SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A massive crane is now working at the project site of the under-construction Santa Maria-Bonita School District elementary school.
"The crane has about 220 feet of stick on it, so as you can tell, it's pretty tall and because it stands in one place for a long time, it's able to reach pretty far before it has to move," said project superintendent Rudy Jimenez of AMG & Associates, Inc.
The new school is being built on a pie-shape parcel of land on the Enos Ranch development, between South College Drive, Meehan Street and Shepard Drive.
The highly-visible crane can be seen in many parts of the surrounding Santa Maria area and to motorists driving along Highway 101.
"When the big crane arrived, that's when people started to get really excited," said Santa Maria-Bonita public information officer Maggie White. "The big crane is moving. The big steel beams and the big steel columns, that's visual, very exciting and it is going to be wonderful to watch the new school being built piece by piece."
The school district held an official groundbreaking in late February, signaling the start of a project that will create its 21st campus.
Construction at the 10-acre site began in early March.
"A lot of the work has been done underneath the ground level, so people driving by may not have seen as much, but if you're on site, you can definitely look at the trenches that have been dug and the wiring and the plumbing that have put and see that a lot of work has been done," said White.
When completed, the school will initially house 700 students, which can rise in coming years.
The still-unnamed campus will prominently feature a two-story building that will hold the majority of classrooms, making it unique among other Santa Maria-area elementary schools.
Currently, the crane is being used to help shape the structure.
"We start with the columns first and then we'll start picking up beams and tying them together," said Jimenez. "The second floor first and then we'll move up to the roof level."
Jimenez said the crane will remain at the construction site through late September.
The project is estimated to cost between $40-50 million, with the majority of the funding coming from the Measure T bond measure that passed in 2014.
"We are grateful to the community for supporting Measure T and we are thrilled to have that money coming to this community for jobs, for school buildings, for the community to see the fruits of their support," said White.
The new school is on schedule to open in just over a year. Students are expected to attend classes on the new campus in August 2020.
"It's a very aggressive schedule, but we're geared up for it and if we have anything to do with it, we'll make sure it's completed," said Jimenez.
White said the community will have an opportunity to make suggestions for the official name in early 2020.
The school board will make the final decision, likely by the end of the 2019-20 school year.