The Morro Bay High School campus has housed thousands of people throughout its lifetime. The rugged and neglected quad gave it a sense of home. And like all homes with growing families, the MBHS campus grew. With construction officially starting in 2016, many students weren’t directly affected by the change. They started renovation on the auto shop, track, and a complete reimagining of the J-wing. As these renovations have gone on, construction is absorbing more classes. Barring students off from certain parts of the campus. During quarantine the school has changed a lot, the workers were able to complete more of their job without a bunch of children running around. After coming back to a campus still under construction, students have had a mixed response. Construction has affected students, teachers, and changed what it means to be an MBHS student
Schools are often thought of as containing three main components: students, classrooms, and teachers. As construction powers on, the classroom and teachers are playing Tetris with each other trying to fit perfectly into their temporary spots. In the past, teachers have made classrooms look comforting with posters and positive quotes on the walls. Now, teachers are delicately balancing trying to build a welcoming environment while constantly being ready to pack their bags in the event they are moved to the new classrooms. Many teachers have moved more than once. For example, Mrs. Brinkman has had to move from the 200 hall to the library, and now the band hall in the past two years alone.
Additionally, The main senior English classes have been placed on opposite sides of the campus, having no centralized English area at this school. Mr. Mammarella is teaching in the J-wing while Ms. Domenic teaches on the other side of the school in the middle of the science hall.
During construction, student drivers are continuously showing up late to class due to restrictions in parking and access to the school. While the passing periods have extended to accommodate travel time, many teachers and students are confused about the new bell schedule. halls from the 400-500 classrooms and parts of the quad have been fenced off making open halls filled with more foot traffic.
Students and teachers alike are sacrificing their classrooms in order to make room for a renovated school. For example, the classes residing in the 100 and 200 halls and the former main office, had to be relocated into new classrooms for about two years. Now that renovations are finished, these classes have to hear jackhammers and gardening equipment while trying to pay attention. And with the mask mandate, those classrooms are encouraged to keep their doors open. Conversely, all the classrooms have a wonderful view of the quad.
The main attraction for many students is going to be the finished renovations of the quad, with no tall potting structures or an awkwardly placed concrete wall that leaves the area with a more open and welcoming aesthetic. With renovation expanding through the center of the school, students were barred off from the most popular part of the campus leading to trouble with foot traffic, more people who walk past are absorbed into the largest group of kids hanging out between the barred off the quad and the open basketball courts. Leaving campus or dispersing into small groups from the parking lots to the newly renovated J-wing are the most popular places for students to get away from the construction on break.
The quad is a perfect example of how students were able to adapt to the construction. Quarantine had really diminished the nature of the quad leaving many popular spots like the library and the cafeteria barren. When schools first started to open up there were only about 3 hours that students were attending school, which left little time for congregation. After summer, MBHS has seen some major changes, the most popular being the renovated quad and 100/200 halls. On the other hand, some areas are lined with fences protecting the grass.
Students had voiced their opinion on the issue and talked about their positives and negatives throughout the construction. Renovated places around campus are used as new hangout spots such as, the J-wing with its courtyard which students like to relax on, the lawn to the newly remodeled main office, and the back part of the quad where the kitchen resides.
The J-wing is also a new popular place where many students can be found playing and enjoying their free time in this new free space. The J-wing has attracted many students and is very well-liked among all groups.
Previously the main office was in front of the 100 hall and was smaller in size and blended in with some other classrooms. The new main office is well-liked among all residents of the high school. The staff that work there enjoy the new environment with added space, open windows, and high ceilings that bring in natural lighting. It is also a larger size for each department is greatly appreciated. Even the students enjoy relaxing on the lawn outside.
The future of the construction at MBHS is being run by Mr. Ungar is the Assistant Superintendent of Business Services. Clarifying questions on more specific details of the construction are as follows.
Q: What is the schedule for the construction, and when do you see it being finished?
A: Ryan Pinkerton, the Assistant Superintendent of Business services will answer this, but I understand that we are looking for MBHS to be complete in no longer than 2 years.
Q: What are some of the ways the community itself has contributed to this project?
A: First, the community voted for Measure D which authorized the District to sell $170,000,00 in bonds that are repaid over time by property taxpayers. Next, we had meetings where the plans were presented and the public had input on them. Of course, the pool was of huge interest to the community, and we worked with the City of Morro Bay to provide swim times for the public when school is not in session and when students are not using it. We also listened to our business community to get ideas about how our schools and their infrastructure (buildings) can support the learning needs of students. Finally, we have a Citizens Bond Review Committee which looks over the budget of the project and assures that the promises we made to the taxpayers are being fulfilled (For example, the bond money can only be spent on the projects related to it).
Q: What does the budget look like, over? Under?
A: Mr. Pinkerton can give you a more precise answer, but we are slightly over budget. However, we expect that all projects will be completed and that the current gap will be closed. One thing to know is that in addition to the Measure D bond funds, the District has applied for career technical education grants which we have received. This has been several million dollars and has allowed us to do more for the campuses (Mr. Pinkerton could give you specific).
Q: Have you personally received any praise or complaints on this topic? If so please clarify.
A: I can’t recollect any complaints other than the construction has been inconvenient. Mostly what I hear are compliments about the school redo. For example, the new quad is such an improvement over the old tired one, the auto shop is top-notch as are the classrooms in the J-wing. I have been to the new administration building several times, and I’m really impressed. The new classrooms need some finishing touches, but what an improvement! My son graduated from MBHS in 2006 and the classrooms were old then.
Q: What steps has the board taken to ensure the efficiency of the project and the protection of the students?
A: The Board has final responsibility for the project, and to assure timely completion we have hired a representative to provide close oversight, and this is one reason we are very close to our budget and will complete all projects. We have used several construction management methods which are too complicated to explain here (but perhaps Mr. Pinkerton can do so), and these have assured a minimum of expensive change orders. For student protection, we have all plans approved by the state (there are very strict school construction regulations related to earthquake safety “The Field Act); there is an independent inspector on the grounds; our administration has taken an active role in the construction project. Student safety is paramount, and the Board expects that this will be a priority.
Q: If you or any other board member has visited Morro bay High school currently, please explain what you thought of the renovations.
A: I visit the campus regularly, and I was there on the first day of school. I am stoked by the changes I’m seeing! I am very excited about the new quad, the plans for the student center with food services, the new administration building, the new band room, the J-wing, and what will be the performing arts center. We want the work we do today to last for 50 years, and I think that’s what will happen.