Monday, August 07, 2006

Vanden Construction Rolls Ahead

Vanden Construction Rolls Ahead
By Susan Winlow

Workers with Carone and Company Construction prepare to put underground utilities where 27 new classrooms will be built at Vanden High School. (Gary Goldsmith/ Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - Vanden High School is tucked into a less-traveled corner of Fairfield, close to the Vacaville border.

Usually it's awash in silence - surrounded by hills and fields. Not much happens out on the corner DeRonde and Markeley Lane.

But the silence was broken recently when heavy equipment began ripping into the parking lot and knocking down school buildings. Right now much of the perimeter of the school is filled with heavy equipment, various colored pipe, building rubble and enough dirt and rock to create a small dust storm if the wind kicked up.

It's all part of a massive modernization project that began July 5, which will update classrooms and add a student parking lot, three large quad areas and an indoor eating area.

While crews hurry to finish the new student parking lot before school starts Aug. 28, the rest of the project won't be done until summer 2007.

The project, which costs $15.7 million, actually began last year when the locker rooms were remodeled and a new fire alarm system was installed.

Made possible by the passage of Proposition 47, Mello-Roos and developers funds, the remodeling continues this summer with the addition of a new lighted student parking lot.

"For Vanden that's a big thing," Principal Sheila McCabe said. "Right now there are no lights."

The newly created lot will provide an additional 40 stalls for the students, which is a boon for a school where space is tight and parking limited.

"We have a lot of kids that park on the street," said Kate Wren Gavlak, superintendent of the Travis school district. "Hopefully we will have room for all the students."

Vanden High School opened in 1965 and over the years several phases were added to accommodate the growing population. Vanden now has 1,500 students.

This is one of the largest projects since the school opened, McCabe said.

In addition to the parking lot, the school will add four buildings that will contain six classrooms each, bathrooms and office space for teachers. Right now some of the classrooms are in an area once designated a hallway between classrooms.

In addition there will be a music room and two new art studios.

"The visual art teachers are just in heaven," McCabe said.

Currently, art classes are held in the old science rooms.

"This time it will really be set up for art," said David Florez, director of maintenance, grounds and custodial facilities. "(Now) they're using old desks (from the 1960s and 1970s) and regular six-foot folding tables."

When construction ends in August 2007 the portables will be removed from the grounds, making Vanden one of the only schools without auxiliary classrooms and giving the school's exterior a new look.

"I believe in quality facilities," Wren Gavlak said. "It's always good to have permanent facilities instead of portables."

Florez agreed.

"It will make the campus look more like a campus and less like a hodgepodge," he said.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or

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