SHS receives makeover

September 8, 2009 — by Kevin Mu and Anna Shen

In an attempt to reverse the prison-like appearance of Saratoga High, school officials are continuing to make strides towards making the appearance of the school more inviting for the students, parents and community.

Beautification of the school started in the summer of 2007 and has been ongoing over the past two years.

During the last three months, maintenance crew members, led by head of maintenance Brian Moran, have made numerous renovations to the quad. They replaced the old, rotting wooden structures in the quad with new burgundy planter boxes, benches and garbage bins; filled planter boxes with fresh bark; re-painted the formerly blue lunch tables green; coated retaining walls with a muted grey color in order to give the quad a softer, “more earthy” feel; and replaced the chipped asphalt. They have also been working in the hallways between classrooms, where planter boxes and benches have been constructed in areas, such as the 300 wing.

“People [who] live here and parents [who] have their students here have often times commented that [Saratoga High] looks sort of [like a] prison,” said principal Jeff Anderson. “When you look at the hills, it’s a nice setting, but then there’s this sort of grey, cement school in the middle of it. I thought we could kind of soften it a little bit, because we actually have a lot of pretty landscape.

The school has spent roughly $100,000 on aesthetic upgrades over the course of two years, which includes the installation of new lawns, benches and planter boxes in the quad and main entrance of the school, according to Moran. The funds came from a mixture of donations, the maintenance budget and the Facilities Fund, which includes income from renting out school facilities such as the McAfee Center.

Moran said student response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Students take pride in [the new quad], and the one thing is we’re very happy with very minimal vandalism, almost none,” Moran said. “The kids are really taking good care of this stuff; no one’s ripping out plants or carving their initials into the wood.”

Senior Allison Chen was pleasantly surprised by the school’s improvements after she came back from a year in China.

“After being away for a year, I thought the school had greatly improved on its beautification,” said Chen. “When you used to drive by the school, it looked kind of boring and intimidating; and now, [the school] looks a lot brighter because there’s a lot more color.”

The school has ambitious plans for future remodeling if it can secure the funds needed to do so. The administration is considering adding a general obligation (GO) bond to the June 2010 ballot, which can be used for physical renovations.

“If [the GO bond] gets on the ballot and passes, then we have much bigger plans to do a lot more,” said Anderson. “But even if that does pass, it takes two, three, four years to get everything in motion and for everything to happen. For now, I want to make [the campus] as nice for the students and staff as possible, even [if] we blow up the whole quad and do something completely different.”

If the bond passes, the school has plans to completely rearrange the front of the school by swapping the locations of the main office and the cafeteria. The board is considering demolishing the current office and cafeteria buildings in order to make the swap possible.

In addition to the renovated quad, the school resurfaced the tennis courts and built a new, outdoor basketball court called the Court of Dreams near the parking lot entrance, both of which completed construction just in time for the new school year and are available for students to use.

Currently undergoing construction is the $2 million multimedia building, also known as the MAP building, which is being constructed next to the library and woodshop classroom. This room is scheduled to be finished by August 2010.
The school’s future refurbishing remains uncertain, but the main goal of the renovations is to provide a more beautiful campus for the students “right now,” and Anderson believes the renovations have done just that.

“We would like to make [the quad as] pleasant as possible,” Anderson said. “We can’t really build a whole new school, so we’re just trying to do what we can to get it more inhabitable.”