Turlock Unified School District officially unveiled the new Turlock High School Science Building on Thursday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony which embraced the past, celebrated the present and looked forward to the future.
The $18.4 million project is taxpayer-funded through Bond Measure O, which was approved by Turlock voters in 2016 and provided $48 million for high school campus improvements. While the building’s design plans were first introduced to the TUSD Board of Trustees in late 2018, it was identified by the Bond Oversight Committee as a priority project the year prior. Construction began at the end of 2019.
Former THS science teacher and department chair Eric Julien led the charge to pass Bond Measure O and its elementary counterpart, Bond Measure N, as the funding would provide more Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) space and equipment for the District. A Bulldog graduate himself, Julien both learned and taught in the old building and knew how important the upgrade would be.
“I look at its replacement and it truly is an impressive sight. It’s just as impressive inside with its well-designed, functional classrooms and labs. We have inspired science teachers who will use this building as intended and bring it to life,” Julien said during Thursday’s Grand Opening ceremony.
The new Science Building is double the size of its predecessor, which was built in 1963. While classrooms in the old building had been converted into lab spaces, they were antiquated and didn’t have the necessary safety precautions, storage or lab counter space. There wasn’t enough room in the old building for the entirety of the THS Science Department either, so teachers like Shadi Safi, who also spoke during the Grand Opening of the new building, were forced to teach in classrooms they weren’t meant to be in.
Now the department instructors are only a few steps away from collaboration, instead of teaching from completely different classroom wings.
“The science teachers are finally together,” Safi said.
The interior of the building is a stark contrast to other spaces on campus. Deep blue walls reminiscent of outer space feature scientific renderings which are sure to spark the creativity of students, who have been utilizing the new building since they returned to campus full-time following spring break. Giant windows provide plenty of light and sleek black railings give the space a modern look.
Rather than six classrooms like the old science space, the new building has 12 learning labs: six biology classrooms, four chemistry classrooms and two physics classrooms. There’s even a collaboration room, which THS Science Olympiad Team Captain Lilyane Stessman said will be useful for future teams.
Stessman and the rest of this year’s Science Olympiad Team brought home the title of Regional Champions for THS — the first group to do so since 2007. While Stessman will be attending Cal Poly in the fall to study biochemistry, she’s grateful for the time she was able to spend in the new Science Building so far and is excited for the generations of students to pass through in the years to come.
“Next year’s Science Olympians will have a unique opportunity to make the new Science Building their home,” Stessman said. “Though our time in the new Science Building was unfortunately cut short, it was well worth the wait and I am glad that my underclassman peers and future students will be able to enjoy learning inside a classroom that matches their passion for science. With these facilities, we can go beyond what was previously achievable to exciting and limitless possibilities.”
Students and teachers alike were excited to show off the new space, providing demonstrations of new equipment and experiments to those in attendance at the Grand Opening. Safi utilized the new technology in his classroom by showing a pig dissection, which was then displayed onto the two 75-inch television screens behind him thanks to a high-definition camera which will soon be mounted to the ceiling.
Something else that will soon be mounted inside of the building is a framed business card, autographed by the Nobel Prize winning scientist who co-discovered the structure of the DNA molecule, Dr. James Watson — a possession of Julien’s which he gifted to the high school.
Julien said that as he walked the interior of the new Science Building for the first time, he noticed a depiction of the solar system featuring the path of Voyager I on one of its walls.
“One of the graphics inside caught my attention. It is the depiction of our solar system and it indicates the path of the Voyager I probe that was the first man-made object to leave our solar system,” Julien said. “So, tying into that theme, perhaps our new science building will boldly go where no other science building has gone before.”