New classroom buildings at Mountain View and Los Altos high schools are set to be ready for students and teachers to use when the school year starts this fall, as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District wraps up the first phase of its bond-funded construction projects.
MVLA is using the $295 million Measure E bond that voters approved in 2018 to fund wide-ranging construction projects at both high schools. The first phase includes a two-story general-purpose classroom building and adjacent single-story engineering building on each campus, plus an auxiliary gym and multipurpose space at Los Altos High.
“It’s exciting to have the classrooms, which have been in construction for two years, at the point where they’re almost wrapped up and teachers and students are going to get to use them,” said Mike Mathiesen, associate superintendent of business services.
According to Mathiesen, the classroom buildings will open when school starts, though he added that if the timing gets tight, finishing the classrooms will be prioritized over the new gym at Los Altos High.
As the classrooms and gym are being finished, the district broke ground on the second phase of construction last month, which includes new administrative buildings on both campuses, plus an auxiliary gym at Mountain View High and a new campus for Freestyle Academy of Communication Arts and Technology. Mountain View and Los Altos highs are also each getting an additional synthetic turf field.
The district’s construction timeline has faced repeated delays, in part due to the pandemic. Early on, the goal had been to finish phase one in the first quarter of 2021 so that teachers could move into their new classrooms over spring break.
“That was a very original timeline, before we knew anything about COVID or had ever heard of COVID,” Mathiesen said.
The pandemic paused construction last March and once work restarted, there were health restrictions in place, including limits on the number of workers who could be inside an indoor space at a given time. The district’s contractor has also experienced labor shortages during the pandemic, finding it hard at times to hire enough workers, Mathiesen said. Certain materials also have arrived late due to manufacturing delays.
“Because some of these things are sequential, once one thing gets delayed, it then pushes out everything after that,” Mathiesen said.
Even before the pandemic, the projects got off to a late start because the district had to wait for approval from the California Division of the State Architect, which was backlogged, and then ran into weather delays that winter.
“From the start, we were delaying things,” Mathiesen said. “We were hoping we could make up time in the subsequent 12 to 15 months, and that just hasn’t happened like we’d hoped.”
Despite construction setbacks, Mathiesen said he has been assured the classrooms will be done before the fall, adding that he is excited the second phase of construction is now also underway.
Phase two ramps up
Phase two includes constructing a student services building on each campus, which will house administrators, academic counselors, mental health therapists, a college and career center, conference rooms and a student union space. A cafeteria and kitchen also will be included at Mountain View High. The student services buildings are slated to be ready for the 2023-2024 school year, Mathiesen said.
Each school is also getting a new turf field, with completion expected in November of this year. Mountain View High is also getting a new auxiliary gym in phase two.
Freestyle Academy, a two-year program where students study various multimedia video, design and audio formats, will also get a new campus on the same site behind the district office where it has previously operated out of portables. The new Freestyle campus is expected to be completed in time for the 2022-2023 school year.
“This time next year, hopefully we’re doing a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Freestyle building,” Mathiesen said.