Superintendent posts update on school construction

View from the top floor.

In a January 8, 2020 letter to families, Superintendent Randall Booker wrote:

I hope the new year is off to a great start!  I’m writing with a progress report on the District’s facilities program, which is in an exciting phase.  Construction of the new Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) building remains on schedule for completion this summer.  Also this summer, the District will demolish the 10s building and begin construction of the new Performing Arts Center/New Alan Harvey Theater on the 10s site.  I’ve included background information about the program objectives and an overview of what you can expect in the next few months.  

What to Expect in the Spring and Summer of 2020

The STEAM building is taking shape as the steel frame is nearly completed.  Over the next two months, the roof will be added, the building will be enclosed in scaffolding, and work will begin on the interior.  The relatively dry weather during the Fall of 2019 made it possible to complete the foundation, slabs for the basement and first floor, and footings before the heavy rains started, and construction continues to progress on schedule.  The District expects the building will be completed this summer and ready for the start of the 2020-21 school year.  

Construction of the Performing Arts Center/New Alan Harvey Theater will begin this summer, and completion is expected in the Fall of 2021.  Abatement of hazardous materials and demolition of the 10s building will start June 1. Similar to the abatement and demolition of the original Alan Harvey Theater, any hazardous or potentially hazardous materials in the 10s building will be contained and removed prior to demolition, and the construction site will be cordoned off from the rest of the campus.  

Also this summer, the District will refurbish the 20s and 30s buildings, converting old science classrooms into general classrooms and offices, and nearly all PHS staff will relocate when the STEAM building opens and the 10s building is demolished.  

Due to the extensive work taking place on the high school campus this summer, the entire campus will be closed from June 1 through August 10.  The District Office only will remain open.  

Beyond the high school campus, summer work will also include installation of high-efficiency heating and cooling systems in 13 Havens classrooms.  

Background:  The Facilities Master Plan

Several years ago, the District conducted a comprehensive facilities master planning process to: 

  • Assess the condition of facilities, and 
  • plan improvements to ensure that the facilities adequately support educational programs now and in the future.  

The Piedmont voters then approved the Measure H1 school facilities bond measure (November 2016).  Measure H1 authorized the District to borrow $66 million to accomplish the highest-priority projects identified in the Facilities Master Plan, including:  

  • Construction of a new high school STEAM building,
  • renovation of existing high school facilities, and  
  • implementation of energy efficiency and sustainability measures to reduce operating expenses and environmental impacts.

The high school buildings are a priority because they are the oldest in the District, with antiquated mechanical systems that have reached the end of their useful life, and

educational programs have changed since these buildings were constructed.  Both additional

and different kinds of facilities (such as modern science, technology and engineering labs) are needed to support curriculum now and in the future.  Other priority projects include facilities to support extended-day kindergarten at each elementary school. (See Measure H1 for a list of authorized projects.) 

Accomplishing Key Objectives

Work completed since the passage of Measure H1 includes:

  • Installation of highly-efficient ventilation and climate control equipment in 17 elementary classrooms, to prevent classroom overheating and improve the learning environment.    
  • Installation of the same highly-efficient ventilation and climate control systems in eight classrooms in the PHS 30s building, making it possible to retire steam radiators and a failing, highly inefficient boiler.   
  • Conversion of two offices in the PHS 30s building into one computer classroom with 34 workstations, to help meet rising demand for computer classes before the STEAM building is completed.  
  • Improvements to the learning environment at the middle school, including the reduction of sound transfer in classrooms and improved climate control, and renovation of special education facilities and restrooms.
  • Installation of new safety and security features at the middle and high schools consistent with the District’s Safe Schools Plan

Over the next two years, the District is on track to complete several more projects, including:

— Construction of the high school STEAM building which encompasses:

  • 6 science labs
  • 4 computer science labs
  • 1 engineering lab with patio 
  • 7 general classrooms
  • 2 art rooms with patios

— Construction of a Performing Arts Center with a new Alan Harvey Theater (completion expected Fall 2021), including:

  • 487-seat auditorium (459 fixed, 28 movable seats; the original AHT had 442 seats)  
  • Green room with dressing rooms 
  • drama classroom  
  • drama department office
  • conference room

— Reconfiguration of old science labs and other spaces in the PHS 20s and 30s buildings for use as general classrooms and offices.

The District expects to complete the work listed above with the $66 million in Measure H1 bond funds, bond interest earnings, and an estimated $4 million in State matching funds.  Subject to the receipt of State modernization or other funding, the District would: improve kindergarten classrooms to support extended-day kindergarten; and replace underground drainage, synthetic turf, and track and make accessibility improvements to Witter Field.   

Promoting Efficiency and Sustainability

The District is dedicated to reducing energy consumption and promoting sustainability across all school sites.  This requires assessment of energy use, investigation of and investment in new technologies, and re-engineering existing infrastructure.   Measure H1 has made it possible to significantly advance these initiatives. Both the STEAM and Performing Arts Center are designed to be “zero-net-energy” (ZNE) facilities, meaning that they will generate enough clean, renewable, solar energy to offset their energy consumption.  Measure H1 also made it possible for the District to install state-of-the-art climate control and ventilation systems in a total of 25 elementary, middle and high school classrooms to improve heating and cooling, reduce energy consumption and operating costs, and eliminate the use of hazardous refrigerant chemicals.   

To promote sustainability of water resources and protect the natural environment, site work around the STEAM and Performing Arts Center buildings will channel and filter rainwater on the high school campus.  Specifically, “bioretention” basins will direct the flow of rainwater away from impervious areas around buildings and walkways, and use soil, plants, and underground layers of gravel to drain and filter this water.  Bioretention helps prevent rainwater from overloading the City’s storm sewer system, contributing to flooding, or damaging local streams. Bioretention naturally filters bacteria, sediments, and pollutants from rainwater, improving water quality as it flows underground and ultimately to the San Francisco Bay.   

The District’s commitment to sustainability is not limited to new construction or Measure H1-funded projects.  For example, over the last several years, the District replaced more than 1,000 light fixtures with highly efficient LED fixtures with daylight and occupancy sensors.  These lights automatically dim when natural light is available and automatically turn off when not in use.  

* * * * *

The District is grateful for the entire community’s cooperation and support as we modernize and improve facilities to better support educational programs, and to maximize energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.  If you have questions or comments, please contact me at or Director of Facilities Pete Palmer at  


Randall Booker, Superintendent

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