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The saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, LCC’s pristine campus has recently gone under some major renovations.

In November of 2012, voters of the San Dieguito Union High School District approved Prop AA, a bond initiative worth 449 million dollars. Divided up among the 11 schools of the district, this proposition seeks to “provide safe, modern schools and prepare students for success in college and careers by repairing and upgrading outdated classrooms and schools, construction and upgrading school facilities, including classrooms, science labs, and libraries, improving safety and security, and supporting career training and math, science, and technology instruction with 21st Century instructional technology and facilities,” as the San Dieguito Union High School District website said. In simpler terms, according to principal Bryan Marcus, the district’s vision for Prop AA money is “looking at the buildings that kids occupy on a daily basis and strengthening those to ensure that they’re receiving everything they need to get a good education.”

What’s Been Done:
From the total budget of 449 million dollars for the district, La Costa Canyon was allotted approximately 11 million (roughly 2.4 percent of the total budget). The first project to access the money launched in 2012, at the time when Kyle Ruggles was head principal of La Costa Canyon.

“Once the bond was issued and the work started here at LCC, we updated the infrastructure,” Marcus said. “We updated our wi-fi, our voice over IP (Internet Protocol) and our bell system.”
These initial reforms sought also to improve the learning experience inside the classroom. In over 88 classes, short throw projection systems with speakers were implemented at a cost of about 8,000 dollars per classroom. Additionally, the air conditioning systems were addressed.

“One of the biggest projects was to update the air conditioning in most of the classrooms, because LCC sits in a canyon and it gets very hot,” Marcus said. “In a classroom, having air, having projectors and having wifi really help kids accomplish what they’re here for.”

Together, these two projects cost about 7 million dollars to accomplish. Some view the changes as essential to a healthy school environment–especially because La Costa Canyon is know to reach high outdoor temperatures, sometimes even 90 degrees.

“We needed [air conditioning],” English teacher Jill Lax said. “You can’t have students sitting in the heat.”

Updating the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) network to increase bandwidth around campus also meant tearing up grass areas and parts of walkways. However, students noticed grass areas were quickly replanted and walkways quickly fixed.

“I really like all of the plants and green on the campus,” junior Simon Yei said. “The campus as a whole is a lot nicer and more welcoming than a lot of the other campuses out there.”

The next project, which took place in 2014, consisted of improving LCC’s 800s buildings. Once completed, it cost an approximate total of 3 million dollars.
“We got the go-ahead to remodel the existing media center, which is now the learning commons,” Marcus said. “The AP offices were moved, the learning commons was established, and the ASB room was retrofitted with some other adjustments.”

Staff members point out the advantages of having an updated media center on campus.

“I was a little hesitant at first, but I think [the Learning Commons] turned out nice,” chemistry teacher June Honsberger said. “The openness is definitely a benefit. The new flex room is very nice, and students seem more able to use the Chromebooks.”

At first, many individuals may not have noticed, and therefore not have appreciated, the changes made to La Costa Canyon’s campus. This may correlate to the fact that not all the renovations have been tangible.

“A lot of improvements may not be visible, but you feel them,” Marcus said. “You don’t go up and look at the air conditioning, but you know it’s working when you’re sitting there in September. The wifi–you may not notice it, but we probably have over 200 devices [working] right now, with all these computers and people on their phones.”

Establishing these primary upgrades, administration looked ahead to see what else can be improved with the Prop AA money.

What’s Planned:
Coming up in June 2016, the La Costa Canyon theater department will undergo the next revampment, which entails restructuring individual rooms to better suit them for learning.

“The band room, the black box and the theater are areas we use as classrooms, and they never put the projection systems in them,” Marcus said. “So we’re going to move forward with the auto-visual enhancements in those rooms.”
Administration additionally plans on updating the ventilation systems in the theater. Likewise, this summer’s final project targets the other main building of La Costa Canyon’s southern half, the gymnasium. The changes will ideally make sports games, practices, school dances and other major gatherings that take place in the gym more enjoyable.

“We’re just fixing the ventilations [in the gym],” Marcus said. “We have turbines that are supposed to extract out all of the heat and move it elsewhere. As you’ve seen during the Homecoming dances in the gym, we want to try to start moving that air.”

The decisions of where the remaining one million dollars will go are in the hands of both the school’s administrative committee and the San Dieguito Union High School District office. These two forces assess each school in the district, and decide which specific areas require the most attention.

“Our district really looks at students’ needs and what is going to further their education,” Marcus said.

In the past, community members expressed frustration regarding the inequality of Prop AA funds given to each school. San Dieguito Academy, for example, received 70 million dollars, as opposed to La Costa Canyon’s 11 million dollars.

“It’s never going to be exact, because every school is different,” SDUHSD Assistant Superintendent and Director of Educational Services Michael Grove said. “LCC is a pretty nice place already–we don’t need to tear down buildings and build new ones. SDA and Torrey Pines are getting the largest chunks of the money because they have the greatest facility needs.”

The bond was divided up specifically so as to modernize the district’s schools equally. The area contains some schools that were built decades ago, so the common goal was for schools to no longer “have science labs that were built in the 1950s,” as Grove said. However, not every school required brand new buildings.
“You can build a building to make it look pretty, but we want to build things to make sure that we’re actually doing what’s right for kids,” Marcus said. “It doesn’t make sense to build another building when we’re not at population capacity at 2,500 students. Instead of investing five million dollars into a building we wouldn’t occupy, we see if there is another project on our campus that would be more meaningful.”

 

What Should Be Done Next:

Prop AA required each school in the district to provide a master plan of potential renovations (available on the SDUHSD website under the “Prop AA” tab, and the “master plans” subtab). For La Costa Canyon, some of these included a two-story science building, an additional basketball court, restoration of the art yard, a field house with its own flex lab or a video conference building. MavLife conducted an online poll to see which plan was the most desirable to students on campus.

According to Prop AA, plans are restricted to only those listed in the original master plan.

“You could only spend the money on what the voters approved,” Grove said. “Even if we decided we want another gym at LCC, that wasn’t a part of the master plan. We can’t just change our minds.”

Despite the variety of new ideas in the master plan, not every featured renovation is achievable with 11 million dollars. In the same way, some changes are more difficult to accomplish than others.
“A lot of projects get pushed down the timeline–not because we don’t want to do them, but because they’re still waiting on the permit process to get the work done,” Marcus said.

Although the possible projects were decided in advance, students and staff members have ideas of where the remaining money should go. One of these ideas stems from the fact that some of the classrooms on campus aren’t properly built for students and teachers to use.

“We still have portable [classrooms], like Stapko and Evers have in the 700s,” Marcus said. “One of the plans is to take those science classrooms and rebuild those.”

Students often experience the downside of these classrooms compared to other ones.

“The other day, there was thunder in physics and the entire classroom shook,” junior Jenna Birchall said.

Another aspect of campus that the public would like to address is the available online resources. Having used Prop AA money, La Costa Canyon not only created a schoolwide wifi system that every smartphone can connect to, but it also acquired more technological resources for students to use. These resources, however, are only available to students in the media center, in the flex labs attached to the media center and in certain classrooms.

“Other schools have more advanced technology or more available technology,” junior Jenna Birchall said. “I think it would be beneficial to have more computers in the classrooms.”

During the 2012 media center renovations, LCC received hundreds of chromebook for students to access, but wireless technology has its disadvantages as well.

“I think one of the drawbacks [of the learning commons] is the lack of hardwired computers,” Birchall said. “I’m not a big fan of the chromebooks. I think they’re awkward for the students.”

Resorting to other sources like textbooks, however, may not be the answer either. Students experience downsides to using physical books as opposed to a chromebook.

“Spanish textbooks have to be brought back and forth every day, and that’s a pain,” junior Brynn Middlebrook said. “Also, a lot of them are outdated, so newer textbooks would be helpful.”
Similarly, teachers favor books over technological sources because of their authenticity and meaningfulness.

“Having real books sends a positive message to students: that you care enough about the reading to give them a book that isn’t scratched on or is tattered and torn,” Lax said. “In literature, there’s nothing like reading a book.”

Staff members also feel that learning is improvable through a change of scenery. A few years ago, Honsberger wrote grants to get six lunch tables in the science quad.

“I think it would be nice to have more outdoor seating for students,” Honsberger said. “It also creates an outdoor classroom where students can work.”

Whether students work in the Learning Commons, the flex lab or outdoors, students adapt to the new improvements at LCC.

“There are field trips that we can’t take, such as going to Disneyland, because it’s very expensive for students,” Lax said. “I would love to see us branch outside of just the school environment.”

While the administration decides where to invest the last million dollars of the Prop AA budget, La Costa Canyon embraces the improvements already made and expects many more to come.

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