Science building construction blocks classrooms, displaces bike racks

Hallie Faust and Sophia Krugler

Construction on the science building continues at Palo Alto High School, displacing bike racks and forcing some students to walk farther to class until the newest addition to Paly’s campus is complete.

According to science teacher and Instructional Lead Erik Olah, the plan is to expand the 15-year-old science building toward the Peery Center, adding four new classrooms. These classrooms will create space for the Biology, Astrophysics, and Advanced Placement Environmental Science classes currently held in the portable classrooms outside of the main science building.

Construction workers operate bulldozers while preparing to add classrooms onto the science building at Palo Alto High School. Four new classrooms will be added to the side of the building facing the Peery Center, and they are expected to be completed within two years. “We have four portables that we just really want to move into the building,” said science teacher and Instructional Lead Erik Olah. “Science doesn’t really work great in a portable, and you can’t do chemistry in a portable.” Photo: Hallie Faust

Besides the inconveniences caused by holding sciences classes in portables, growing class sizes offer another reason for the add-on. In January of 2013, then-principal Kim Diorio said plans to expand the building were made due to the need for more space as class sizes were increasing.

“We’re looking at our enrollment projections, and we’re supposed to go up another two, three, 400 students in the next five years,” Diorio said to The Paly Voice. “And currently we’re feeling very maxed out on space.”

Olah says he prefers to think of the new buildings as an opportunity to provide more specialized science facilities.

“Science doesn’t really work great in a portable, and you can’t do chemistry in a portable,” Olah said. “We want to be able to have everyone in the building together, and all the different classrooms inside.” 

The construction, which began over the summer, is expected to be done anytime within 18-24 months from now; however, Olah said, making accurate predictions on how long the project will take can be difficult.

“Construction, they always give you an estimate, and you’re not really sure if they’ll exactly follow it, so I’m hoping everything’s done in about a year and a half,” Olah said.

Underclassmen can look forward to the new classrooms, but until the building is finished, students will have to put up with obstacles caused by construction.

Part of the science building is blocked off due to construction, requiring some students to take an alternate path through the center of the building instead of entering from outside. Sophomore Tara Kapoor said the long route to her Chemistry Honors classroom can cause students to be tardy.

“If you’re rushing from another class that’s kind of far away, it can make you late,” Kapoor said. “There were kids that came in late because the door was locked, and they weren’t able to get in.”

The construction has also displaced a large number of bike racks, causing difficulties for students who bike to school.

The majority of the bike racks previously located in front of the science building were relocated between the baseball fields and the Peery Center. As a result, students have to walk farther to get from their bikes to their classrooms.

“The way that they positioned the racks is so that you can’t get in between the bikes,” junior Charlotte Goyle said. “It’s also really far away [from classes].”

Once the project is complete, and students no longer need to put up with complications caused by construction, the science classes currently held in the portables will be moved to the main science building. However, Olah predicts that the portables will not be removed just yet.

“I’m guessing they’ll keep them until they’re done updating things because that’s a nice place for teachers to move in and back,” Olah said. “I’ve seen the plans, and I do know eventually that they’ll be gone, which will be nice.”

According to Olah, all of the new classrooms will include televisions to replace the outdated projecting screens. Additionally, one of the classrooms, originally designed for a biotech course, will be outfitted with various gadgets specific to the course.

“We haven’t run the biotech course in the last few years as not enough students signed up for it,” Olah said. “Maybe if we get a nice, cool room going for it, there will be more students that sign up.”