While it’s no secret that Turlock High School will soon welcome a brand new, state-of-the-art science building to its campus, the public has a better idea of what to expect as plans for the learning center’s interior were revealed this week — just one month before construction is set to begin.
The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday accepted a bid for the THS Science Building and Campus Security Project — an endeavor that will cost nearly $21 million when all is said and done and bring not only a new building to the school, but also allow for the completion of modernization projects like fire, life, safety and ADA upgrades, increased campus security, including more cameras and fencing, and a new woodshop parking lot.
The new science facility will double the classroom size of the current building, which was originally constructed in the early 1960s and has never received any updates. Upgrades to the old science building were on the priority list for Bond Measures Y and Z a decade ago, Director of Maintenance and operations Scott Richardson said, but projects like the Louise Marchant Gymnasium and Performing Arts Building were tackled first. The new science building was one of the top priorities for the more recently-passed Bond Measure O, which provides funding for projects at both high schools.
“Normally, many of our buildings of that age have gone through multiple remodels. This building never has,” Richardson said. “We always look at the option of remodeling versus tearing something down and building brand new. The current building only has six classrooms, is just one story and is really oddly shaped. It’s more cost effective for us to tear it down and start over.”
It was important to the District that the new science building fit in with the rest of the campus aesthetically, Richardson added. The bricks selected for the exterior of the building are similar to those found throughout the school and identical to those used on the Louis Marchant Gymnasium — intentional decisions meant to preserve the school’s history.
“On that whole block, you’re dealing with buildings that are 100 years old. There’s some importance in making sure we capture that history and don’t just build a shell when we have the opportunity to build a building that’s going to be there for another 100 years,” Richardson said.
The interior of the building will be a stark contrast to the current, dated classrooms. Deep blue walls reminiscent of outer space will feature scientific renderings, like a display of the galaxy and other abstract shapes, which are sure to spark the creativity of students. Giant windows will provide plenty of light and sleek black railing will give the space a modern look.
It’s anticipated that the new, two-story science building will take 14 months to construct, Richardson added, and construction is set to begin Dec. 9, though scheduling details with the contractor have yet to be finalized.
Rather than six classrooms, the new building will have 12 learning labs: six biology classrooms, four chemistry classrooms and two physics classrooms. While a dedicated site design team comprised of campus and District leaders typically help decide what aspects of a project are most important, the team that helped give insight into the construction of the new building was a more science-heavy group, Richardson pointed out.
“We wanted to make sure science folks had a voice,” he said. “We asked questions like, ‘What do you need? What is an effective classroom as it relates to chemistry? What does a quality workroom look like for you?’”
Students haven’t used the old science building since last year; instead, classrooms around the THS campus were transformed into science labs over the summer. During construction, the site will be fenced off and school administration will work closely with the District to ensure the safety of students. In total, the new building will cost $18,375,000, while security improvements and other campus upgrades will total $2,248,000.
The project is slated to be completed in the spring of 2021, weather permitting, with students officially sitting in for classes after spring break.
“We are always working all over town on projects everywhere, and every project is valuable and important. I get very excited when we do something to this caliber, and it’s awesome that the community entrusts us with these funds in order to provide a nice, new facility for current and future students,” Richardson said.