Palo Alto Weekly

News - April 30, 2010

Jordan Middle School expansion moves forward

Plans call for new classroom building along Middlefield Road, expanded cafetorium

by Chris Kenrick

Expansion of Jordan Middle School, including a new classroom building and an expanded cafetorium, was discussed by the Palo Alto Board of Education Tuesday.

The board unanimously approved "schematic designs" for the $12 million changes, planned to accommodate projected enrollment growth at Jordan from the current 960 students up to 1,100.

Construction could begin in July 2011 under current projections, and last until April 2013. The funds come from a $378 million facilities bond backed by 78 percent of school district voters in June 2008. The bond funds are being spent to upgrade all 17 of Palo Alto's public school campuses, and make way for expected enrollment growth.

The Jordan project also includes drainage improvements and other changes to the school's central amphitheater. The amphitheater is known as Hugh Center Court, named for a popular typing teacher who drove a convertible with bull's horns fixed to the front of the hood and organized many student activities. Center taught at Jordan from 1951 to 1982.

The new classroom building, dubbed the "N Wing," will occupy part of the parking lot along Middlefield Road, running parallel to the current bank of science classrooms there.

It will contain six classrooms, plus offices and restrooms, with doors facing to the inside of the campus.

Parking and drop-off circulation along Middlefield will be reconfigured, but architects said the current total of 90 parking spaces will be maintained.

A new "multi-use building" with a stage will be added onto the current cafetorium along North California Avenue, and the music program will be moved into what is now the cafetorium.

School board members, who had seemed unsatisfied with a presentation on the project in March, thanked designers from Aedis Architecture & Planning for providing far more detail and visuals on this round.

Many details remain to be refined, including traffic circulation and pedestrian spaces in the current Middlefield entrance and parking lot area.

School board members expressed particular concern that neighbors and Jordan families be made aware of the plans.

"When something like this happened on another campus I heard from parents, 'Why didn't you ask us about this? Why didn't you tell us?'" board member Melissa Baten Caswell said.

"I've had only two or three parents come to me (about the Jordan expansion), so either it's perfect, or folks aren't yet engaged about it. I don't know."

The project now moves into the so-called "design development" phase, with submission to the Division of State Architect — a state agency that must approve all public school construction — slated for October. The current timetable calls for construction bidding and award to take place in June and July of 2011.

Staff Writer Chris Kenrick can be e-mailed at ckenrick@paweekly.com.

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