Anova Architects President Charles Downs and Senior Project Architect Michael Rath were on hand last Thursday at a Mammoth Unified School District (MUSD) special Board meeting to discuss a new MUSD facilities master plan.
“Right now we’re taking the 20,000 foot-view,” Downs explained to an audience of principals, teachers and parents; “but at some point we have to show the carpenter where we want him to pound the nail in.”
The 20,000 foot-view includes the ‘modernization’ of the High School, Middle School and Elementary School. Some factors in the “visioning”: the surrounding community, demographics, number of students, number of families, how students are dropped off and picked up, elevation, wind, sun, and snow storage.
Some proposed upgrades to the facilities: For the High School, built in 1974, new administrative offices and an expanded library, a new and reconfigured parking lot, relocated portable classrooms, 2 new corridors, a courtyard and a new fieldhouse.
For the Middle School, built in 2001, 2 new classrooms and an expanded and reconfigured kitchen.
For the Elementary School, built in 1984, 8 new classrooms, a new library and cafeteria, expanded and reconfigured kitchen, and relocated portable classroom for the Husky Club.
Rath added that the new plan also focused on increased security at the entry to all 3 schools, as well as the overall organization of the campuses, facilitating technology, and bringing in as much natural light as possible to the buildings.
The most controversial element of the draft was the fieldhouse, which would sit adjacent to the current football field, and would serve all 3 campuses. Rath described the fieldhouse as a “flexible, almost warehouse space used for soccer, basketball, maybe even baseball in winter, and P.E. during the day.”
But MMS School Secretary Becky Davis objected to the plan: “No way should we do something that extravagant at this time,” she said. “Not when there are people in this town losing their homes. It’s insensitive.”
Rath pointed out that “We’re looking out 10-15 years on this. The fieldhouse won’t get built today, but now is the time to plan.”
Community Development Director and parent Mark Wardlaw also stepped up in defense of the fieldhouse: “I think students deserve more than they’re getting,” he said. “Not all students are 4.0 scholars. Right now students who want to play tennis or soccer, forget about it. This is an opportunity; this is practical and meaningful to our children and to the community.” Others who argued in favor of the fieldhouse pointed out that the school could partner with the community, allowing Mammoth residents to access the field house facilities when not in use by the school.
In the end, talk came down to funding. “Is California funding really available?” asked one attendee. “It’s probably about drained,” admitted Downs. “But there is student grant money, and modernization money. All of that will be stirred in with what the community is realistically able to do, and that’s what we’ll serve up.”
What’s the ballpark figure for the renovations and modernizations within MUSD? Said Downs, “We’re looking at somewhere around $35 million.”
The fieldhouse part would cost “between $5 and 10 million,” said Rath, “depending on the size.”
The next step is getting specific, said Downs. “The participation and collaboration isn’t going to stop,” he said. “It’s only going to get more intense as we move forward.” MHS Principal Gabe Solario had expressed disappointment that the Anova team got only a “little bit” of input from 5 or 6 out of 25 school staff at an earlier meeting. “But excitement and participation will grow as the project grows,” said Downs.
MUSD Superintendent Rich Boccia is strongly behind the plan. “I’m pretty comfortable with the progress at this time,” he said.