Outdated Spaces at UHS Renovated for “21st Century Learning”

 

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By SOOJUNG KI, ANIKET MEHROTRA AND ANNIKA SIAL
News Editors

Renovations of several outdated spaces on campus which began in April of the 2017-18 school year are still underway, despite their original projected completion date of Friday, August 10.

According to a July 19 interview with Principal Dr. Kevin Astor, construction was set to finish by the anticipated August deadline. Though it is not clear what has caused the delays in construction since then, the Sword and Shield is currently not aware of the new completion date.

Currently under construction are ten science classrooms, the video production studio and general accessibility features around campus. The construction was funded by Measure E and the Association for Career Technical Education (CTE).

At UHS, the first phase of Measure E is focused on upgrading science facilities over 25 years of age. It consists of the modernization of eight science labs in the 700s building, reconfiguration of two classrooms in the 300s building into chemistry labs and the installment of new flooring, ceilings, and new fire alarm, smoke alarm, security, plumbing and projector systems.

According to science department chair Mr. David Knight, who took a leading role in the planning of construction in science classrooms, the 700s building and the 315/316 chemistry classrooms had not been upgraded since their opening in 1994 and 1970, respectively.

“[The classrooms were] in need of a make-over,” Knight said. “Those rooms have had minor changes over in the past, but the lab stations, drains [and] plumbing was original.”

In addition, creating suitable spaces for more chemistry classes was necessary due to the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that will be incorporated into the science curriculum for the incoming freshmen class and beyond, which will require the students to pass a NGSS Chemistry course prior to graduation.

According to Knight, students can also expect classes to “better utilize online and technologically-based instructional materials,” including dual projector systems, clearer speaker systems, and fixed plumbing fixtures for sinks.

Updates to lab stations, many of which date back to UHS’s establishment in 1970, will allow students to better apply lab experience to college and beyond. More flexibility in classrooms will allow students to do more labs, and new projection systems, audio systems, and whiteboards will allow teachers to better utilize technology-based instructional materials.  

Measure E is a School Facilities Improvement Measure (SFIM) for the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) with the purpose of ensuring “equal access to 21st century instructional technology and learning tools” for aging IUSD schools. Passed in June 2016, the measure is comprised of $319 million, accumulated through bonds issued to Irvine residents.

The next and final phase of Measure E will fund the construction of a 2-story arts building at UHS in 2025, which will include new drama, orchestra, dance, choir, digital music, broadcast, video production, and journalism rooms.

The Career Technical Education (CTE) grant, on the other hand, is allocated for upgrades to career-oriented classrooms in order to provide students with the “knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and post-secondary education” (California Department of Education) and was given to IUSD from the state of California.

According to CTE coordinator Ms. Patsy Janda, the grant matches the money spent by the district on said facilities; IUSD has spent several hundred thousand dollars on CTE-related upgrades this year.

At UHS, this consisted of the reconfiguration of the current video production studio, including changes to the entrance, demolition of unnecessary walls and the addition of a cyclorama wall, a curved wall used on stage sets that gives the illusion of infinite space.

The original studio was very crowded, which warranted “a concern about the size of the existing studio” in order to make “a more viable space for student use,” IUSD Facilities Planning Supervisor Ms. Dana Grudem said.

The updated video production and photography studio will allow students to work in a more professional studio and take more versatile shots.

Although she hopes to further modernize the space in the future, video production advisor Ms. Hali Kessler is excited for her students to work in a more professional environment.

“Art students have added to the school culture and their personal growth through their use of the old studio which was nothing more than a black box,” Kessler said. “Imagine the possibilities with a beautiful new bright space and blank canvas.”

In addition, certain spaces on campus are being made more accessible to accommodate those with physical limitations, as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This involves creating more access points for wheelchairs, extending cement sidewalks, expanding the 700s bathrooms and resizing certain classrooms in the 700s building.

Sword and Shield does not anticipate that construction will impact registration this week, as construction is primarily focused around the center of campus, and no entrances to buildings are blocked. Because construction includes sidewalks in front of the building and almost the entire center core of campus, however, it is recommended that registering students access campus via the entrance to the office in front of the senior parking lot.

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