As students played handball and raced across the playground at Fairgrove Elementary School on Friday afternoon, Principal Lara Storm paused to point out the blacktop’s smooth surface.
In her 10 years as a teacher and principal at the Grover Beach school, Storm only recalls a few major maintenance projects, the largest being an upgrade of a set of student bathrooms several years back.
Last year, the playground was repaved.
But Fairgrove Elementary, like many of the Lucia Mar Unified School District’s schools, is more than 50 years old and showing its age.
A walk around campus reveals peeling paint, rough asphalt, numerous portable classrooms, not enough parking and only one set of staff restrooms.
“Many of our schools were built in the late 1950s and early 1960s and are in desperate need of repair and improvements to support the education required in the 21st century,” said Jeff Dixon, executive director of the district’s facilities planning, maintenance and operations.
Students should be able to access Wi-Fi, for example. They should have different types of learning spaces, such as media labs, science labs, or space for “project-based learning,” where they can easily collaborate in groups.
And since the schools are older, some badly need electrical and plumbing upgrades and repairs, Dixon said in an email.
District administrators are working to address the problems, though the process will take years. But they’re nearing the conclusion of the first step: Creating a master plan that will identify all of the needs at each school, prioritize projects and identify funding sources.
“A master plan is typically a 10-year look,” Dixon said. “But our needs are so great, we’re looking at can we get this done in 20 years.”
Cost estimates were not yet available, though Dixon believes the improvements will cost millions of dollars.
The school district’s board of trustees will likely consider the facilities master plan in June.
In the meantime, district staff may hire a polling consultant to survey the community to see if voters would be willing to support a bond measure to pay for improvements.
Back at Fairgrove Elementary, library tech Linda Benson said she had to put some books in storage because there’s not enough shelf space.
“My clientele is not very tall, so I can’t keep going up,” she said.
Next door, the media lab was warm, chock full of students and computers. Storm, the principal, said she’d like to be able to add more technology to individual classrooms.
Storm also pointed out the staff workroom, where only three to four of the school’s 24 teachers can fit at a time, and often a line forms for the photocopier. A lack of storage space has prompted some teachers to store materials in sheds on campus.
And raccoons and other animals have been known to make their homes underneath some of the portable classrooms (which are also prone to leaks when it rains).
Despite the challenges, Dixon is looking forward to completing the long-range plan.
“There are too many portables, and a lot of the buildings are old,” Dixon said, “but for someone in school facilities it’s kind of exciting because there is tremendous opportunity.”
Two town halls will be held next week for the public to give input on the Lucia Mar district’s plan for improvements to its 18 schools and other district facilities.
- Wednesday: 6 to 8 p.m. at Arroyo Grande High, 495 Valley Road.
For information, call Lucia Mar facilities and maintenance staff at 474-3000, ext. 1032.