Palo Alto High School students will encounter a construction zone and a parking squeeze this fall as two major building projects take shape on opposite sides of campus.
Workers have fenced off all parking spaces to the left of Paly's Embarcadero entrance, clearing the asphalt to make way for work on a new Performing Arts Center to rise near the perimeter of campus, across from Trader Joe's in Town and Country Village.
On the Churchill Avenue-facing side of Paly, demolition of the school's two gymnasiums is now slated for the end of the year, clearing the way for construction of a new athletic center.
Campus parking will be reduced by about 110 spaces while both projects are under construction.
"We've been telling (the school) that everything they can do to get kids on bikes is going to be helpful," construction manager Tom Hodges said. "After these projects are done, things will improve greatly."
The payoff for years of construction noise and dust will come in about two years the summer of 2016 when Paly students and teachers will have a state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center and an Athletic Center to go along with other recently completed new buildings on campus.
But even then, there will be two smaller projects ahead: renovation of the school library and a $5.5 million science addition, both likely to begin in 2016.
When the 2014-15 school year opens next month, students will occupy two major new buildings: a two-story, 27-classroom math and social studies building near the railroad tracks between the 400 Building and the Corporation Yard, and a 23,000-square-foot Media Arts Building, a home for Paly's journalism and photography programs.
But portable classrooms in the quad -- installed four years ago for "temporary" use -- will remain through the next construction phase. The portables will be reconfigured as science labs as well as for locker rooms for physical education and school athletic teams.
A delay in demolition of the old gyms -- from the originally scheduled June until probably December -- means Paly's pool will be available for fall water polo before it closes for the duration of construction on the Athletic Center, according to school officials.
Palo Alto's volleyball programs also will be able to use the old gym, instead of playing all their matches on the road.
Most of the new building and renovation of Paly's campus has been funded through the $378 million "Strong Schools" bond, approved by voters in 2008. Major planning and construction expenditures at Paly have included $4.7 million in improvements to the track and football stadium, a $2.6 million field for soccer, softball and baseball, $34 million combined for the two-story classroom building and the Media Arts Center and $1.2 million in improvements to the Tower Building.
An additional $24.4 million is budgeted for the Performing Arts Center, which will include a 583-seat theater.
Most of the cost of the new Athletic Center now estimated at $36 million to $40 million will be covered by a private donation, but the district's budgeted share recently more than doubled from $5.7 million to $12.8 million.
In addition, the school district remains in court over $3.5 million in disputed funds in its $25 million contract with Taisei Construction Corp. for construction of the Media Arts Center and two-story classroom building. The contractor sued the district last year, alleging that "unbuildable design elements within the plans and specifications" caused problems and in some cases forced them to "remove and replace completed work elements so that buildable follow-on work could be completed."
A case management conference in the lawsuit is scheduled for Aug. 28 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.