Gaston, Fresno High construction almost done

The Fresno BeeMarch 8, 2014 

Bubble-gum pink insulation foam now covers what soon will be walls at Rutherford B. Gaston Middle School in southwest Fresno. The school's concrete floors are now polished, the windows are in their frames, but there still are a few months left of work on the $36.7 million project before next school year.

Construction at the school, which will serve around 850 seventh- and eighth-graders come August, is expected to finish in April, said Lisa LeBlanc, Fresno Unified's executive officer for facilities management and planning.

The new school is one of several district construction projects getting final touches this spring.

LeBlanc gave a tour this week of Gaston Middle, which now has silver siding and white slatted sun shades over the windows. Its design and color scheme — gray, yellow and white — mirrors the nearby Edison High building finished last year.

An airy foyer at Gaston's entrance — which features walls of windows and a lofted ceiling — gives way to a wide red staircase that curls from the first to second floor. If you look up, an open-air catwalk hallway connects the second-floor library wing to classrooms on the west side of the building.

Charcoal gray lockers are installed near the school gymnasium, where construction workers are getting ready to lay down maple planks on the floor.

The food-court-style cafeteria is getting white paint — and is the storage space for dozens of doors still packaged in shrink wrap that soon will be hinged to frames in classrooms.

The school is modern — in both aesthetic and function.

For example, every classroom has a second entrance and exit to an adjoining classroom, said Jim Timmons, superintendent for Harris Construction.

"It's a new safety thing with the schools," he said, so students and teachers have a second option if they need to make a quick exit.

The school also features a high-ceilinged lecture hall, three extra-large classrooms designed specifically for career technical education courses, and an amphitheater outside the lunchroom.

Construction also is finishing up at Fresno High, where the school community is getting ready to wrap up a grassy courtyard project that will mark the end of months of renovations.

Work already is done on two new 27,000-square-foot buildings — one with administrative offices, the other with a media center — that replaced the much-maligned "bunker" buildings razed last summer. Each building also is equipped with 10 classrooms and solar panels installed on the roof.

In the new administrative building, a stately Senate Chamber with floor-to-ceiling cherry-wood walls adds space for staff and student club meetings. In the library, a lab with 40 desktop computers gives students extra room to work on school projects.

Outside the matching brick buildings, which flank historic Royce Hall, a spacious courtyard with black antique-style street lamps still is hidden from view behind green tarps.

Principal John Forbes said the plaza will be unveiled soon.

"The pride (students) have in their school, it does connect with what they see," Forbes said. "As our academics, sports and all things that make our school great continue to improve, you can really sense the (renovations) have continued that improvement."


The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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