Schools Get Face Lift in Walnut and Rowland Heights

August 8, 2010

PHOTO CAPTION: Crews are rushing to complete renovation of Blandford Elementary in Rowland Heights before school opens on Aug. 23. (Eric Reed / Photographer)]

Dirt has been flying all summer at Blandford Elementary School as work crews rush to complete its massive renovation in time for the first day of school on Aug. 23.

"Just last week we had 9-foot-deep trenches, where the new water, power and sewers lines were being installed," said Principal Mercedes Lovie.

The proud principal led a tour of the sprawling Rowland Heights campus, where workers are gutting the brick buildings before rebuilding the classrooms in them.

"The contractor began the day after school let out for the summer," Lovie noted, "and they've been working six and seven days a week since."

The Rowland administrator showed a class, where work hasn't started yet. The exposed brick walls
Classrooms at Blandford will be redone with a learning wall as well as new lights, Wifi and carpeting. (Eric Reed / Staff Photographer)
featured a bank of old, plexiglass windows as well as a worn bulletin board.

"The leaky windows let in a lot of noise and outside air," Lovie explained.

Ushering visitors into one of the renovated classrooms, the difference was clear. The bright rooms featured energy efficient windows and lighting, as well as new wall coverings, ceiling and carpeting.

"The windows have a special tint so the students can see material from the digital projectors better," Lovie added.

PHOTO CAPTION: Classrooms at Blandford will be redone with a learning wall as well as new lights, Wifi and carpeting. (Eric Reed / Photographer)

A bracket and plug in the ceiling waited for the digital projectors to be installed later.

The entire front of the classroom was taken up by the learning wall. This unit offers lots of storage space behind the large, sliding white
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boards.

"Teachers have a lot of new storage space," the principal pointed out, "and all the walls are tackable, they can put posters and papers anywhere."

One worker was covering a ceiling, which boasted rafters stuffed with R19 insulation. New, more efficient lighting will also conserve energy. This should help cut the district's huge utility bills.

District tech guru Jose Franco was busy tweaking the new Wi-Fi system. The elementary students will now be able to access
Worker Elian Beltran of Fontana sands drywall during the Blandford Elementary School renovation. (Eric Reed / Staff Photographer)
the Internet anywhere on campus.

"The computer connections are lightning fast now. We also bought six I-books for each fifth and sixth-grade classroom," Lovie said. "They'll use them in science and social science classes."

The Rowland administrator wants her school to join the digital world.

"I was sitting in a coffee shop with a friend discussing football and I asked him when was the last time the San Diego Chargers won a championship," she said. "He didn't know, but pulled out his cell phone and popped on the Internet to get the answer there."

PHOTO CAPTION: Worker Elian Beltran of Fontana sands drywall during the Blandford Elementary School renovation. (Eric Reed / Photographer)

Last year, sixth-grade teacher Josh Reger had his students bring in laptops from home to use in his class.

"He only had two computers from the school, so this really helped," Lovie explained. "We thought we should buy more computers for the new school year."

Of course, there will always be room for real books in the school library. And this year, the students will find a lot more room in the new library, which has doubled in size.

Blandford will welcome 700 students on first day of school. That's up from last year's enrollment of 680.

"They promised to have everything ready. If not, we'll have classes on the lawn," Lovie said with a smile.

Over at Ybarra Academy, crews were putting the finishing touches on that Walnut campus. The power had been turned off so Edison crews could switch over to the new power lines.

Workmen continued to work on the planned library.

"We took out a wall between two old classrooms, so the future library will be much larger," explained Richard Rega, superintendent of construction for the contractor.

Rega reported that work had gone well in the renovation of the academy. Like Blandford, the school had received new utilities as well as the modern classrooms.

He was especially proud of the new science lab built for the school. The shiny, new lab was also converted from two old classrooms.

"The laboratory has sinks with gas and water hookups so the students can perform experiments," Rega said. "And the teachers have a large lab table in front for demonstrations."

Project Manager Khary Knowles of Erickson-Hall Construction said the district is spending about $2 million on each school. The schools are the first to be renovated with the $118 million the school district raised through Measure R.

"We've spent $20 million of the bond so far," said Assistant Superintendent Ruben Frutos. "Next week, we're meeting with the school board to discuss more schools to be scheduled for renovation."

The head of administrative services noted the district has been getting bids about 10 percent lower than projected because of the economy.

"We want to take advantage of these lower prices," Frutos said.

And after all the dust has settled, students at Blandford and Ybarra will have "new" schools for the new year.