Santa Barbara Junior High staff members, wearing casual clothes and name tags, gathered in the school’s new building Thursday for a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the school’s new multi-purpose building.
The building houses the kitchen, cafeteria, gymnasium and locker rooms and replaces aging structures that were not up to current building codes.
Teachers and other members of the SBJH team chatted or dribbled a basketball on the new hardwood floors. There was a first-day-of-school feeling.
For their second project unveiling in two days, Santa Barbara Unified School District officials stepped up to a podium to commemorate the accomplishment.
The district’s superintendent Dr. Hilda Maldonado called the project “momentous.”
“When I arrived a little over a year ago, I only saw dirt, and maybe some columns,” she said. “I don’t think I came back after that because I had to deal with this other little pandemic thing that was happening.”
She was hired by the board as the pandemic disrupted education worldwide. She inherited ongoing construction projects and has shown off the staff that has worked throughout the process.
SBJH is going through a leadership change, so Assistant Principal Kristin Lindquist has rallied staff during this time.
Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Shawn Carey thanked her for her work, and teachers nodded and clapped.
“It’s been a long time coming and a lot of union, a lot of sacrifices in the short run to be able to open up this facility today,” Ms. Carey said.
Santa Barbara Unified’s project manager Richard Whirty, while relaying the project’s history, expanded on the importance of a team.
While excavating the project site, his team found an old teapot he estimates to be around 150 years old. It survived the earthquake in 1925 and the pouring of 60-foot piers in 1930.
The teapot may be missing its lid, but the crew found the pot and its arm safe.
“There’s a lot to be said for being lucky. And I have been extremely lucky in having the team that I worked with on this project,” Mr. Whirty said.
A handful of architects and construction managers attended the reception, admiring the final product. The finished building looks nearly identical to the renderings architects imagined months ago.
The exterior looks much more modern than a William H. Weeks (the main school building’s architect) design. But its roof references Spanish colonial architecture.
The building is raised four feet higher than the main school building in anticipation of future sea-level rise, said Mr. Whirty.
Inside, a vaulted ceiling and wood beams draw the eye up and clerestory windows bring in sunshine without blinding the athletes that will play on the court.
The money for the project comes from Measure I (2016), which provided for secondary schools.
“Without this city and voters, we wouldn’t have the funds to be able to expand and improve all of our facilities,” Mr. Whirty said.
Students will return for classes next week at Santa Barbara Junior High.