Beautification moves school ahead

October 2, 2009 — by Mac Hyde

To many students, Saratoga High School is an ugly blight on the gently rolling foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. But compared to what it used to be, the current incarnation of SHS is the Palace Hotel. We should be happy with what we have, never mind what other schools have, because we have what most want: a strong communal feeling among the students. More can be done, but we should just accept the fact that, while we don’t have the most beautiful campus, we are one of the best schools in the nation.

When Saratoga was opened in fall of 1959, half the windows didn’t have glass and the lights hadn’t yet been installed. Two weeks into the school year, a large storm deposited itself on the high school.

“We had to choose between being warm and darkness or being cold and being able to see the students,” said former social studies department chair, Dr. Hugh Roberts.

In addition, the adobe brick wasn’t painted and all the poles and their accompanying overhead beams were painted orange. Each hall was assigned its own color; blue, green or brown. Fast-forward to the ’90s. A major bond was passed in 1996. Saratoga was painted in its school colors: red poles, grey buildings with blue trim, blue lockers and blue benches with a red stripe down the middle. The interiors of the classrooms were upgraded with white boards replacing the black boards and carpeting replacing the aged linoleum. The buildings themselves were finally given upgraded heating and air conditioning, as this was a quality many had been missing from the start. The library and science buildings weren’t just relocated, they were built to the most modern specifications. The school was most recently upgraded with projectors in all the classrooms and linoleum replacing the carpeting.

The sports facilities were, to some, abominable. My older sister Hayes, a freshman in 2004, to me, “We were ashamed to have other schools come and play here. For them it was like this is why we (Saratoga) were so bad at sports.” The gyms hadn’t had the floors majorly refinished in quite a while, and the light came from massive sulfur lights, essentially street lamps, which cast an orange glow. The bleachers were old, wooden, and missing parts.

Perhaps the signature building on campus, the McAfee Center, thanks to the generous donations of the community and the McAfee family, draws students, staff and visitors towards the newly renovated grounds and quad. Retaining walls have been painted a mossy green while new redwood planter-facings replace the old grey cement. Even the blue “depth charge” garbage cans now are disguised under an attractive wooden façade. The lunch tables are now green-carrying out the earth tone theme. New benches and planter boxes rim the journalism room.

But there is plenty more that can be done. We have to complete the landscaping of the school. We need more native plants, and more plants period. There are areas of the school that look like a desert. The falcon on the front of the school needs to be repainted. Student- painted murals could brighten currently blank walls. We need a colorist to come out and help us decide what colors should go where. We need a traffic analyst to help us with our parking and traffic flow. A complete overhaul of how we use power on campus, i.e. solar panels and double pained windows, would also be nice. The small gym and the cafeteria still await refurbishment. And there is a complete lack of storage space on campus that should be resolved by converting a few of the disused class rooms around campus into storage areas.

The campus as come a long way since it founding 50 years ago, but, of course, it can be better—and it seems likely the school will look very different—and much better—50 years from now.

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