committee that recommended the timeline to the board, said Covington needs to be renovated and opened as soon as possible in order to alleviate overcrowding at the district's other schools.

Once Covington is reopened, the district's boundaries will be changed and a portion of students from Almond, Santa Rita, Springer and Loyola schools will be moved to the site, she said.

Egan and Blach junior high schools were placed among the first projects, so the same students would not be affected by construction during both their elementary and junior high school years, according to committee members. Blach is scheduled to be renovated in 2001 as part of the second construction phase.

"If we start with the elementary schools, there's the potential for children to spend their entire K-8 years under construction," said superintendent Marge Gratiot.

Committee members based the construction order of the elementary schools according to each site's age, current state and its adequacy to handle enrollment after the boundary changes.

The schools are scheduled for construction as follows: Bullis-Purissima School, 2001; Loyola and Santa Rita schools, 2002; Almond and Oak, 2003; and Springer School, 2004. Each school is scheduled to reopen in the fall, one school year after construction begins.

Students will rotate to a portable school or "camp" - one located at Egan and one at Blach - for one year while their permanent school is under construction.

Under the committee's recommendation, the temporary school sites will be self contained, with their own drop off zones, classrooms, restrooms, library, computer lab, play spaces and schedules. Students would share the multipurpose room with the junior high schools. Gratiot said the camps will also include after-school care programs, but not preschool care.

Committee members said the junior high schools provided the largest campus space and were less populated then the elementary schools, making it possible for two schools to share each campus while remaining completely independent.

According to the committee, two camps were more cost effective and time saving than building temporary campuses at each school site.

The construction of both sites is scheduled to take 6-8 months at an estimated cost of about $4.9 million - a $2 million savings from constructing temporary schools on each permanent site, according to the committee report.

"In concept, this is the best idea for safety and moving the plan forward," Gratiot said.

Some parents weren't impressed with the committee's "camp" proposal, citing concerns about mixing young children with junior high school-aged students, traffic and the loss of playing field space over the four years each camp will be in use.

"I'm very concerned about how you will stagger lunch, drop off. I don't know if this is the right thing," said one Loyola parent. "What will happen to the extracurricular activities if we don't have any field space?"

Board member Victor Reid said the camps provide a safer alternative for students than a campus undergoing construction.

"Construction workers and kids don't mix. Add five dump trucks and three cement mixers, and it only gets worse. I'm tickled to see a plan to get students off the campus. It may be a pain in the neck, but it's my daughter's safety," Reid said.

District officials said they expect by next month to hire two or three architects to begin work on the first construction phase.

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