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May 27, 2018
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Reconfiguration of RP schools

By: Stephanie Derammelaere
April 27, 2018

Starting as soon as this summer, major changes will take place among three schools in the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District. Technology High School, currently on the campus of Sonoma State University, will be moved to Waldo Rohnert Elementary School on Bonnie Avenue and the students at Waldo will be merged into John Reed Elementary School on Arlen Drive. 

The move was first initiated by SSU that needs Salazar Hall, the building currently occupied by Technology High School, while renovating Stevenson Hall, one of the university’s oldest buildings. Originally the Cotati-Rohnert Park School District and the university had an agreement to use Salazar Hall that was set to expire in 2024. Reneging on that contract will give the district $3 million which will help fund the money needed to renovate Waldo elementary. 

“The facility committee…explored all housing options,” says Robert Haley, Superintendent of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District. “In considering all potential housing options for Technology High School, the one that made the most sense was to repurpose Waldo Rohnert 3-5 Elementary School due to its location near the gym, fields and other facilities already used by Technology High School and reunify all of its grade levels with its sister school at John Reed TK-2 Elementary.”

Even though the district was not prepared to move Technology High School so soon, they knew it was going to happen eventually. Making the transition now is simply expediting the inevitable.

“As a Board of Trustees, we are responsible for the education of our students not just now, but in the future as well,” says Tracy Farrell, Board President of the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District. “We are also members of our community, which includes Sonoma State University. Given the space constraints on Sonoma State University, we have an opportunity to find a positive solution that improves the situation for both organizations. Sonoma State University and California State University, have been very fair about working with us. At some point, whether now or in the future, we needed to find a permanent home for Technology High School. It is important for our community to understand the alternative to a negotiated solution was not necessarily the status quo.” 

The move will give Technology High significantly improved learning spaces and will also allow for increased enrollment in the future if needed. The transition will give the school 20 classrooms rather than their current 12.

“The current Waldo Rohnert Elementary site will be remodeled specifically for Technology High School needs and become our new campus for the 2019-2020 school year,” says Dawn Mawhinney, Principal of Technology High School. “New science labs, shops, locker rooms and maker spaces will be created.  Students will have a campus to call their own; in addition, students will have physical education areas, athletic fields and an MU to gather as a community and hold events…This is an exciting time for Technology High School.”

While there is a certain level of panache surrounding having the high school on a university campus, teachers and students alike are pleased with what this move will mean for the school. The agreement between SSU and the district also calls for an ongoing partnership agreement that would ensure an ongoing relationship and would include access to the Schulz Information Center, Green Music Center and other facilities.

“So far the reactions have all been positive,” says Haley. “The student trustee from Technology High School gave a report to the board at the April 17 meeting that said students were excited to have a campus of their own.”

The move not only greatly impacts Technology High School, but both elementary schools involved as well. 275 students at Waldo Elementary School in 3rd through 5th grade will join the transitional kindergarten through 2nd grade students at John Reed Elementary. The combination will allow John Reed to continue with offering TK through 5th grade classes. 

“The tentative agreement calls for Technology High School to remain at SSU through June 2019 and then move to the current Waldo Rohnert Elementary site,” says Haley. “In order to facilitate construction the grades 3-5 students would move from Waldo Rohnert to John Reed in the summer of 2018. The two schools were reconfigured in 2012-13, initially as K-3 and 4-6, but now they are TK-2 and 3-5.”

Haley believes that there is enough space at John Reed to house the projected number of students in the 2018/19 school year. However, that campus will also be modernized and may have additional classroom and other space added to accommodate future growth. In addition, expanded parking will be included in the plans, particularly at the Waldo site that has already seen a parking issue. At this point the district does not anticipate any changes to the instructional staff due to the reconfiguration.

“The renovation of Waldo Rohnert to be Technology High School will begin as soon as possible and go through the summer of 2019 in order to be ready for students in August 2019 when school opens,” says Haley. “We will do some work this summer at John Reed and more the following summer of 2019.”

To date there is not yet a final budget for the reconfigurations and architectural estimates are still being completed. With the $3 million the district will receive from SSU and the $2.22 million returned to their bond fund, as well as some bond funds already having been earmarked for investment into the two sites, the district does not see funding as a barrier to getting improvements needed at both campuses completed. 

“The alternative to an agreement is not status quo as eventually Technology High School will need to move from SSU,” says Haley. “We have an opportunity here to support our full school community and develop a solution that benefits all of us.”