Oak Ridge High in Sacramento to Expand

Nov. 8--Extensive plans to expand and modernize Oak Ridge High School, at a cost of $15 million, were unveiled last week during a community meeting on the El Dorado Hills campus.

The construction projects, scheduled to begin next summer, include building 16 permanent classrooms, adding a multipurpose building and modernizing a dozen 25-year-old buildings.

During the Oct. 30 meeting, El Dorado Union High School District staff said the school's rising enrollment, projected to reach 2,561 students over the next 10 years, is a driving force behind the expansion. Oak Ridge's student population now -- 2,182 -- is the highest it has ever been.

District staff also discussed plans to mitigate potential exposure to naturally occurring asbestos on the school site during construction.

Patty McClellan, district facilities director, said the district is working with the state Department of Toxic Substances Control on an asbestos removal action plan expected to be available for public review in January.

Construction is planned to start in June, with completion of the classroom buildings expected by August 2009 and the multipurpose building by January 2010. Costs for the expansion are estimated at $7 million, with half of the funding coming from the State School Facilities Program made available by passage last November of Proposition 1D.

The program requires school districts to contribute a local funding match for the project. El Dorado Union's contribution will be provided by local Mello Roos special tax collections. Created in 1982, the program provides communities an alternative to property taxes for financing improvements and services.

The modernization construction cost estimate is $8 million. Permanent school buildings become eligible for state modernization funding after 25 years, portable classroom buildings after 20 years. Oak Ridge has more than 97,000 square feet of permanent building space that will become eligible for 60 percent state funding in January. The remaining 40 percent will be funded by Mello Roos special taxes.

McClellan and project architect Mitchell McAllister, president of California Design West Architects Inc., emphasized that much of the construction will be done during summer months when students aren't on campus.

"Most of the noisy, disruptive work is in the summer," McAllister said, including all the earthwork, hardscape and foundation work for the expansion project. Modernization will be done only during summer months.

McClellan said plans for the expansion and modernization have been in the works for two years. "We kept hearing 'We need more room,' " she said of comments from Oak Ridge faculty and staff.

The crunch for space has been especially hard on the school's science department, she said. A new two-story classroom wing will house four science labs, four computer labs and an additional seven classrooms.

Space is also at a premium for music and drama programs. The performing arts building will be expanded to include a choir classroom.

Oak Ridge principal Steve Wehr said the new multipurpose building should live up to its name. The school gymnasium has been used for a multitude of events, from athletics to academic testing, he said. "I anticipate the (multipurpose) room won't be idle."

McAllister said the expansion and modernization also will reflect Oak Ridge's reputation as an energy efficient school.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Sacramento Bee, Calif. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.