With less than forty business days until school starts, crews are working diligently to finish transforming the old Waldo Rohnert Elementary School on Bonnie Avenue into Technology High School’s new campus. While much work still needs to be done, one can already see the new classrooms, lab spaces, offices and outdoor spaces taking shape.
“The thought that the architect, contractor and Josh Savage [Executive Director of Facilities, Maintenance and Operations for the Rohnert Park Cotati Unified School District] have put into doing this is so delightful,” says Dawn Mawhinney, Principal of Technology High School. “Josh always puts students’ needs first. He and the architect held focus groups with students and teachers on the design and features to find out what the students really desired and what the teachers needed.”
At Tech High’s old location in Salazar Hall on the Sonoma State University campus, space was limited in the 12 dark, sometimes window-less classrooms, the machine shop was tiny, and the only area for students to congregate was in the hallways. The new campus will sport 14 large classrooms with a lot of natural light with two large science labs, as well as two shops – one for electronics, soldering and robotics-type work, and the other for mechanical and woodshop purposes. In addition, the site offers a large multi-use space with a theater stage, a plethora of outdoor space with seat walls for students to gather, an ASB space with student store, larger offices for the staff and a staff room, a computer room and a student center.
“We had such a small community being in one hallway,” says Mawhinney. “What I like is the idea that we can still have that connection here. We’re still small enough but the students have space to be who they are and do their activities during their unstructured time, but we’re not losing that sense of community.”
Beyond just converting a space meant for elementary school children to one that is efficient for high school students, almost all the buildings, which were built in 1972, had to be completely reconstructed, part of the reason for the large $20 million price tag.
“Everything has been replaced here,” says Jesse Smart, Superintendent for Wright Contracting, the construction company managing the project. “It was all outdated. The whole water system had to be replaced. We took everything down to the studs. Every piece of concrete has been removed to comply to ADA standards, fire suppression systems installed, new roofs, etc.”
The concern from the surrounding community regarding parking has been mitigated with two new large parking areas built that replaced old unused space and playground equipment that will not be necessary for the high school. The number of parking spaces is now above the ratio required for a high school of this size, which for Technology High School is less than 350 students.
“I think they [the neighbors] will be pleasantly surprised at how delightful our students are,” says Mawhinney. “The students are going to have plenty of parking over here and they’re responsible kids.”
According to Smart, even with major rain delays from our wet spring, construction is still on track to be finished on time, other than a few remaining projects. This “increment three” phase includes an office for physical education staff, locker rooms, final landscaping and an outdoor volleyball court. These last remaining items do not impede school from starting and should be completed by October.
At the time of this writing, it is still unknown whether the school board will retain any part of the Waldo name for the new Technology High School campus.
“I know that names are incredibly important for a community,” says Mawhinney. “To dishonor any member of our community would never be a goal of ours. We want to honor the community and honor the neighbors.”
The school plans to host an open house on August 9 for students and the community-at-large to come check out the new campus and take a tour.