Construction of a new high school in Nipomo has fallen behind schedule and is likely over budget, but Lucia Mar Unified School District officials said this week that classrooms will be ready for students in time for the first bell Aug. 16.
The district drew criticism last year from some teachers for its plans for Central Coast New Tech High School because it spent money on a new program while its other schools have suffered through multiple rounds of budget cuts.
District officials haven’t yet determined how much more it will cost to open the school, but additional money will be pulled from funds that are used to renovate or build facilities districtwide.
The new school will open next month with about 130 students on the Nipomo High School campus. The separate school incorporates technology and project-based learning, similar to Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” philosophy.
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Construction is running a few weeks behind schedule, said Kevin Baker, director of the district’s facilities and maintenance department.
The delays won’t stop the school from opening on time, but it will require some fine-tuning work to be finished after classes start, such as irrigation, planting, fencing to block off mechanical areas and possibly some striping in a parking lot.
“If you’re talking about getting kids in seats, then we’re going to make that, no problem,” Baker said.He said some construction delays were in part because of additional work required by the Division of the State Architect, which oversees school construction, to make the school comply with accessibility codes.
That will likely increase the overall construction cost. So will some late plans to include a science classroom, which is estimated to cost an additional $130,000, and to upgrade some technology now instead of later, district Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said.
“With any project, there will be some bumps in the road,” he said. “It’s going to be tight to get everything done, but it’s not going to impinge on the learning that’s going to take place there.”
When the district approved plans in April 2011 for Central Coast New Tech High, some teachers urged the district board to delay its opening and instead divert money to restore programs that have been slashed during several years of budget cuts.
District officials chose to move ahead with the stipulation that general fund money should not be used to start the school.
So far, no general fund money has been spent, though when the school is up and running, the money the district receives on a per-pupil basis will follow the students who attend New Tech High to support that program.
Construction costs to start the school, including furnishings and equipment, are estimated at $2.5 million. District officials estimate it could cost another nearly $2.5 million to add more classrooms in the school’s third and fourth years.
To cover the initial $2.5 million, district officials are using developer funds and money left over from a low-interest loan for projects at Arroyo Grande High School.
The district is also using about $420,000 in facilities funds to make repairs and improvements at most of its other 17 schools during the last school year and into the upcoming year.
The Lucia Mar Foundation for Education, a nonprofit formed to support district programs, is donating about $258,000 to cover some “soft costs.” Those include paying some training costs for the school’s six teachers and fees owed to New Tech Network, the nonprofit behind the New Tech High model.
This year, students will attend classes in five buildings, including three modular units and a new prefabricated energy-efficient building from American Modular Systems called a Gen7.
And while the school year hasn’t started, incoming first-years have already been working on their first project: to come up with the school’s colors, mascot and logo, Principal Dan Neff said.
“Everyone is excited and a little apprehensive because we’re doing something new,” he said.