New classrooms ready for Las Lomitas district students | August 22, 2018 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

Almanac

Cover Story - August 22, 2018

New classrooms ready for Las Lomitas district students

by Barbara Wood

The curious student just couldn't wait to see the brand-new building he'd be using at Menlo Park's La Entrada School when classes start on Aug. 30.

So on a recent sunny day in early August, Jack parked his bike and peeked inside, as workmen added the finishing touches to the new two-story, 21-classroom building. They mounted new 75-inch touch screen monitors in each classroom, moved boxes of teachers' classroom books and supplies into place and made sure the sliding doors between classrooms were working.

Outside, workers were adding final touches to the entry courtyard, blacktop play area and new landscaping and getting ready to install a new covered outdoor lunch area. Yet to start was renovation of the school's playing fields.

"It's pretty cool here," said Jack, who will be in fifth grade. "It's a lot better than the portables, or the portable shoe boxes as I call them," he said.

After years of planning and more than a year of construction disruptions, some students and staff in the Las Lomitas Elementary School District will be able to move out of portables and into new classrooms by the time the district's two schools open next week.

The biggest project of the current phase of construction — the new two-story building at fourth- to eighth-grade La Entrada — will be unveiled to the public on Tuesday, Aug. 28, at 4 p.m. with a ribbon-cutting and tours of the new building at 2200 Sharon Road in Menlo Park.

At Las Lomitas, the district's kindergarten through third-grade school, the construction is not as close to completion. The school, located at 299 Alameda de las Pulgas in Atherton, will have five new kindergarten classrooms ready before school starts, with an additional two-story, six-classroom building due to be completed by December. A smaller building with two classrooms plus a flexible-use space is slated for completion in May.

With more construction planned, the district isn't quite ready to remove all the portables.

At Las Lomitas, a new administration building, interior courtyard and lunch areas are also planned, as well as parking lot improvements.

At La Entrada, existing classrooms will be renovated.

The projects are paid for with proceeds from two voter-approved bonds, a $60 million bond passed in 2013 and a $70 million bond approved in June.

Eric Holm, the district's director of bond projects, said the buildings were designed with the help of committees that included teachers and staff.

Most of the classrooms in the new La Entrada building are built in pairs, with folding walls made of erasable white boards dividing them. Each classroom pair also shares what Holm called a "collaboration pod," a truncated, soundproof triangular room where teachers can work with small groups or one-on-one, and students can pursue special projects.

The classrooms also have two sets of glass entry doors that open up to the central atrium of the new building, plus doors to the outside so teachers can spread out or move classwork outdoors.

The stairs to the second story also function as seating for students in larger group gatherings.

Each classroom has rows of pegs for backpacks, and the hallways boast drinking fountains with water bottle fillers.

"It's really satisfying when the teachers come in and are excited," Holm said.

Enrollment

On Aug. 13, the Las Lomitas district had 117 kindergarten students registered to start school on Aug. 30, up from last school year's 102 students.

As a whole, the district had 1,246 students registered, down from 1,331 students at the end of the 2017-18 school year.

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