Tower Building to undergo renovations

Addie McNamara and Phoebe So

The Tower Building recently had new windows installed throughout both stories. In the future, the building will have more renovations such as the installation of an elevator and the addition of an alumni room, according to Principal Kim Diorio.
The Tower Building recently had new windows installed throughout both of its stories. In the future, the building will have more renovations such as the installation of an elevator and the addition of an alumni room, according to Principal Kim Diorio. Photo by Malcolm Davis.

With the construction of multiple new buildings, the future Palo Alto High School will look vastly different than it does now. However, one building, undergoing only certain renovations in order to maintain its historical significance, will remain somewhat the same: the Tower Building.

As part of the Strong Schools Bond program — a $378 million bond passed on June 3, 2008,  that allowed the district to pursue long term construction projects — the Tower Building will experience both short-term and long-term renovations in the future.

“Over the winter break we’re working on remodeling the interior of this main office,” Principal Kim Diorio said. “[Secretary Carolyn] Benfield’s gonna move back here. We’re going to move a few people around and just use the space a little bit better. That’s mostly cosmetic changes. It’s not a big project. It’s just moving people’s desks and maybe getting some nice furniture and I’m hoping maybe some new carpet.”

The more ambitious projects include the addition of restrooms on the ground floor and the installation of an elevator.

Additionally, the guidance office space will be restored to its previous appearance. Currently the guidance offices contain carpeting and partitions; however, after the restoration all of this will be removed and a fireplace and lighting fixtures will be added, according to Diorio. The space will then be available for other uses.

“We could have meetings or a class could come in and use it if they wanted to,” Diorio said.

After the remodeling of the library is completed, the guidance offices will move to the new space in order to allow for better access to students, thus enabling the restoration of the current guidance office space. Additionally, the College and Career Center will move down to the library following its completion. This extra space in the Tower Building will then allow for more construction possibilities.

“Where the College and Career Center currently is, right there, we’re looking at making an alumni room,” Diorio said. “That would be a room that visitors could come to who want to come back, and it would house a lot of the artifacts. This is a 100-year-old, more than a 100-year-old, school so there’s a lot of history.”

Diorio explained the features of the alumni room.

“A lot of alumni come back and want to look at old yearbooks,” she said. “They like to look at old pictures and newspaper clippings. A lot of the stuff that’s essentially lining the halls of the Tower Building, we could gather in one spot and create almost like a museum, so that people could come in and kind of see, and have that connection. … We could also use that place for meetings if we wanted to or as a gathering space, so that would be the idea of the alumni room. I think it’ll be cool, it’ll be fun.”

Additionally, the second floor will be remodeled to include both an expansion of the adult school and the creation of a General Educational Development testing center.

“GED is going online, so they want a computer area where they can give the GED part through the adult school for people who need to take the GED,” Diorio said. “We could also use those computers during the day and do some online computer science type courses or certification courses.”

Adolescent Counseling Services will also be moved to the second floor of the Tower Building to allow for better student confidentiality.

“ACS will probably move back upstairs, so they’re a little more accessible to parents and visitors that need to go, and a little more isolated than the center of campus to respect confidentiality,” Diorio said.

However, despite previous plans to move the administration to the library after its construction, a large majority of the administration will still remain in the Tower Building. According to Diorio, Assistant Principal Kathie Laurence will be the only administrator to move to the new library offices due to her close work with the Guidance Office and the College and Career Center. Her main reason for remaining in the Tower Building was due to disciplinary issues and maintaining student confidentiality, Diorio said.

“We have these situations where we have dangerous students or to protect student confidentiality, to be in the library and be bringing the police on campus is not such a good thing,” Diorio said. “So we figured we’d keep the administrative offices up here [in the Tower Building] so this way if the police needed to come and respond and work with us, we’re still maintaining some confidentiality for students, and we’re not creating any situation that’s unsafe for kids if — God forbid — it’s a dangerous student or something.”

Diorio also stated that the tradition of the Tower Building influenced her decision to remain.

“This has always been the principal’s office for a hundred years, so there’s something about that tradition,” Diorio said. “I’d have a hard time leaving the Tower Building.”

The Tower Building will not be remodeled until current construction projects are finished. Currently, the Tower Building is projected to be completed around 2017 to 2018, according to Diorio.

Diorio spoke of the importance of the Tower Building to Paly community.

“Even though it’s the building that as a student you’re not spending most of your time in, but there’s just something special about this space,” she said.