Monday, October 08, 2007

Tolenas Undergoes Extreme Makeover

Tolenas Undergoes Extreme Makeover
By Nika Megino

Davon Chatman shoots baskets at Tolenas Elementary School. (Mike McCoy/Daily Republic)

FAIRFIELD - From a one-room schoolhouse to a school with 28 classrooms, Tolenas Elementary School has certainly grown. But its growth is not yet complete.

By March, the school will have eight new classrooms, a new library and a new administration building. The eight classrooms, which are slated for completion by December, will replace eight of the school's 19 portable classrooms.

Fairfield-Suisun School District and school officials said the construction of the new classrooms and modernization of current facilities were needed at Tolenas. The new classrooms are part of Measure C's objective to reduce the use of portables. Measure C, passed in 2002, provides $200 million for the district to use to update and build school facilities.

"It was a long time coming," said Judi Honeychurch, principal of Tolenas Elementary.

Portables needed to be replaced because they had exceeded their usefulness, said Robin Tully, the district's facilities planner. Three of the portables had been used for 30 years, Tully added.

Honeychurch looks ahead to having more students in classrooms instead of portables.

"It's a much more pleasant environment and more conducive to learning and working," she said.

The eight classrooms will be in separate buildings. Four will occupy a 4,380-square-foot building that include rest rooms. The other four will be in a 3,785-square-foot building. All of the new classrooms will feature SMART boards, tackable wall surfaces, cable TV, projection systems and learning walls, which consists of three sliding white boards with storage space behind the boards.

"(The learning wall) maximizes the storage of the classroom and hides the storage, (which) leaves more of the rest of the room" to display artwork and instructional materials, Tully said.

Building a new library and administration building will centralize the campus and make better use of space, Honeychurch said.

Currently, the library is located in a classroom, which shares part of its space with a computer lab. The new library will feature enough space for 14,000 books, 35 seating stations, six reference computer stations, a computerized projection system and wireless Internet capabilities.

The current library will be occupied by the computer lab. Honeychurch said the current arrangement of the computer lab is "crammed."

The 4,944-square-foot building that will house the library will also feature new administration space. The administration space will include the nurse's office, the attendance office, the principal's office, a teachers' lounge, a book storage area and new rest rooms.

The cost of the three projects totals $4.05 million and includes the renovation of the school's asphalt playground area, which has already been completed.

School officials are excited about the additions, and Honeychurch said the building updates will benefit the look of the school.

"Tolenas has always been one where we didn't look so pretty on the outside, but the people working in here are gems," Honeychurch said. "Now we have facilities that are going to go with what's going on inside."

Reach Nika Megino at 427-6953 or

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