Oakville elementary students gathered outside the 68-year-old elementary building Monday afternoon didn’t understand why the outdated structure needed to be torn down.
But as soon as they were told the demolition meant they would get a new school with its own cafeteria space — meaning they wouldn’t have to march to the gym or the high school’s cafeteria for lunch every day — they cheered.
The Oakville School District officially broke ground Monday on a series of projects funded by a $5.6 million bond measure passed by Oakville voters in February 2020, the biggest of which is the demolition of the old elementary building and the construction of a brand new elementary school.
“This building, we anticipate, is going to be more state of the art and give students a better opportunity to learn,” said Superintendent Rich Staley at Monday’s groundbreaking, held outside the old Oakville Elementary School.
The new building will have four general education classrooms and one special education classroom, a waiting room, an office and a multipurpose-cafeteria space, Staley said.
Tacoma-based architect firm Erickson McGovern designed the new elementary school and Pease Construction, a Lakewood-based company, has been contracted to do the demolition and construction of the elementary school, along with the renovations to the high school. Oakville’s preschool, kindergarten and third-grade classes are currently held in the adjacent primary school building, while the remaining elementary grades operate out of a wing in the district’s main building. They will stay where they are until the new school is complete, at which time most of the students will move into the new building, Staley said.
High school students and staff, however, are in the process of vacating that building so workers can start on the second part of the district’s bond project: a total renovation of the high school.
The high school renovation will include updating the technology and learning spaces, renovating the bathrooms, modifying the music room to increase acoustics and make it easier for students to get instruments in and out, adding a new classroom near the kitchen, updating the office area, and installing new ceilings, floors, furniture and doors in all classrooms.
“Our high school is currently evacuating the building to give the team full access to that building in the hopes that that will increase the speed they can do the work,” Staley said.
As of Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony, the high school renovations were estimated to take nine months.
For the foreseeable future, high school classes will be conducted in the old gym, on the school’s stage and in the music room. Band has moved into the wood shop, principals and counselors are working out of closets, and the district office will operate out of a construction trailer.
The temporary classroom spaces are larger than the school’s existing classrooms, and with the campus’s recently-installed HVAC system in place, Staley isn’t anticipating any problems following COVID-19 precautions.
But that doesn’t mean the new situation isn’t going to cause some short-term strife for students and staff.
“It’s going to be a crazy ride for us here for the next couple of months but we know it's going to be temporary pain for long-term gain for our students,” Staley said. “We ask for patience from the community and from the students and staff because we know it's not going to be easy on any of us. It's already been hard.”
Staley thanked school staff, Oakville voters, community partners and local businesses for their ongoing support of the school district as they work to update the campus.
The bond funding the renovation projects passed in February 2020 with 66% of the vote, or 312 of 472 total votes, according to previous Chronicle coverage.
“Our students are truly going to benefit from these gifts from our citizens and we know that Oakville values its students through this gift and so we’re grateful for that,” Staley said.
In addition to the two main projects, the bond is also funding upgrades to fire and security systems throughout the campus, renovations to the baseball and softball fields, the construction of new covered seating outside the football field, paving all the schools’ parking lots and upgrading the elementary playground.
“Our goal at Oakville Schools is to personalize learning for each student and help them reach success, for whatever that will look like for them, and this work will assist us in being able to meet that vision and see that goal through,” Staley said.
Earlier this year, the school district finished renovating the campus’s kitchen and installing a new campus HVAC system, new lighting, new roof and new windows. Those projects were funded through a $4.6 million small schools modernization grant and $500,000 from the Legislature’s capital project funds, according to previous Chronicle reporting.