Midpeninsula Post

Here’s what you need to know about construction on MVLA campuses

Los Altos High's newly constructed student services building in August 2023. (Ryan Janes)

Los Altos High School and Mountain View High School have both been undergoing construction in the past few years, ranging from entirely new buildings to renovations on existing structures. The buildings and projects share various similarities between the two schools: Both are centralized around modernizing classrooms and consolidating student resources.

Los Altos High School

The new student services building is now open to students and staff. The newly constructed building, which first underwent construction in the summer of 2021, requires some finishing touches but will have an official opening later this month. 

The building houses a staff room, a student area where students can eat lunch or spend a free period, leadership classrooms and offices for counselors and therapists. It also contains the administrative, health, finance and registrar offices — all under one roof.

“The real goal is to bring it all into one place,” MVLA Associate Superintendent of Business Services Mike Mathiesen said. “So it’s a one stop shop.”

Prior to the construction of the student services building, school counselors were housed in the portables next to the track and baseball field, separating them into two groups and forcing students to walk across campus to meet with their counselor. Mathiesen said the administrative building was also difficult to locate for people unfamiliar with the campus because it was separated from the main parking lot and resembled an ordinary classroom.

“People come in, they’re like, ‘Oh, where do I go? Where’s the office?’ The old administration building looks like just a classroom,” Mathiesen said, “Part of the design, too, is to really have a sense of entry.”

Los Altos High's newly constructed student services building in August 2023. (Raj Virginkar)

Meanwhile, the 400s and 500s wings are undergoing construction to equip classrooms with new lighting, new windows and fixes to aging or outdated technology. 

Two new classrooms and an athletic director’s office will also be added in the 500s wings directly adjacent to the pool.

This construction has resulted in most pathways to the 600s wing being completely closed off, leaving only one lengthy path between the 600s wing and the main quad. 

“Anytime before lunch, it’s already a struggle to try and get over there and get food, but now that they blocked it off, it’s an even bigger challenge because you are quite literally the farthest place away from the front of the school where all the food is,” said Lea Radovanovic, a junior at Los Altos High.

Although the construction is inconvenient, Mathiesen said the hindrance is out of necessity, since construction cannot be fully completed in the timeframe of one summer.

Aerial view of Los Altos High's newly constructed student services building in August 2023. (Raj Virginkar)

[The construction] makes navigating the campus really challenging, and it kind of funnels traffic here,” Mathiesen said. “That’s just one of the challenges with construction. We can’t get it all done in the summer, and so it’s one of those necessary challenges to get through with the goal.”

The construction is funded by the $295 million Measure E bond, which allows for the renovation of classrooms in the district. The measure was passed in 2018 after a facilities assessment of Los Altos High.

“The roofs are old, the windows are old, they’re not energy efficient,” Mathiesen said. “Some of it was code compliant at the time it was built. Code has changed in 20, 30, 40 years, so [the construction is] updating everything to the newest code compliance.”

The teachers whose classrooms were in the 400s and 500s buildings last year are now teaching in the portable classrooms that the counselors vacated.

Teachers are expected to be able to move back into the 400s and 500s buildings next summer. Construction will then move to the 200s and 300s wings for the 2025-26 school year, with the same general goal of modernizing the classrooms and their facilities.

Mountain View High School

Mountain View High School is also having finishing touches to its student services building, which began construction in the summer of 2021. Like Los Altos, it contains spaces for administration, counselors and therapists. It also has four classrooms, to compensate for the eight classrooms removed for the building’s construction. 

The building includes a new kitchen and cafeteria. Because the old one was difficult to navigate, the construction was an opportunity to refresh the cafeteria completely, Mathiesen said.

“You had to go to the dining area through a single door to get in[to the old kitchen],” Mathiesen said. “So it’s just an opportunity to make new there.”

The exterior of the building is still incomplete — so landscaping work is still occurring — but the building is currently in use.

The 500s wing of Mountain View High is currently being modernized and isn’t available for student use. This construction was completed over the summer in the art and science classrooms.   

Mountain View High's newly constructed student services building in September 2023. (Raj Virginkar)

The process will install new heating and ventilation systems and renovate the classrooms’ windows and flooring. One room  in the wing is being converted to a dance room, with an installed mirror and barre.

Mountain View High’s classrooms are set with breezeways in between classrooms — outdoor areas with roofs over them for shade, with four doors to enter classrooms on each side. The construction will replace those walkways — which are unused space — with space that the current classrooms lack, changing the layout of the classroom entrances. This was an issue that was identified in Mountain View High’s facilities assessment.

“Everyone’s like, ‘Hey, we have a lot of rooms here, but they’re all small. And so could we fill in those breezeways?’” Mathiesen said. “That was identified early on as a way to enlarge certain classrooms.”

Mathiesen estimated that construction in the 500s could conclude as early as the end of this year’s fall semester. After that, work will begin on enlarging and updating the 100s and 200s buildings based on when the Division of the State Architects approves the proposed construction plans.

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