Friday, July 08, 2005

School's out - Now building improvement can begin

By Audrey Wong

FAIRFIELD - For 30 years, Grange Middle School educated students, even though the campus was incomplete.

Crews are finishing what was left undone and will continue through the summer and next school year. When builders finish, Grange students will have new places to eat, play and learn.

The Grange completion is among a number of school construction projects slated for the summer. The Fairfield-Suisun School District will carry out projects funded by the $101 million Measure C fund, plus some school improvements covered by other money. Other districts such as the Travis School District and Solano Community College will renovate their campuses as well.

It was the Measure C bond that enabled the district to complete Grange, said Rob Pierce, director of facilities.

When Grange was built decades ago, the district didn't have enough money to cover the rest of the campus and the lack of a bond didn't help, Pierce said.

"It's one of those projects we take a lot of pride in to give those kids things they deserve, that middle school experience," he added.

The first phase was constructing the football field, track, two softball fields and a large open grass area. Field work should be done by the end of summer, Pierce said.

"There was a large portion of the school grounds that was not lawn, just weeds," said Jim Williams, president of the Grange Parent Teacher Organization. "Half the field space was just weeds. Now we will have real fields, real tracks. It will all be good."

"The PE department has been the main one who was inconvenienced by this," Grange Principal Eric Tretten said. "They did really good working around it . . . They've probably made the biggest sacrifice."

Grange never had a cafeteria. Students ate in a covered area or teachers would allow them to spend lunch in their classrooms, especially during bad weather, Tretten said.

Crews will build a new gymnasium, administration wing and four new classrooms. The old gymnasium will be converted into an indoor eating area. The old administration wing will serve as a teachers' lounge and workroom. The current teachers lounge will become two classrooms.

Construction workers will also demolish two portable classrooms, make parking lot improvements and perform more modernization to the main building.

The gym and new administration wing won't be done until March 2006. Crews are expected to finish the four classrooms by Christmas time. Crews will fence off areas under construction.

New high school fields

Athletes at Armijo and Fairfield high schools will have new tracks and fields to play on when workers finish installing new turf and tracks under Measure C. Both Fairfield and Armijo seniors had to move their graduation ceremonies because of the construction.

Synthetic turf made from recycled tires, rubber and shoes will replace actual grass. The material is soft and feels like grass, Pierce said. The new track is composed of recycled tires. The manufactured turf for Armijo will sit on a fabric base pad.

"The great thing is you can use them 24-7 and there is no harm to the fabric," Pierce said.

During the rainy season, teams dealt with numerous puddles and slippery mud. An extensive drainage system under the new track and field will remove water from the playing area.

The new field and tracks will save money on irrigation. Maintenance crews won't have to mow, weed or line the fields, since the turf will already have lines, Pierce said. The rubber turf will also save living fields. After rains, cleats tear up the grass and the rough activities destroy turf.

District work continues

The district will start work on the future Rolling Hills and Southbrook elementary schools. Construction is expected to last a year and open by fall 2006. The Rolling Hills school will accommodate about 600 students and Southbrook 750 to 800 students.

Sullivan Middle School has received some sort of work every summer since Measure C was passed in 2002, Pierce said. This summer crews will perform additional modernization in the main building. They will remodel bathrooms and remove any asbestos tiles they find.

Workers will also install framing and stucco to the glass hallway that connects three wings at Sullivan. Sun pours into the large picture windows, heating the hallway to high temperatures. In the winter the hallways become very cold. The glass-lined hallways also amplify footsteps and voices. The principal ropes off the hallways between classes so students won't walk through it and disturb classes.

SCC gets a boost

Solano Community College has its $124.5 million Measure G bond to fund renovations for the Rockville campus and building new Vallejo and Vacaville satellite campuses. This summer, work crews are scheduled to remodel the science and businesses buildings, said Alan Rosen, program manager for Kitchell CEM, the project managing group.

The college prepared for displaced summer classes by relocating the aeronautics shop classes to Nut Tree Airport. Crews converted the vacant space or "swing space" into classrooms that were completed in June. Business and science students moved into those classes for their summer sessions. Business and science classes should return to their buildings by mid-August, said Ray Ogden, director of facilities. When crews begin renovating the math and engineering building this fall, math and engineering classes will move into the swing space.

College staff plan to solicit bids this month to replace the hot and cold water pipes on campus. The project calls for construction to take place this summer. Crews will leave the old pipes in place while they install new ones. Then the college will switch to the new pipe system when students aren't on campus.

Modernization at Vanden

Construction workers are currently hammering, nailing and sawing phase one of a modernization project of Vanden High School.

Vanden's C wing illustrates the school's overcrowding. Ten classes funnel into an 8-foot-wide hallway. Between classes, 300 students flood the hall and it's hard to move against the masses, Principal Sheila McCabe said.

The problem is that students can only exit classrooms through a single door that leads to the hallway. Work crews will build doors on the exterior of the building so students have options for leaving class.

Crews are repairing roofs on three buildings, and making bathrooms in one building accessible for people with disabilities. They are updating the fire alarm, bells, and the public announcement system, McCabe said.

The first phase should be completed before students return Aug. 29, McCabe said.

The second phase of the modernization calls for four new classroom wings with six classes each. Crews will build a new music building and convert the current one into a cafeteria that will accommodate a larger numbers of students. Plans include two fine art studios.

The new buildings will allow for removal of portable classrooms and give more room to the quad area. Crews will add a parking lot. The district hopes to go to bid in winter and start construction next spring, McCabe said.

The district will pay for construction with state money and developer fees.

Reach Audrey Wong at 427-6951 or


Major contruction work at area schools, by district:


New field, track, gymnasium, administration wing and classrooms at Grange Middle School; new tracks and fields at Armijo High School and Fairfield High School modernization at Sullivan Middle School; construction begins on new Rolling Hills and Southbrook elementary schools.


Modernization and new classrooms at Vanden High School.

Solano Community College

Remodeling of science and business buildings at Rockville campus.

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