Tour highlights flaws in Portola Valley school facilities | January 31, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |


Schools - January 31, 2018

Tour highlights flaws in Portola Valley school facilities

by Barbara Wood

As the board of the Portola Valley School District ponders whether to put a bond measure on the ballot in November, district leaders have begun showing the community some of the reasons they say the district needs to invest in upgrading and modernizing its campuses.

On Jan. 18, the school board and district officials joined about a dozen others on a tour of the district's two campuses — the transitional kindergarten through third-grade Ormondale and fourth- through eighth-grade Corte Madera.


At Ormondale the school's multipurpose room, used as a gym, indoor lunchroom and performance space, is suffering from deferred maintenance. "It is an aging facility," said Ormondale Principal Lynette Hovland.

In addition to a leaking roof, bubbling areas on the floor, door hardware that's not working and cracked plexiglass windows, the room's tables can't be used because the mechanism used to unlock them so they can be taken out and then put away no longer functions.

Many of Ormondale's buildings are structurally sound, said architect Brent McClure from Cody Anderson Wasney Architects (known as CAW), the consultants the district has hired to help evaluate its facilities. But most windows are single-glazed, the heating and ventilation systems are "reaching the end of their service life" and much of the school's lighting needs to be upgraded, he said.

"There are things quite literally falling apart on this campus," school board member Jeff Klugman said.

A report distributed at the meeting says the school has drainage and other flooding problems, including an interior downspout that has flooded a workroom and tree roots growing into drains. Some windows no longer open and the outdoor passages children use become slippery when wet.

A major problem at the school is the second- and third-grade wing, made up of what the architect calls "permanent portables" installed in 1976. At least two classrooms may have mold. The report says the rooms' roofs are also settling. "When the custodian goes up there to fix something, he feels them shifting," it says.

In addition to pressing needs, the district has also compiled a list of "like to haves," including a kitchen space in the multipurpose room big enough for an entire classroom of students, a much larger STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab, more storage, and a larger music classroom. Outdoors, the school would like a better location for its school garden, an outdoor gathering space for the whole school, and an amphitheater.

The school's buildings were built between 1961 and 2000.

Corte Madera

At Corte Madera School, Principal Cyndi Maijala said, facilities recently had to undergo emergency repairs when mold was found in the walls of several classrooms and student bathrooms.

The culprit, she said, was the aged heating and air conditioning systems and drainage problems.

"It looks like this beautiful, idyllic place," Ms. Maijala said of the school, but when they looked under the surface they found lots of damage.

Among the problems are restrooms that need renovating, including a staff restroom that doesn't always have hot water; lack of security cameras; no blinds for some classroom windows (one is covered with paper; another with bulletin boards); a malfunctioning alarm system; poor exterior lighting; and malfunctioning equipment and lack of supplies for the science room.

There are many drainage problems, almost the entire school needs repainting, and the school's marquee falls over at times.

Corte Madera's multi-use room, which serves as a gym, an auditorium and a performance space, does not have regulation-sized basketball courts.

The building, Ms. Maijala said, "is neither fish nor fowl" in its current condition. "It would be great to have a space that could honor the creativity and talent of our students," she said.

One proposal is to replace the building called the Annex, which is not up to modern code so cannot be used by students, with a performing arts/gathering space.

"The dream would be, the community would come here and use that space," she said.

The district's list of "like to have's" for the school includes better drainage for the soccer field, a better STEM/maker space room, better lighting and access to the outdoors, improved play surfaces and student circulation, a refurbished amphitheater, a regulation-sized gym, replacements for some of the older classrooms and a bigger art room.

The Corte Madera buildings were built between 1958 and 2000.


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