Renovation project begins


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Construction worker Armando Garcia demolishes the floor of what used to be the Three Seasons Restaurant.

By Ryan Geller, Advocate Staff

Construction barriers are now in place for the Applied Arts Building renovation leaving teachers and students with no second-floor entrance and only one men’s restroom.

The second-floor entrance to the AA Building is blocked from the outside with chain link fencing and the second-floor hallway by the elevator is walled off with plywood just before you reach the old reception area at the upper level entrance.

The elevator is still accessible and functioning and is now the only way to reach the second floor if you are unable to take the stairs. The hallway at the northeast corner by the Gateway to College rooms and offices is also barricaded with plywood along with the only men’s restroom on the second-floor.

The remodeling of the AA Building is part of a $55 million Science Complex project that was funded by the passage of Contra Costa County Measure E over three and a half years ago, according to Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King.

Construction crews are starting with the AA Building because the Health Sciences and the Liberal Arts buildings will be torn down to make room for the new science complex. The plan is for the nursing department to vacate the Health Sciences Building, moving temporarily to the old location of the culinary department and the Three Seasons Restaurant, which is now being remodeled, said King.

Construction on the Science Complex is slated to begin in fall 2019 with completion dates projected for fall 2021.

When the building is completed, the nursing department will have a permanent home in the new Science Building and the remodeled space in the AA Building will be used for a variety of auxiliary functions.

Although King said that email notifications went out about the construction start dates, teachers and students were still surprised to see the barriers in place early in the morning on Oct. 30.

Math professor Sherry Sharufa, whose classes are held in rooms adjacent to and below the construction zone, realized early that morning that she has to “go up (to her office) to go down to (her classroom)” rather than using the second-floor entrance as she normally does.

“It was a bit annoying because I gave an exam and there was this knocking all through the exam. That can be kind of distracting when you are trying to take a test. I was like ‘OK, how do I stop this,’ my students were looking up at me from their exams,” Sharufa said.

Mike Barns, the superintendent of the AA Building remodeling project, said, “It’s unfortunate we cannot occupy an entire building, I’m afraid there will be a little pain before you get to enjoy a remodeled building and better conditions.”

The construction schedule was designed to minimize interference with classes going on in the building, King said.

With this start date, most of the construction will be completed over the winter break. The workers also begin early in the morning, so they can get most of the noisy work out of the way before classes start.

“What we have told folks is if the noise is interfering with classes they can contact us, and we can speak to the contractor to see if we can work something out, but this is construction and at the end of the day this work is for the benefit of students,” King said

Kerry Bledsoe is a resource specialist at Gateway to College and her office is about 20 feet from the construction project. She was also surprised by the barriers when she came to work on the morning of Oct 30, but said she was also pleasantly surprised by how helpful the construction workers were.

They offered to help her put signs up to direct her students to the alternate entrance and when she notified the workers about a problem with the hallway they responded right away, Bledsoe said.

“The construction is inconvenient; we lost a rest room, we lost our upstairs entrance, but they have a really good crew of construction workers, especially being a high school it is important to me that the workers are respectful,” Bledsoe said.