Tuesday, July 28, 2009

District's new jewel

District's new jewel
New Fairmont school to greet kids Aug. 13
By Ryan Chalk
Posted: 07/24/2009

The newly constructed Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville is on track to be finished in time for the first day of school, which is Aug. 13. The school replaces the original school built in 1968. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)

The students at Fairmont Charter Elementary School in Vacaville are in for a big surprise when they return to school on Aug. 13.

Construction crews have been working feverishly over the summer to complete work on the Vacaville Unified School District's crown jewel -- a brand-new Fairmont. The two-story, 53,392-square-foot building will become the district's second new building with multiple floors and become the first school in the county to be designated as a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Silver school.

When school begins, the only thing that kids will recognize from their old school is the kindergarten building, which will stay as a lease option for a possible preschool or other state certified learning center.

What isn't as easy to see -- but is most impressive -- is the LEED design elements.

LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a building rating system that encourages sustainable green building practices.

Everything from the landscaping to the color of the roof, which is coated with a special white coating to reflect solar energy, is engineered with the environment and efficiency in mind.

"This building will be here in 100 years," said Tracy Asher, project manager for Roebbelen Contractors Inc., when talking about the schools concrete-and-steel construction and green design.

"This is the type of school we need to be building in public education," he added.

A model of efficiency, the school emphasizes natural lighting by use of skylight in classrooms, main foyer, library and the school's multipurpose room. In addition, classrooms are outfitted with a bank of light switches that the teacher can control using nine lighting level "scenes." This allows the classrooms to be illuminated in increments from front to back or side to side.

Students will be sure to enjoy the new multipurpose room, complete with adjustable-height basketball hoops, a black-box stage and rear projection screen for assemblies and presentations. The entire multipurpose room can be lighted by using the skylights, further cutting down on energy consumption.

With all of the work put into making the school green, effort is being made to educate the staff and students on green practices as well.

Just inside the main foyer, a wall will be dedicated for an interactive touch-screen display that tracks not only energy usage but also tracks the output of a planned wind turbine and solar panels that will be affixed to a shade structure at the rear of the school.

Teachers will be impressed by the amount of countertop and storage space in classrooms along with the latest technology, including digital projectors, interactive white boards and document cameras, according to Leigh Coop, facilities director for the school district.

Also new are showers that have been installed in staff bathrooms on the first floor to promote bicycle commuting, instead of driving. And for those who do drive, incentive parking spots have been designated for low-emissions vehicles.

According to Coop, there is still a bit more work to complete after school begins.

Crews are completing the demolition of the old school. From there, a company will come in and do soil abatement before new concrete can be poured and new play structures built.

Also in the works is a combined baseball, softball and soccer field. In the meantime, the district will put down sod so that students have a grassy area to play on.

Money for the $21 million school came from the 2003 voter-approved Measure V bond initiative. About 10 percent of the funds also come from state modernization money.

"It doesn't happen very often that you have an existing neighborhood and they get a new school," said Coop, adding, "We're very excited to make this happen."

The newly constructed Fairmont Charter Elementary School becomes the second two-story building to be built in the Vacaville Unified School District. (Ryan Chalk / The Reporter)