On December 9, 2015, Corey Kidwell sent out the following update:
I have actually been thinking about two things today worthy of mention here: Fall Leaves and Fire Recovery. First an update. We have made progress with the Department of the State Architect (DSA) and the Office of Public School Construction (OPSC) in the past week. We are on target to meet our goal of opening the new temporary school classrooms after break and be back in the gym by early June. I know it is hard for many to fathom why it takes so long. I was right there with you in 2005 and the process of re-opening CT English Middle School had dragged on in various forms since the quake of ’89. Please believe me when I say working with state agencies involved with school construction is not easy.
For those of you interested, read on. It has a good outcome. Last week we heard that the DSA rejected our plan for the temporary school due to a new determination that we were in a “Wildfire Refuge Area” so would be held to a higher standard. We lit up the phones, readied an entourage to head to Sacramento, talked to local fire marshals, fire chiefs, and reached out to lobbyists and more. I even had a conversation with a Superintendent who lost a school in the Valley Fire in Lake County about how they got their plans approved. We had to laugh because she discovered they were held to a new “flood zone” designation and had to garner a similar strategy. It’s never easy!
The good news is that, in a decision I am told is rare, the DSA actually reversed their decision and found an exception that they could utilize on our behalf. We now have an approved plan set for the temporary structures to be installed over the December Recess. All contracts are in place to begin this work immediately. Please pardon our dust next week as we may have construction disruptions. We are hoping to limit the noise and traffic as much as possible during school hours, but please be advised that we are planning on significant staging to begin next week with construction work to be in high gear during winter break. I don’t think I have ever been excited by the anticipation of construction noise. We will keep you posted as best we can with updates to our website regarding construction impacts.
Our other plan sets for the demolition of the burned area and restoration of the gym are in “bin time” at the DSA awaiting approval. Our North Campus renovation plan for the other side of the street is also waiting for DSA approval. All the newly required geological reports for that project and the shade structures was completed and reports submitted to Sacramento. In the meantime, I did hear back from the Office of Public School Construction with good news about the “possibility” of emergency funds for the fire project. Of course, insurance coverage is the front line of funding, but the official from the OPSC was both apologetic for the delay in responding as well as upbeat about our chances of qualifying for any “available funding.” The term “available” is always relative, but at least the answer wasn’t no.
I will take small victories. For those of you who might have occasion over the break to test out new bikes or drones, please note that access to the campus may be limited at times. The more big trucks on campus the better! Which brings me to the Fall Leaves. I love our kids. Today, a group of 8th graders came upon a windswept collection of leaves just outside my office. “Tree confetti” I often call it as I see it blow across the blacktop and settle in a “wind eddy” for those of you who know rivers. The kids delight was contagious and I found myself drawn to their engaging play. At first the blanket of leaves became autumn “snow angels.” Then of course the pile grew into a run through, kickable pile. The kids looked at me as the recess bell rang. Silently, they asked for permission to let loose. “Go for it!” Sometimes a kid just needs to be a kid. I was glad they said I could take a couple of pictures. I thought you might enjoy them too.