Downey High construction should be completed by August

DOWNEY - The building you see being constructed along Brookshire Avenue on the Downey High campus is the school's new Administration/Classroom Building, which was begun in July 2012 and is scheduled to be completed in May of this year. After additional work on the surrounding site is done, the brand-new building is expected to be ready for occupancy by staff and students when the 2014-15 school year starts in August.

When this building opens, nearly all the 40 bungalows used as temporary facilities will be removed from the campus.

For easy reference, this building is usually referred to as the "A" building. Measuring 58,574 sq. ft., it will house 27 new classrooms, not including the administration element of the high school.

Many standard classrooms have been upgraded, and in most cases enlarged, to accommodate two chemistry labs, a digital photography classroom and studio, a culinary arts lab and classroom, film production, and a TV production room for broadcasting throughout the school.

According to DHS principal Tom Houts, one of the many key collaborative planners/shapers of the project including top tier district officials, all classrooms are being equipped with the latest technology that "addresses the needs of the 21st century learner." Standard features will include 'smart' boards, touch screen monitors, LCD projectors, and wireless internet for hand-held devices.

Both floors of the building, situated at its southern end, will house the administrative function of the school (principal's office, faculty lounge, etc.). As of today, DUSD officials estimate the building is about 75-80 percent complete. As already mentioned, a substantial amount of site work around the building is yet to be done once the contractor will have finished the building.

This is not the only major building being currently constructed. To the south of the gymnasium is also rising the school's new Career Technology Education (CTE) Building, also known as the "D" Building. Occupying 19,604 sq. ft., Building "D" will have four labs and a regular classroom as well as eight work bays: it will house the automobile repair program, the Project Lead the Way Engineering class, the robotics lab, and the technology engineering class.

The second floor will house the advanced physics courses.

These projects were put on hold for a while when the state couldn't provide the promised funds. This happened after the design phase (2008-10) of these facilities had been finished. When the district was notified of the availability of funds in the winter/spring of 2012 because of the improving economic picture, it quickly moved to bid/award the projects and begin construction.

The estimated total construction cost for both Buildings "A" and "D" is currently at slightly more than $18 million. The primary source of funding for these school improvements, according to DUSD officials, is a combination of the local bond voted in by the citizens in 2002 and the state "matching share" owed to the district.

The new CTE building, according to Houts, will actually house five new programs: Product Design, which will challenge students to create and innovate product and design concepts "to better their world"; Technology Core, a technology-based introductory course for all of the school's CTE pathways; Project Lead the Way-Engineering, which teaches students the fundamentals of engineering (including robotics, electrical circuits, alternative fuels/solar, etc.); Engineering Physics, where students will use the fundamental theories of physics to design, build and test projects (Newton's laws, hydraulics, friction, combustion, aeronautics, etc.); and Automotive Engineering, in which students will learn about automotive design and (automotive) shop maintenance.

Houts has special praise for the planned Automotive Engineering course: "I have not seen any high school offering a curriculum as varied and advanced as the programs that will be offered in this technologically-advanced building. I had the chance to visit American Honda's training facility in Torrance last month. Frankly, our facility will be more advanced. This will truly be a world-class educational facility."

Because the DHS campus needs to be operational, and the safety of the school's over 4,000 students and staff a priority, the phasing of these projects has been complex and will only get more complicated as completion approaches.

To handle the organized chaos, district and DHS officials say an 8-phase approach is being employed, to include two rounds of demolition, the actual construction of the "A" and "D" buildings, the delivery/relocation/removal of the portable classroom buildings, new site/grounds improvements, and local fire marshal-mandated upgrades to the campus.

All of this work, says Houts, has had to be coordinated around the teaching day, with the mindset that "it is a school site first, and a construction site second."

Additionally, there are other buildings, such as Building "O", which are planned, and boys/girls locker rooms, but these projects won't start until "sometime in 2015." School/district officials say there are enough funds to have the facilities designed, while the construction costs for each are being evaluated.

Further, they say that these construction projects (which applies to other campuses in the district as well) represent a continued effort by the district to "deliver quality educational facilities" as outlined in the district's original Facilities Master Plan, which is currently undergoing an extensive update.

********** Published: Jan. 16, 2014 - Volume 12 - Issue 40