Multimillion dollar construction winds down at Berkeley High School

Chen Gong/Staff

Related Media

A construction project totaling more than $35 million at Berkeley High School wrapped up late last month.

The project, known as the South of Bancroft Project, includes 16 new classrooms, a gym, bleachers and a softball field. Planning for the project began in 2004, and construction was completed approximately two weeks ahead of schedule at $6.6 million less than the proposed budget.

“I’m extremely happy with it,” said Gary Irving, project manager for Van Pelt Construction Services, the firm that oversaw the project. “It turned out very well, and I’m glad that the entire project came in below total budget.”

Funding came from bonds after Measure I — which allowed the school district to issue $210 million in bonds — was approved in 2010. Previous measures also funded an earlier phase of the project, which included a stadium that opened in June of 2012.

While the school district can take out installments of money to fund various projects, it cannot withdraw the entire sum at once.

The expansion of Berkeley High School facilities was the “flagship project” of the bond measure, according to school board president Josh Daniels.

The measure faced opposition from some city residents who formed a campaign against Measure I. Opponents said elements of the project were supposed to be funded by older measures.

“I’m considerably impressed by the architecture and how it is stable, especially in the short time that they built it,” said Matthew Mendez, a senior at Berkeley High School. “It was a really short period, especially for such a large building.”

Mendez noted the addition of new technology in classrooms, including enhanced sound systems.

The discovery of asbestos on the site, however, temporarily halted construction in August of 2012. Asbestos was found in between concrete slabs beneath the construction site, according to Lew Jones, school district facilities director.

“We had to scramble to address this problem,” Daniels said. “It could have added potential cost and potential problems.”

As part of the project, the school’s old gym was demolished in 2012 due to concerns that the building was seismically unsafe. It was replaced with athletic facilities that include a new gym and softball field.

The high school softball team previously played at Grove Park, a field located nine blocks away from the campus. The new softball field will be open for use in November, according to Jason Kaneko, the school’s softball coach.

“I hope that the (new field) will provide inspiration and interest for the team to perform well and play at a higher level,” Kaneko said.

The addition of 16 new classrooms has created more space for students studying foreign languages, according to Jones.

Prior to the opening of the new classroom building, language classes were held in temporary portable units located behind the construction site.

Two major components that led to the success of the project, according to Daniels, were the prequalification of site bidders and quarterly project reports requested by the school board.

“The reports let the facilities director know that the school board had a strong interest in the project,” Daniels said. “We’re very proud of what staff did and what the oversight committee did.”

A community open house Nov. 15 will showcase the new facilities.

Contact Adrienne Shih at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @adrienneshih.