Renovations to the media center and the Del Mar Heights Rd. front entrance, funded by the $75 million TPHS portion of the $449 million Proposition AA bond, will begin the week of June 12.
According to Principal David Jaffe, the stairs at the front entrance will be widened, allowing easier student access and creating a more modern, courtyard-like appearance. Plants on either end of the entrance will be pushed aside, widening the landscape in order to accommodate students with disabilities and promote more student interaction outside of classrooms.
The front entrance of the school will be completely blocked off starting the summer of 2016, and neither of the two front parking lots will be available for parking throughout the 2016-17 school year. However, Jaffe has been working with district architects to redesign the west front parking lot as a roundabout for student drop off. Since both staff and student parking will only be in the back lot, student parking will be pushed back “at least a one or two rows” to accommodate more staff parking, according to Jaffe.
Since the front entrance of the school will be closed off for the entire 2016-17 school year, Jaffe foresees possible issues and acknowledges certain adjustments that will need to be made.
“The drop-off and the like have to be worked out, and it’ll definitely be a huge change for both staff members and students,” Jaffe said. “But I’ve been incredibly impressed with the architects we’ve been working with. Are there problems that could come up? Sure. But, assuming that things go as planned, everything will work out.”
Sabrina Habchi (11), who regularly parks in the student back lot, believes that there must be a way to create more staff parking other than condensing current senior parking.
“I think that the fact that the school wants to improve our infrastructure is great, but I also think it’s unfair that our senior class is the only class that is not going to have their own parking lot,” Habchi said. “It’s just not okay that our class should have to take on the burden, especially since it is our last year.”
Changes to the senior lot will lead to a smaller student parking area, so all students who drive to school “will have to work together to make accommodations,” Jaffe said.
Renovations to the media center will include a complete redesign of administration offices on the lower level and the creation of project rooms and facilities for student collaboration. The current computer lab will be replaced with a technology space, not hard-wired, but meant as an area for students to use school Chromebook laptops or personal devices.
“The renovations will make the media center much more conducive to student meeting and student interaction,” Jaffe said. “It’ll be like some of the new libraries that have been built. It’ll be completely accessible to media and will certainly be better than what we have.”
All carpeted floors on the upper level of the media center will be replaced with polished concrete, and currently blocked off classrooms will serve as science classrooms starting the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, though the rooms are currently open to staff members.
According to science teacher Brian Bodas, each new science classroom will have six sinks, with one compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as six gas jets and fume hoods for improved ventilation. The rooms will all be connected by a common storage room and the science computer lab will be expanded into a 40-seat lab.
“Overall, the new rooms are going to give us a lot more flexibility, and we’re going to have better lab facilities,” Bodas said. “The biggest concern with labs is ensuring safe flow, which means that students will have an easy time maneuvering around the room with lab equipment. From a teaching perspective, I think it’s going to allow us to operate a lot more safely, and we’ll hopefully phase in new classes in the coming years that’ll utilize these facilities.”
Science teacher Mary Ann Rall also said that the new science classrooms will be conducive to student collaboration and a variety of labs.
“We’re really excited to have larger classrooms with new equipment, and it will be much more on lines with the professional science laboratory and the college laboratory classroom,” Rall said. “We’re excited about the back common store room, which will encourage much more teacher interaction and collegiality.”
Additionally, the portable classrooms currently behind the new chemistry building will be removed in mid-June and the area will be expanded into a softball field.
The last phases of the proposition AA renovations will be made between the summer of 2017 and January 2018. During the summer of 2017, a new 350-seat theater will be built adjacent to the current Black Box Theater. Jaffe hopes that area surrounding the new theater and the Black Box Theater, along with the band room, dance room and art rooms, will become courtyard for student meeting. Starting June 2018, the autoshop and woodshop classrooms will be redone and either a field house or a smaller gym will be created next to the current gym.
Salman Sadakkadulla (11) has been following the Proposition AA updates since his freshman year.
“I was at first reserved about Prop AA concerning where money would be allocated, but the progress makes me feel that the school is going in the right direction,” Sadakkadulla said. “I’m looking forward to technology improvements that allow students to connect quicker.”
Jaffe is unsure how much of the $75 million allocation has already been used, but said that all of it will likely be used by the end of renovations.