Construction ends after 12 years

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Justine Chang  and Brandon Chin

Staff Writers

Standing at almost 15-feet tall and encompassing the entire back parking lot, Cal High’s solar panel carports have become the final piece of the 12-year construction puzzle at Cal High.

The San Ramon Valley Unified School District received $24.8 million to construct solar panels at six different schools this summer. Funding came from a federal Qualified School Construction Bond (QSCB), a branch of the U.S. Department of Education, which the district will pay back over the next 14  years, according to Principal Mark Corti.

“The project was completely funded by QSCB to stimulate the economy,” said Corti.

The district predicts $49 million in energy costs savings in 25 years, allowing the district to profit more than $22 million after repaying the bond.

The district hired manufacturer SunPower to construct solar panels that cover the parking lots at Cal, San Ramon Valley, Monte Vista and Dougherty Valley high schools, Diablo Vista Middle School, and the district offices in Danville.

The solar panels are expected to generate two-thirds of the electricity needed to run the six schools, cutting 68 percent of the energy currently used, according to district figures.

From breaking ground on the World Language building in 1999 through the demolition of the center pod of classrooms to the opening of the new theater,

Event Center and renovated gym last school year, construction workers have been a consistent presence on campus for most of the past dozen school years.

Once the construction workers leave this month, when the solar panel project is expected to be completed, the 12-year construction project will officially come to an end. During this time, there have been several disturbances created by workers hitting a water line or causing a power failure. Noise pollution was also an annoyance.

“It was like having a T-Rex outside,” said biology teacher Julie Bitnoff. “Power outages would also interfere a lot with teaching.”

Students also felt that construction was sometimes a nuisance.

Junior Kirra Thornton said she had trouble getting to her classes because of the obstructions caused by construction.

But to many, the hassle was worth it.

Ceramics teacher Kathy Tussy believes the new new campus design has helped unify the different departments.

Students also believe  the campus has improved for the better.

“The theatre is awesome,” said Kirra.

The new parking lot is also well received.

“Now my car is shaded with all the solar panels,” said senior Jason Randall. “It is my favorite improvement.”

Many students believe the solar panels are a great contribution as well.

“I think having the solar panels is an amazing idea,” said senior Saundarya Mehra.  “Not only are they environmentally friendly, they also make great shade for the parking lots.”

The last construction piece involving the solar panels also affected academics in classes such as environmental science, economics and physics classes.

“With physics, it could be a hands-on experience with how they function and how they are made,” said history teacher Scott Hodges.

SunPower also developed a solar energy curriculum for the Engineering Academy, which was incorporated into teachings this year.

All of the buildings on campus are new, with the exception of the front part of the gym and the science building. Tussy’s favorite part of the construction process is the end product.

“It gives both students and staff more comfortable surroundings,” Tussy said.

Event Center and renovated gym last school year, construction workers have been a consistent presence on campus for most of the past dozen school years.

Once the construction workers leave this month, when the solar panel project is expected to be completed, the 12-year construction project will officially come to an end. During this time, there have been several disturbances created by workers hitting a water line or causing a power failure. Noise pollution was also an annoyance.

“It was like having a T-Rex outside,” said biology teacher Julie Bitnoff. “Power outages would also interfere a lot with teaching.”

Students also felt that construction was sometimes a nuisance.

Junior Kirra Thornton said she had trouble getting to her classes because of the obstructions caused by construction.

But to many, the hassle was worth it.

Ceramics teacher Kathy Tussy believes the new new campus design has helped unify the different departments.

Students also believe  the campus has improved for the better.

“The theatre is awesome,” said Kirra.

The new parking lot is also well received.

“Now my car is shaded with all the solar panels,” said senior Jason Randall. “It is my favorite improvement.”

Many students believe the solar panels are a great contribution as well.

“I think having the solar panels is an amazing idea,” said senior Saundarya Mehra.  “Not only are they environmentally friendly, they also make great shade for the parking lots.”

The last construction piece involving the solar panels also affected academics in classes such as environmental science, economics and physics classes.

“With physics, it could be a hands-on experience with how they function and how they are made,” said history teacher Scott Hodges.

SunPower also developed a solar energy curriculum for the Engineering Academy, which was incorporated into teachings this year.

All of the buildings on campus are new, with the exception of the front part of the gym and the science building. Tussy’s favorite part of the construction process is the end product.

“It gives both students and staff more comfortable surroundings,” Tussy said.