Demolition of the Atascadero Junior High School office building could start as early as Tuesday, clearing the way for construction of anew, twostory building that will house classrooms and offices.
Bring on the wrecking ball, we say.
We support the Atascadero school board’s decision to keep the junior high downtown, using a combination of new and renovated buildings.
We believe the design — the new building will have two stories in red brick — will nicely complement the beautiful Rotunda building across the street without breaking the bank.
However, some Atascadero residents would prefer that a new school be built on district-owned land at San Benito Road. They’ve also criticized the design of the new school as too plain and boxy. And they’ve insinuated that the decision was somehow foisted upon the community with little notice. With all due respect, it’s time to stop ruminating and move on.
The decision to keep the junior high downtown was made nearly three years ago, following some vigorous and healthy debate. (Tribune headline from June 18, 2011: “High marks for moving junior high.”)
At the time, there was considerable support for moving the junior high, especially from city officials and business leaders who believed the continued presence of the school would interfere with long-term plans to improve the downtown commercial zone.
However, future development of the downtown is not the primary concern of the school board. It has an obligation to its students and their families, as well as to taxpayers who are funding the construction through voter-approved bonds.
For the school board, finances have been a big part of the equation: It would have cost nearly $50 million (a 2012 estimate) to build a school from scratch at a new location, while the mix of new and old construction costs $31 million.
We see other advantages to keeping the school downtown, as well.
It’s a convenient location for students, who can walk to after-school programs at the nearby community center. It generates business for downtown shops and restaurants. And it’s in keeping with the city’s history: A school has been located in the area since 1917.
As for complaints that the design of the new school building is not a good fit for the downtown, we disagree. The Italian neoclassical design blends with the Rotunda and Printer y buildings. In fact, it bears a striking resemblance to the Printery, but the new building will include up-to-date features such as Wi-Fi, LED lighting and energy-efficient heating and air conditioning, and it will accommodate solar panels.
It may not have a tiled roof or a dome, but who can afford that in this day and age?
Bottom line: We share the desire to improve Atascadero’s downtown core.
But we believe there’s room to accommodate essential services for local residents — including a park, a City Hall and, yes, anew school — along with the additional shops and restaurants that will attract more tourists to town.
It’s time to get junior high students out of the deteriorated buildings they’ve been occupying for too many years; voters made that clear when they approved two school bond measures, one in 2010 and another in 2014.
It’s time for the wrecking — and the rebuilding — to begin.