ATASCADERO — While it is still unclear when exactly students will be able to return to campus at Atascadero High School, one thing that is for certain is they will have some brand new state of the art facilities to occupy when they do.
Over the past few years, and indeed while the campus has sat mostly empty with students forced into distance learning in 2020, AUSD has been working to modernize and renovate the campus and has also built the first piece of new construction in over 20 years.
A few weeks ago, the Atascadero News took a tour of the new AHS facilities to get a closer look at what new and exciting possibilities are on the horizon.
AUSD began construction on the first piece of new construction in April of 2018 and has now turned the former parking lot into a new science department with 42 student lab stations. The facility was completed in 2019 and was occupied for a short time in January of 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new science buildings provide enough space in the eight classrooms to allow students to have both a desk and a lab station to offer more hands-on learning.
“In lab science classes, the ability to be at your desk and then move over to your lab station instead of having to clear your desk every time, it just makes the instruction so effective,” AHS Principal Dan Andrus said. “Next-generation science standards really focus on hands-on project-based lab learning. What we are seeing in science instruction is an increase in the amount of time students spend doing labs and analyzing those labs. That is why this set up facilitates that type of instruction. We are no longer just sitting in science and listening. We are moving from learning stations to lab stations; it’s a big deal to increase the space if at the same time we ask our science teachers to increase the amount of hands-on practical learning students are doing.”
The new science buildings also come with shed style roofing, allowing the rooms to be filled with natural light.
Included in the science facilities are a new welding and woodworking shop that comes with 22 cutting edge welding booths for AHS students. With the latest equipment, AUSD is now working with Cuesta college on dual enrollment courses to help those students interested in making a career in trades.
“Facilities are an important part of that,” Andrus said. “Community Colleges don’t want to partner with you in these types of classes until you have modernized equipment and facilities that are industry standard, industry-ready. Part of the problem some schools have is they try to articulate what the colleges are doing, but their facilities just aren’t up to snuff. This gives us a new level of ability to work with Cuesta and prepare our kids.”
AHS not only invested in the sciences but also in the arts as the new Black Box Theater and music and chorus rooms are also complete and waiting to be filled with future entertainers and performers.
The construction of the music rooms and theater was divided into two phases. Phase one focused on just the music and chorus rooms and began in April of 2020 and was completed that September. Phase two, which included the new Black Box theater, green room, staging area, dressing rooms, and a closed-circuit tv monitor for actors and actresses to get their cues, began in June of 2019.
The theater also has a seating area built to accommodate around 100 spectators for any production put on by the drama, choral, and music departments.
Phase two of construction was delayed due to the old welding shop occupants needing to wait until the new science building and shops were finished. Construction on the Black Box Theater was substantially complete in December of 2020.
In addition to the large scale projects, AHS has also renovated some of its older facilities and brought them into the 21st century. The girl’s locker room received a much-needed upgrade, and six new tennis courts are expected to be completed in March of 2021 with weather permitting. The new tennis courts are being built adjacent to the game field, where the old bus barn used to sit.
With a brand new science facility now in the heart of the campus, AHS has begun renovating the old science department, which houses some of the oldest classrooms at the high school site. A couple of classrooms have been transformed into a new fitness center and spin room, complete with treadmills, exercise bikes, and plenty of floor space to work up a sweat.
The former C-building will also house a new, more extensive training room and a ticket taking window for high school sporting events.
While AHS already looks much different than it had only a few years ago, more changes are coming in the near future. According to AUSD Superintendent Tom Butler, the giant cinderblock that is the historic B-Building is supposed to come down this summer.
It seems for the last 20 years that there have been rumors that the B-Building was coming down, but it appears it will finally happen in 2021. In its place, AHS plans to create an open green space for students and turn that area into the featured entrance into the school.
These projects were paid using funds derived primarily through the Measure I-10 and B-14 school bond ballot initiatives and were augmented with developer fees.
For more information, head to Atasusd.org and click on the “Facility Bond” under the “District Services” drop-down menu.