For the first time, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District will develop a Facilities Master Plan that will guide the district’s plans for district-wide renovations and updates.
Campuses across the district have aging buildings, cracked concrete and design issues, PVPUSD officials said. And while district staff have kept facilities running and fixed safety issues as they arise, there’s a need for a plan to address short- and long-term issues on campuses around the Peninsula, they said.
“You can’t just keep limping along,” said Brent Kuykendall, incoming principal at Peninsula High.
The last building constructed in the district was finished in 1968, said Superintendent Don Austin. Since then, district staff have maintained the facilities, but without a plan in place for improving or replacing buildings after several decades.
That’s something the new facilities plan, set to be finished sometime this fall, will address.
“We’re trying to have that perspective that we could potentially make decisions that could last decades,” Austin said.
Some of the long-term projects that will be identified in the plan won’t be complete for decades, but creating guidelines now is an important step, Austin said.
Kuykendall compared the process to an overview of a home remodel. An overarching plan will give the district the chance to prioritize projects that all eventually lead to a larger end goal, he said.
Part of that process includes incorporating community input into the plan, which Austin described as a fluid document. Online surveys are available through mid-July, and the district conducted several public meetings to give community members a chance to voice their opinions on what should be included in the overall plan.
That input will help the district prioritize which projects are completed first on each campus, Austin said.
As part of developing the master plan, each school was given a campus report card with letter grades for several areas, including site utilities, architecture and structure, and interior finishes. None of the schools in the district earned above a B+ in any of the categories, and the majority earned C grades.
The district hired design firm DLR Group to develop the master plan for $347,000. PVPUSD chose the firm in part because it will work with the district’s specific qualities to address challenges and make use of campus resources, Austin said.
For example, many of the district campuses are small and set in residential areas, which limits how much they can be expanded. Others were designed without traffic flow in mind, which creates backups during school mornings and afternoons as parents come en mass to drop off or pick up students.
Many of the campuses can make use of indoor to outdoor spaces, though, something Austin said the DLR Group will take into account.
The first projects will largely focus on safety and some smaller facility fixes like improving cracked asphalt or replacing campus equipment. Some of those projects, such as installing new roofs or heating and air conditioning systems, are already underway, he said.
Longer-term projects, which in some cases won’t be complete for decades, will examine how to put campus infrastructure to better use or create new spaces to improve student experiences.
Palos Verdes High, for example, has no theater, Austin said. So part of developing the plan for that campus will include determining what changes can be made on campus to create a permanent spot for student performances.
“We’re not looking to go build brand new buildings, but how can we change an existing space to better serve a purpose?” Austin said.
The deficiencies on the PVPUSD campuses have created a growing gap between the experience of students in other districts and the one Palos Verdes students receive, he said.
“Anyone who’s walked down through a Redondo Beach campus recently sees the massive, massive difference between our facilities, both classroom, extracurricular, athletic, and our facilities,” Austin said. “They’re night and day.”
He added that a common theme at the community outreach meetings was a fear that the gap between the PVPUSD and other districts will continue to grow if the Palos Verdes schools don’t make needed changes while schools elsewhere do.
Updating the facilities on campus gives students an incentive to help maintain the them, Kuykendall said.
“If students are seeing a well-manicured and up-to-date facility, the majority of the time they’re going to take better care of it and they’re going to be invested more in their own growth and their improvement,” Kuykendall said.