has waited longer than most in the district to be rebuilt, but will benefit from what the West Contra Costa Unified School District has learned as it has replaced or renovated most of its campuses over the past several years, project architects and district officials told school staff, families, and neighbors at a presentation Thursday night.
One key way that the rebuilt or renovated campuses have evolved is in their environmental practices. The plans for the new Fairmont include outdoor areas that not only provide greenery and play areas but also “outdoor classroom” areas for learning, explained Jorge Rico of Hibser Yamauchi Architects.
Other “green school” practices include having plants native to the Bay Area, capturing rainwater to water the plants, and use of natural lighting as much as possible, said Rico.
The school district has adopted the green building practices of the Collaborative for High Performance Schools. According to the group’s website, characteristics of a high performance school include being healthy, energy efficient, and easy to maintain and operate.
The Fairmont project is unusual because of planned accommodations for the large population of students with special needs and, at about three acres, the compact size of the site.
“This is an incredibly small piece of property,” said Rico. Because of the small space, plans call for the main classroom building to be two stories high and for no additions to existing parking.
The two-story building will have elevators. The “universal” play structure is to be accessible to students who use wheelchairs, and some classrooms will have restrooms to accommodate special-needs students.
Rico said the project could be done in two phases to allow the school to continue to operate at its current location but that it is also possible the district will decide to relocate students to another site during the rebuild. Some Fairmont parents have expressed concern that it could be disruptive to have construction going on so close to classrooms.
Bill Savidge, the school district’s engineering officer, said the project could be completed more quickly if classes were moved to another location while work is done.
Rico presented drawings of what the school could look like but said, “This is a conceptual master plan.” There will be additional meetings, he said, in which parents and neighbors will have the opportunity to have input about the new school.
Savidge said the plan will go before the board’s Facilities Subcommittee April 12 and then is expected to go to the full board in May.
Construction could start in 1½ to two years if the district “goes full bore” on it, said Savidge, and the building itself would take an estimated 30 months to three years.
Fairmont began in its first building 1903, according to most historical accounts, and the current building was completed in 1958.
Six elementary schools are slated for work under the Measure D approved by voters in 2010 (another bond measure called Measure D was passed in 2002): Coronado, Stege, Highland, Valley View and Wilson, all in Richmond, in addition to Fairmont. The order in which the school board decides to tackle those projects will help determine when Fairmont is completed.
Estimated cost of the new school is $30 million.
For information on the history of Fairmont Elementary School, see the Summer 2007 editor of The Forge, the newsletter of the El Cerrito Historical Society.