When students return to school, they will notice two, nearly complete buildings intending to enrich students’ academics and extracurriculars.
Headed by Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen, on-campus construction has been split into two phases. Phase one is close to completion this coming summer of 2021, and the second phase will start once the first is finished.
The first phase of construction includes new classroom buildings for culinary and engineering classes, an auxiliary gym, multipurpose spaces and new 700-wing stairs. A two-story building will house the gym and culinary classrooms, while the engineering program will be in its own building.
Phase one construction started in the summer of 2019 with the approval of the $295-million Measure E bond and creation of the Facilities Master Plan. While COVID-19 has caused mild obstructions such as limited indoor worker capacity and delays in available materials, construction has not been drastically impacted and will still finish on schedule.
The engineering building will include three lab spaces for the various engineering and design courses, including one central design lab that will allow all students to access 3D modeling, vector graphics and other software simultaneously instead of waiting to share six desktop workstations among 30 students.
On either side of the central lab will be two shop areas. The “dirty” lab will provide access to machine shop equipment that produces fine particles like sawdust and metal shavings. The other workspace, known as the “clean” lab, will house 3D printers, laser cutters and all other machines that require more sanitary conditions.
This new space will not only allow more students into the engineering program, but also let them try out more branches of engineering to help them decide on a pathway in higher education and occupation.
“It will give students a sense of what working in a shop or a design lab actually looks and feels like instead of a classroom retrofitted to just make it work,” engineering teacher and coordinator Stephen Hine said. “This is going to be an amazing marketing resource for us as well as a necessary space to support student learning with practical real-world technology skills.”
The separate engineering building also sends an important message — the District is serious about growing the engineering program, Hine added.
“Before this, MVLA was truly falling behind other local districts in offering classes like these, and many other districts even already have engineering buildings,” Hine said. “I am still amazed by how many students don’t even know we have a robotics class or that we [only] have 10 3D printers and two laser cutters.”
According to physical education teacher Kiernan Raffo, the new gym will help modernize the PE department and provide a more expansive space to accommodate more students.
“We were so cramped in the small gym,” Raffo said. “It only had one full basketball court and if you weren’t careful, you would crash into the wall. The basketball hoops were old and the WiFi didn’t work. On rainy days, we would try and fit two classes in there, and it was complete chaos.”
The larger facility will allow for new educational units such as mindfulness and provide more options for class activities with its upgraded technology.
“Now we will have more games going on at once, we can show instructional videos to enhance our lessons and students will be able to get on their device to take a test on Canvas instead of the old school scantrons,” Raffo said.
The two-story building where the gym is located will also house a new culinary kitchen space to support the culinary arts program. Equipped with industrial ovens and other professional culinary equipment, students will be able to properly learn and practice not only the cooking and food arts skills, but also hospitality management skills. Their creations will be used for various events hosted by Los Altos High School such as pancake breakfasts and homecoming brunch.
Across campus, the 700-wing steel “cheese grater” stairs, whose holes have caused scrapes and cuts when it rains, will be swapped for concrete stairs to reduce the risk of injury.
The next phase of construction, which will start this summer, is the student services building. The building aims to provide more space for offices while consolidating administration, counseling and wellness services for students.
“The building also includes a student union space — essentially, a space for students to gather to socialize during breaks and also do work individually or perhaps in small groups,” Mathiesen said.
This building will replace the current 100 wing where the finance office is located and is scheduled to finish construction February 2023.
A synthetic turf field will replace the grass near the tennis courts, which are also getting a makeover. The four courts used as a staging area will be resurfaced after the construction of the synthetic turf field.
Although the plans have not yet been finalized, Freestyle Academy will also get completely new buildings. Both Los Altos and Mountain View High can look forward to expanded student space these next couple of years.