Shortly after classes were dismissed for the summer, excavators, bulldozers and hard hats made their way onto school campuses across Sonoma County to build new facilities and expand and repair existing ones.
Motorists traveling along Highway 12 can see work happening at Rincon Valley’s Whited Elementary School. The $4 million project includes new playgrounds, parking lot and landscaping.
To the west at Herbert Slater Middle and Abraham Elementary schools in the Santa Rosa district, a $5.8 million roofing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning project is underway.
And in Rohnert Park, Technology High, a math, science and engineering magnet school, is preparing to move out of Salazar Hall at the Sonoma State University campus onto its new $20 million campus 2 miles west.
With school campuses mostly vacant for the summer, education officials say, it’s a mad dash to complete construction projects before students, faculty and staff members return in August.
“It’s a busy time of year when the majority of students and staff are off and we’re able to do these projects without disrupting classes,” said Rick Edson, deputy superintendent at Santa Rosa City Schools.
Technology High is moving to the site of the former Waldo Rohnert Elementary School on Bonnie Avenue. Waldo Rohnert students moved to the John Reed Elementary this past school year, allowing the district to gut the school and begin construction on the new high school campus in January.
The project will be completed by August.
“It’s a pretty aggressive timeline,” said Josh Savage, the Cotati-Rohnert Park school district’s director of facilities.
Dawn Mawhinney, principal at Technology High, said the classrooms in the new facility will be larger. The school also will have two shops for students to work on project-based learning curriculum, a hands-on teaching method that requires more working space.
Last year, 326 students were enrolled at Technology High, according to the California Department of Education.
While Sonoma State was hospitable and supportive of the program, the university needed the classroom space and Technology High was growing out of its campus, Mawhinney said.
SSU officials notified the Rohnert Park school district in 2018 that they needed the 18,000-square-feet space the high school occupied to relocate university classrooms and offices as it prepared to renovate Stevenson Hall, one of their oldest buildings and a focus of a whistleblower trial over asbestos mishandling.
“With any change comes anxiety, but after the initial shock the students and parents were very positive about the possibilities at the new site,” Mawhinney wrote.
Technology High shares athletic fields with Technology Middle, which is right around the corner from the high school’s new site. Savage said a pathway will be built between the two schools.
The Cotati-Rohnert Park school district also is building a $3.8 million, 2,500-square-foot band room for Lawrence Jones Middle School, Savage said.
Both projects will be funded by a 2016 bond.
To the north, Santa Rosa City Schools is spending $1.6 million to install three modular classrooms and two modular restrooms for Cesar Chavez Language Academy, which is moving to the Lawrence Cook Middle School campus.
Steele Lane Elementary School has under construction a new $575,000 outdoor eating area and fencing, while new restrooms are being built this summer at Proctor Terrace Elementary.