Page One

Construction starting soon at King school

By Ben Lumpkin Daily Planet staff
Wednesday August 22, 2001

When the 900 students of Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School return to campus next week, they’ll find the main building wrapped with a chain link fence and looking forlorn. 

Contractors have been hard at work this summer preparing the building for a major renovation. When all is said and done the outside of the building will have changed little, aside from the shine of a new coat of paint and the glint of brand new windows. But the guts of the building – floors, ceilings, walls – will be ripped out and replaced.  

Bathrooms dating to the 1920s will be completely redone. Elevators will be added for disabled access and new wiring will finally bring Internet access to every classroom. 

Some classrooms will be added. All will be enlarged. 

It’s part – around $23 million to be specific – of the extensive rebuilding planned for the next nine years under last year’s $116 million AA school bond measure. And, as with most of the work planned under the measure, the King project’s primary focus is addressing “life safety” issues on the site. 

In a seismic retrofitting, the building’s foundation will be replaced piece by piece. Hazardous materials like asbestos and lead paint will be completely removed. An all-new heating system will be installed, and a new fire alarm will be added. 

But these details may be more of interest to future King students than to present King students, since the project will take two full school years to complete. Of more interest to the present students – and their parents – is the sprawling complex of 35 portable classrooms that has grown up behind the main King building in the last months.  

For the next two years, this complex is King Middle School. All classes except science classes, which will continue to be held in the school’s separate science building, will meet in these portables.  

Contractors have labored since July to get all the portables in place in time for the first day of school on Aug. 29. They’re still installing some wiring, and waiting for the generator that will power the school through the first few months of the year. Street cleaners will come in early next week to tidy up the pavement where construction equipment has left a layer of dust and dirt.  

But, as of this week, most of the work is done. 

“It’s just about there,” said Joe Salow, project superintendent for West Coast Contractors, as he surveyed the neat rows of portables Tuesday. “It’s been a lot of work in a short amount of time.” 

King principal Neil Smith is said to be working on printing and circulating a map of the portables, so students will be able to find their teachers next week. Access to the portables will be easiest from Grant Street, to the east of the campus, or through the park to the north of the main school building, Salow said. 

Lew Jones, manager of facility planning for the school district, said the King students will still have use of the Media Center (library) and the softball field behind the school. The only major facility they’ll have to do without is the school’s large auditorium, used for assemblies and performances. Jones said workers are busy repairing bleachers in the gymnasium this week so that building could serve as a temporary meeting space in the years ahead. 

The large blacktop that formerly served as a play space for King students has been covered by the portables, but a new blacktop space has already been installed to the east of the portables. It includes a number of new basketball hoops.  

Work on a permanent amphitheater, which will provide outdoor performance space for the school, is well underway and should be completed before the end of the year. 

Jones said the portable complex will not have all the space King students are used to in the regular classroom building. But, of all the district’s schools, King can best afford to give up a little space, Jones added. 

“It’s always been the only site we have that’s close to state standards (for size),” Jones said. 

King has 17. 8 acres for its 900 students, compared to Willard Middle School’s 7.2 acres for about 740 students.