Knowland gives progress report on Bond construction

Concrete pourings at the new STEM building at Los Al High.

Whether being taught in traditional or hybrid formats, students at all elementary schools within the Los Alamitos Unified School District returning to campus will find newly rebuilt playground facilities, Facilities Director C.J. Knowland told the board during a workshop Tuesday.

“COVID has given us a unique opportunity to get a headstart on some of these (bond) projects,” Knowland told the board during an update on Measure G construction.
In addition to high profile projects like the new multi-story STEM building, voters who approved a $100 million bond issue also authorized a variety of smaller projects, such as replacing all of the aging playground equipment.

Knowland said various contractors and suppliers are making progress throughout the system as the isolation of the COVID crisis has, in many cases, left campuses more open to facilitate these various projects.

“It allows us to begin earlier than we typically would during a normal school year,” said Knowland, “so wherever we can, we are taking full advantage.”
Regarding the elementary and kindergarten playgrounds, Knowland gave the board a detailed description of each project, saying all of the equipment was “age appropriate” and that existing carpets of sand are being replaced with a softer, rubberized surface on which children can play.

In addition, Knowland said “vision screens” were being installed on campus fences, providing a greater sense of security for students and administrators.
At the middle schools, Knowland gave the board a primer on Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning systems, saying special high tech control equipment is being installed at all of the campuses, even at schools where HVAC equipment is not being replaced, that allows technicians to better control and analyze the inner working and performance of the equipment.

In the wake of COVID, HVAC equipment and its performance has become a high priority factor in keeping students, teachers, and administrators safe. While many of the main campus middle school HVAC systems have been replaced, he said systems in the portable classrooms have not.

The new control equipment will work with new or existing equipment, he said, and will help the system determine a proper rescheduling of HVAC systems that were not replaced with Measure K. The average life of an HVAC system is between 15-20 years, said Knowland.
At McGaugh Middle School, said Knowland, which is very close to the ocean (as the crow flies), the saltwater causes significant damage. He said gutters need replacing and the steep slope causes drainage problems during heavy rains.

LAUSD Board member Meg Cutuli said “many of us have seen Lake McGaugh,” referring to heavy buildups of water on the sloped campus after rains. Knowland acknowledged that crews have had to “build makeshift bridges” for students to cross over water buildups on rare occasions.

Knowland said they will install a vertical, concrete ditch across the campus to help alleviate the drainage problem at McGaugh.

Workmen are making great progress on the STEM building, said Knowland, showing the board photos of concrete pours on three levels that will form the floor of new classrooms. “The classrooms are beginning to take shape,” he said, showing the board a linear shot that provided a view of the concrete and steel girders that will soon be filled with students and teachers.

He said the new STEM building is being wired for a three-dimension model that will provide facilitators with a computer model of every connection in the building.

Three final projects will be the second gymnasium, including new basketball courts, as planners are still trying to determine whether they will add 3 courts or two, the upgrade to the Los Al Performing Arts Center and overall classroom modification.

District Supt. Dr. Andrew Pulver said the existing classroom modification project will be the very last project because there is simply not enough room on campus until classes can move into the new building to make way for modification of those to be modernized.
Lastly, Knowland said seven of the ten solar energy projects are ready to go while planners are still working on the other three.