At the back of Cesar Chavez Ravenswood Middle School's campus are 30-year-old portables, which have been in use far longer than intended. The buildings are juxtaposed by the pristine-looking lawn of the neighboring Rich May Memorial Field.
The "stark contrast" between the field and the campus make clear how much the school needs updates, said Ravenswood City School District Chief Business Officer Will Eger. That's why last month, construction began on the $50 million project, expected to last a year and a half, which aims to bring the East Palo Alto school facilities up to modern standards, with air conditioning and flexible working spaces for students.
It is the single largest new capital project in Ravenswood's history, and calls for two new buildings at the front of the 2450 Ralmar Ave. campus. Half the school is open to its 567 students during construction, which is expected to be completed in December 2023.
The district's first two-story building will include seven classrooms and a media center that looks out onto two courtyards.
The second, a one-story building, will create a single point of entry for the school. It will include four new classrooms as well as a new cluster of student service offices for students to meet with various support staff. The plan also calls for renovating all remaining classrooms.
"It's a more cohesive, unified design," said Chris Bradley, a senior associate partner with SVA-Architects, who helped design the school.
When the middle school opened in 2017, it shared the campus with Cesar Chavez Academy. The 2019-20 school year marked the first year that the school operated as only one entity, exclusively serving sixth through eighth grade.
The project, initiated by the school board's facilities committee in 2015, is funded through the $70 million Measure S bond passed by voters in 2018.
The school district is also partnering with Palo Alto's Magical Bridge Foundation to build multi-use courts, a track and a walking path at the middle school site. The nonprofit creates and develops outdoor spaces for people of all abilities.