Solana Santa Fe modernization to begin next summer

Solana Santa Fe's front entrance will be remodeled in the modernization.
(Karen Billing)

Community outreach is continuing virtually on the Solana Santa Fe School modernization project as the Solana Beach School District hosted an online update on May 14. The school’s modernization project seeks to update learning facilities for students as well as improve the traffic situation for its neighbors in Rancho Santa Fe and Fairbanks Ranch. The school refresh is expected to be completed in fall 2022.

“This project is not only near and dear to our hearts because it was part of our Measure JJ bond but also it’s one of the continued projects that has remained certain in very uncertain times,” said SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger. “It’s provided us some continuity, it’s provided us some sense of normalcy and, most of all, it’s provided us that encouragement and reinforcement that we will get back to school one day.”

Plans include getting rid of existing portables and building a new two-story, eight-classroom building. The administration office will be redesigned to be safer and more efficient, as well as making it a higher profile entry element that matches the architectural style of the neighborhood.

Currently inside the office, the front desk faces away from the front door—Steve Kendrick of Leonakis Architecture said the goal is to reconfigure the space so administrative staff can see the front door from the desk at all times as well as create a larger reception and lobby space. A door will be added to secure the kindergarten area and improvements will be made to the principal’s office, staff workspaces and nurse’s office.

The new two-story classroom building will link to other parts of the school through a covered arcade along the first floor. “It really creates a sense of campus with all of the tile roofs that slope down toward the playground,” Kendrick said.

With the modernization, the kindergarten classrooms will be reconfigured and the kindergarten play area will be moved further away from El Apajo. Plans also include re-locating the lunch shelter and creating a much bigger food service area to serve students at lunchtime, while preserving blacktop space.

The large drainage culvert will be paved over and there will be significant enhancements to the parking and queue to improve the traffic flow into and out of the school. The east driveway will be operationally abandoned during drop-off and pick-up to keep traffic from building on El Apajo and causing back-ups onto San Dieguito Road. There will be a new right-turn pocket on El Apajo and two lanes going out of the parking lot. Within the lot, there will be room for 45 cars and two lanes for queuing rather than one.

On the Zoom call, SBSD Director of Capital Programs Caroline Brown said they are moving toward completing fully designed construction documents and have interviewed builders. At the board’s May 21 meeting, they are expected to approve a contract with Balfour Beatty Construction—the company built Solana Ranch and Skyline Schools as well as projects in the San Dieguito Union High School District, including the Pacific Trails Middle School campus.

The project is budgeted for $16.2 million, however, Brown said construction estimates right now are closer to $18.4 million, “Some decisions are going to need to be made on the must-haves, the need-to-haves and the nice-to-haves,” she said.

Construction will be broken up into phases of “summer sprints” starting in 2021—Brown said they anticipate beginning the culvert and lunch shelter move in the summer of 2021 and “begin heavy lifting” for the new classroom building, knowing that it will take the 2021-22 school year to get completed. In summer 2022, they plan to demolish the relocatable classroom buildings on the north side of campus and complete the new north parking lot.

“We realize this is going to impact on-site operations and we’re going to have to come up with a logistics plan,” Brown said.

Brown said once the builder is on board, a committee will begin to work on that planning.