In 2015, there were a lot of disgruntled parents and faculty from Thomas Page Academy as a result of dust, noise and perceived danger from equipment being used as part of renovations that started as part of the Measure B bond for major renovations at Thomas Page Academy in Cotati, improvements at Technology High School in Rohnert Park, as well as Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park.
Two years later, construction is slated to begin this summer at Rancho Cotate High School and letters to the school board have already begun to pile up again.
In the original complaints surrounding the work being done at Thomas Page Academy, parents expressed concern that the dust being created by the backhoes and other heavy machinery were aggravating asthma symptoms, and that the constant noise was giving both students and teachers alike headaches, making it difficult to focus.
Though construction hasn’t yet begun, the letters currently being sent in are reiterating the problems at Thomas Page, and asking the school board for transparency about steps they’ve taken to alleviate their concerns. For example, in a letter to trustee Tim Nonn, Jenny Baker wrote on May 23 to say, “…we were concerned that any subsequent demolition and construction of buildings at other schools in the district should be conducted with proper consideration for the health and safety of students and teachers, and hoped that by trying to bring the situation to light, we would help the school district to avoid similar problems occurring in the future.” Another letter to the School District Governing Board dated May 23, came from Elyse Lord, who brought up the hot button issue faced in 2015 concerning the demolition of an older building that was found to contain mold being broken down on-site during school hours, potentially releasing spores into the air and further aggravating existing bronchial conditions. She ends by stating, “The construction projects sound exciting for all stakeholders; I am not anti construction.
However, I respectfully ask that you and members of your team prioritize
the health and safety of the children, faculty and staff before, during and after any
In reviewing enclosed images and video that have been sent in addition to the letters, a neutral third-party can only say that yes, construction was happening during school hours, OSHA had been made aware of the problems, and independent inspectors had been called out to test the air for any hazardous materials. Due diligence was followed, so now it seems the wait begins: Is the school district heading toward another tempest in a teapot when the construction crews show up at Rancho Cotate?
What should be addressed here are the differences between the two projects: to renovate Thomas Page, demolition was a necessary – abeit noisy – part of the process. At Rancho Cotate High School, demolition isn’t part of the plan; just building. This greatly reduces the chance of unexpected health hazards (mold, asbestos, etc.) that occur when an older building is being torn down.
The other consideration is the age of the students. High school students are preparing to enter adulthood, and as such are able to voice concerns about their well-being without parental guidance. This doesn’t mean that parents and school faculty shouldn’t step in when issues are brought up, only that when the students address them they’re able to do so with more insight and clarity than a much younger child could.
But finally, even though construction hasn’t yet begun, Superintendent Robert Haley was more than happy to address these early concerns, stating, “The contractors [Wright Contracting] are taking care of the soil, everything is fenced in, and preparations are underway to start building. The construction will take around 18 months, but when it starts they’ll meet daily with the principal to make sure they handle the amount of noise and disruptions. If something is scheduled that will be a potential noise issue, it will be planned at a time when it won’t interfere with classroom instruction. Of course - it’s construction - so it will be loud at times, but we’re doing the best to make certain problems are going to be at a minimum.”