Construction of 85,000-square-feet of new buildings for Hillview Middle School is continuing on schedule and should be ready for students in less than a year, neighbors and parents were told at a public meeting held on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at the school.
Neighbors at the meeting seemed most concerned about the landscaping planned to help screen the views of the new two-story buildings from the surrounding homes.
The district's director of facility planning and construction, Ahmad Sheikholeslami, said he has consulted most of the immediate neighbors and checked out the views from their backyards.
He said he is juggling the wishes of immediate neighbors who want small trees that won't shade their backyards and swimming pools, and of those more distant who want taller trees to block views of the buildings. The compromise may be, he said, to put trees and shrubs that won't surpass 15 feet on the property lines and taller trees closer to the new school buildings further from the neighbors.
Right now neighbors can see partial views of the steel skeletons of the buildings. Mr. Sheikholeslami said that the contractors are finishing the framing and getting ready to put on second story decking and roofs. Rough plumbing, electrical and heating and cooling systems are being installed and soon the exterior walls will start going up.
While Hillview is expecting its student population to grow by as much as 25 percent from current levels, up to as many as 1,000 students, neighbors may actually hear less noise coming from the new campus because of its design. The new buildings cluster around a central courtyard where most student activities will take place.
The new school is being built on the former playing fields at Hillview so students can continue to attend classes in the existing buildings during construction. When the new buildings are completed next June, the current school, except for the existing gym, will be demolished. A new artificial turf field and running track will be put where the current school is and should be completed by December 2012. In the meantime students have only basketball courts to use for outdoor sports.
The current school is bursting at the seams, with 800 students expected to be enrolled by the fall of 2012. Mr. Sheikholeslami promised neighbors that construction noise should soon diminish as the exteriors of the buildings are completed and work begins on the interiors. Next summer, when demolition begins, it may again be noisy and dusty for a while, he said.
The new school will have 48 classrooms, including specialized rooms for computers, music, choir, broadcast, science, industrial technology, art and special needs.
The school will have a 400-seat performing arts building with stage and dressing rooms, new basketball courts that can double as overflow parking, a student activity room, and a lunch shelter. There will be more parking and a new pickup and drop-off area.
In addition to the photovoltaic solar system, the school will have energy-efficient lighting that turns on and off automatically and a charging station for electric vehicles that will be available to the public. Windows will all open and sun shades will block sunlight and views into neighbors' back yards. Roofs will be light colored to reflect heat and rainwater will be collected to use in the school garden.
The school's design has already received recognition. The architects of the project, Deems Lewis McKinley Architecture, were given a Design Award of Excellence from the Society of American Registered Architects, California Council. The Collaborative for High Performance Schools (CHPS) program has also verified the school meets its design and energy-efficiency standards.
The athletic field will be shared with the city of Menlo Park. Tinker Park, the existing small park for young children, will also remain off Santa Cruz Avenue as will the large oak near the park.
Barbara Wood is a freelance writer, photographer and gardener who lives in an old farmhouse in Woodside.
Go to tinyurl.com/webcam-195 to see how construction is proceeding via an online webcam.