Friday, August 29, 2008

Benicia school under construction

Benicia school under construction
By TONY BURCHYNS/Times-Herald staff writer
Article Launched: 08/29/2008

John DeSilva finishes hooking up power and internet connections under the last of the workstations in the computer lab of Joe Henderson Elementary School in Benicia. (Mike Jory/Times-Herald)

BENICIA - For Joe Henderson Elementary School students, the start of a new year has meant returning to a construction zone.
As the students go about their daily routines, the 21-year-old school is undergoing major improvements, thanks to maintenance funds from the state, school district officials said.

Every day since school began Aug. 18, children, teachers and staff have shared their days with construction workers who have been busy installing ceiling panels, heating ducts, new plumbing and other improvements around the school.

The $2.45 million project - for which the state is paying 60 percent of the cost - also includes new carpets, windows, roofs and fire-alarm and bell systems.

The work started during the summer and is expected to be finished by Sept. 12, district officials have indicated.

"I'm looking forward to it being done," parent Babette Snowder said as she waited to pick up her two sons after school. "I'm looking forward to having things go back to normal."

For students, one small drawback to the ongoing construction work is being unable to use the black top during recess. That's where workers have placed several large Dumpsters to cart away debris.

Also, classes have been forced to line up in front of the school in the morning, sometimes creating a chaotic-looking scene.

"It's like a zoo," Snowder said, adding she hoped to get a closer look at the renovations at Thursday night's back-to-school meeting.

"It's a much-needed facelift," added parent Janna Valdez, who was waiting to pick up her second-grade daughter.

Principal Bobbi Horack said the construction work hasn't disrupted learning, even though the library's off limits for the first few weeks of school, until new cabinets are installed.

"Cosmetically, the cabinets are the biggest thing we're waiting on," Horack said.

The school's office and teacher break room are also awaiting final touches, including a sink and new refrigerator for teachers to use.

Another room is being transformed into an equipment hub, which will house a copy machine, fax machine, paper shredder and other electronic necessities.

When the construction crews leave, Horack said she'll miss them.

"These guys have been great," Horack said. "And they get a kick out of the kids."

• E-mail Tony Burchyns at or call 553-6831.