SANTA MARIA, Calif. - As Santa Maria High School students walk around campus during the first few days of school this week, they are noticing a significant construction project now happening.
At the north end of campus, a $55 million project is in its early stages.
When completed the three-story, 89,000 square foot building will revolutionize the historic high school that dates back more than 100 years.
"It will assist the education of the students, as well as make it accessible to the community as well," said interim principal Steve Campbell. "I think it's going to be something the community is very proud of. It's going to have a front of the store to Morrison, where there will be convenient parking, which is something we've struggled for years and we'll have a facility that works efficiently for students and teachers alike."
The building will house 50 total classrooms, including those for math, science, English and culinary arts.
It will also include offices for site administration, counseling, special programs, health and student services.
Currently, classrooms are spread out over a wide area, covering about a city block from Morrison Avenue to the north to Stowell Road to the south.
The new building will dramatically alter the size and scope of the academic campus footprint.
"The whole campus will be condensed to a shorter commute in between classes with space where the kids can get out and relax and kind of take a deep breath between classes, so I think it's going to be great on all fronts," said Campbell.
The new classrooms will allow the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District the opportunity to remove scores of portable classrooms.
"All the portables will be leaving our campus and then the space that they take will become part of the athletics facility, so it will be practice field, tennis courts and additional parking," Campbell said.
In addition, about two dozen classrooms, some of which date back several dates, are also being removed to make way for the state-of-the-art facility.
"The teachers that occupied those classrooms last year had to fit into exciting classrooms that were already on campus with open space that we had on campus, so we're much more condensed than we were, but we have the same number of classes and same number of kids in the classrooms as we had before, but it took a lot of coordinating to get all that to work smoothly, so yesterday wehn it worked well, it was the result of a lot of work and a lot of planning," said Campbell.
The building is expected to be completed by 2022, so students and staff will have to study and work around constant construction for about three years.
"I think the students will get used to it and the faculty will get used to it," said Campbell. "It's just these first few weeks as we're kind of adjusting and working out the bugs as far as how kids will traffic through the campus as some of our main arteries have been blocked off by construction, they'll adapt to that, the students always adjust to things like that real quickly and I think we'll be in a groove pretty soon."
The new building is being paid through Measure H.
Santa Maria voters passed the $114 bond measure in 2016.