Summer projects

Summer projects and cleaning are in full swing on campuses across the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District. Above, Bonita custodian David Larsen works on his campus.

NEWMAN - With students and staff gone for the summer, maintenance crews have been digging in to a number of projects across the Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District.

Summer may be down time for students and most staff members, but is the busiest time of the year for maintenance crews as they prepare facilities for the return of more than 3,000 pupils in mid-August.

Crews will pack as many tasks into the window of opportunity as possible, said Matt Vargas, the district’s director of maintenance and operations, but the “to do” list always seems to run longer than the summer allows.

“You are never really ahead,” Vargas related recently. “One of the challenges that I have is looking at each individual site and making sure that I’m looking at the big picture....what are the highest priorities among all the sites, and then putting the resources into those first and working through the list. We try to make the most of every day.”

As is typically the case, the summer work involves district personnel and outside contractors brought in for specific jobs.

A number of asphalt and concrete jobs are on the summer project list in the district.

Those projects ranged included resealing asphalt at Von Renner and the McConnell Adult Education Center, and widening of a sidewalk leading from the student parking lot onto campus at Orestimba.

One of the largest projects this summer, Vargas said, will be the total reconstruction of the student lot at Orestimba - a $429,000 project that will likely start in mid- to late July.

The project will include a complete reconstruction of the parking lot and the addition of much-needed drainage improvements, Vargas noted.

The district saved a substantial amount of money on the project by pushing it to late summer when contractors are available after completing work elsewhere, he said. The estimate for the project was over $500,000.

There is a trade-off, however, as the work will extend into the new school year.

“It is going to be inconvenient, but we’ve been through this before with the solar project,” said Vargas, adding that the benefits will be well worth any short-term logistical difficulties.

The sound system in the Orestimba stadium is being upgraded this year as well, and hand rails were added in the bleachers prior to graduation.

“The rails were a safety feature that the stadium really needed,” Vargas said. “The sound system will also be appreciated. Sometimes during games and special events such as graduation it is hard to hear. This will definitely enhance the stadium.”

Across the district, projects are under way.

Crews remodeled a community room and kitchen area of the McConnell Center in preparation for the district taking over the senior meal site.

At Hunt, air conditioning is being installed in the kitchen, the office area is being modified and four classrooms are being re-carpeted.

Von Renner is in line for a new walk-in refrigerator, and classroom projectors at Hurd Barrington Elementary are being changed out for more modern, upgraded versions.

A new marquee is being installed at Yolo Middle School - where ground-breaking on a new classroom wing is expected before summer’s end.

And across the district, classrooms, offices and kitchens will undergo a top-to-bottom deep cleaning before students and staff return for the start of a new school year.

The projects change from one summer to the next, Vargas reflected, but the priorities never do.

“There is always a focus on safety or any type of health or mechanical issue. Those are always addressed first,” he stressed.

Ultimately, Vargas said, the goal is to provide safe, welcoming, well-maintained classrooms.

“If the classroom environment is not comfortable it affects the students and the teachers,” he concluded.