Commons, science get facelift

Renovation project begins this summer

Ingrid Lam and Brittany Jimena

The outdated school commons and science building  will be renovated this summer, finally modernizing some of the oldest buildings on campus.

The renovation project, funded by Measure D, will include the modernization of the two-story science building and the school’s kitchen and commons area.

These are the only facilities on campus that have not been received a major renovation since Cal opened in 1973.

“The science buildings are seriously run down. They’re long due for a renovation,” said junior Rhianne Kweillen. “The floor of my chemistry classroom is yellow and the desks creak all the time. The lab stations are disgusting too.”

In the last 15 years, Cal has gone through major renovations including construction of the following: the two-floor world language building in 2004; the three-floor main building and library in 2006; the counseling building in 2007; the fine arts building in 2008; the Event Center and Theater in 2010.

The  school’s 12 year  renovation project was completed with the installation of solar panels in the back parking lot in the summer of 2011.

The modernization of Cal’s kitchen and commons area may include new food court type stations in the commons, faster and more efficient service lines, and a renovation of the kitchen to make it more efficient and up-to-date, according to

The renovation of the commons is being designed by SVA Architects and is estimated to cost around $2.15 million. Construction is tentatively expected to finish in the fall of 2018.

Cal athletic director Arley Hill, who also oversees school facilities, said Cal’s commons will be renovated to increase the capacity of students it can accommodate.

This comes as a welcome change for many Cal students, who find the commons to be crowded and cramped.

“I think [the renovation] is definitely necessary,” said freshman Heather Huang. “My friends and I are always sitting on the ground because there’s nowhere else to sit, and it’d be really nice to have some place besides the ground to sit for lunch.”

Students will still be able to use the commons and the science building during renovations.

The science building renovations will include improvements to the classrooms, technology, storage, and equipment. In addition, there will be renovation of teacher prep rooms for more efficient use of space for storage, lab preparation, and collaboration.

“I know personally that my chemistry classroom is really old,” said sophomore Kylie Arnold. “Blackboards are still being used there, and the lab stations are really dirty, even though we clean them off every time we use them.”

Hill said second floor classrooms where the chemistry department is located will have the size of their sinks increased. Projectors will be attached to the ceiling, and the old blackboards will be replaced by whiteboards.

The first floor classrooms, where the biology classes are located, will see updates in science equipment and utilities.

The prep rooms of the science building will be refurbished as well, with dishwashers, ovens, and counter space being improved and replaced.

“It’s all internal, nothing external,” Hill said.

The science building renovations are estimated to cost about $4.78 million, according to

All of these renovations are funded by the “San Ramon Valley Unified School District Modernization and Improvement Measure,” also known as Measure D, which was approved by voters in 2012.

This proposition authorized the district to issue and sell bonds of up to $260 million to provide financing for specific school facilities projects. It also qualified the district to receive state matching grant funds, according to

On March 10, 2015, the school board voted to accelerate the 2012 Measure D bond issuance, which in turn allowed for another $125 million addition to the initial $260 million.

Earlier this year, it was recommended that the district install two portables on campus this summer to help combat Cal’s growing student population. But Hill said that won’t be happening.

“We haven’t hit our student per teacher ratio yet,” he said. “When we do hit it, the district will bring in portables.”

District spokesperson Elizabeth Graswich wrote in an email that the portables are now planned for the summer of 2017.