Ode To Montclair School Renovations

As you know, Montclair Elementary School is getting an $18 million makeover.  Renovations began this summer, and continue through next year.  Most notably, two painfully-old portable classrooms and the cafeteria have been demolished.  Good riddance!

While the original school footprint is a nice deco-style building, the school campus has seen far better days.  It’s a top-notch school, filled with teachers who educate kids really well.  But the overcrowding is palpable.  When asked to envision and paint Montclair Elementary, one fifth grader simply created a portable classroom.

John Esposito, senior project manager for Oakland Unified School District, has overseen this summer’s activity.  He does have plenty to get done before the school year begins, and here’s the project schedule for this week:

1.      Fencing
2.      Installation of portable landings and ramps
3.      Cleaning and waxing of portable floors
4.      Moving of earth quake container
5.      Testing of new gas line to old portables
6.      Waiting for PG&E’s change out of existing gas meter for old portables – no date as yet from them
7.      Architect/other consultants preparing their punch lists – corrections, items missing
8.      Installing basketball poles

In only two weeks, all Oakland public schoolers head back to school.  Although Montclair Elementary’s a work-in-progress, students will return to an operational campus.  Their new building, which houses ten classrooms and a rec room, gets built next.

And let’s hope that students view their school differently, when the transformed campus emerges (fingers crossed) in 2012.

More info:  Check out the school expansion Q&A, new building, architectural renderings and group updates.

Welcome Back To School, Reality Checks

The new school year should be a joyful time, filled with renewal and hopefulness.  There’s something about seeing teachers, parents and students buzzing around again…which reminds us of other realities.

The Teachers

We are so lucky to have great teachers!  Here’s a quick shot of Jennifer Formoso, a first-grade teacher at Thornhill School, taking a breather during her final classroom preparations last Friday.

Reality Check #1 – Since we live in Oakland, the teachers aren’t exactly overpaid.  Yet they take responsibility for making sure students are supplied properly, and spend their own money to do so.  Pencil boxes anyone?

Thornhill School Teacher

The Schools

Our elementary schools do offer solid educational experiences, as evidenced in the annual academic test scores for hills kids.  Everyone truly cares, and that combination of parents and teachers works well.

Reality Check #2 – The school facilities and grounds are part of sound education, and have seen better days.  Just look at the Montclair School, in this picture snapped Monday.  Does this look like a first-rate environment?

Montclair School Yard

The Access

In the calculus of Montclair living, residents want their progeny to attend good, convenient schools.  They note the nearest elementary school and likely figure it’s within walking or bike-riding distance, so all is well.

Reality Check #3 – Yesterday the traffic was at a standstill around Joaquin Miller School (and Montera School), raising the blood pressure of parents and other drivers.  Why aren’t there safe, walkable paths to school?

Joaquin Miller School Access

Welcome back to the Oakland Hills schools, for the 2009-2010 year.  We’re proud of the education for our kids and the cooperation among principals, teachers and parents.  We accept that fundraising is important so programs like the arts – “free” in our era – are still offered to hills kids.  Though it sure would be nice if Oakland budgeted and paid for the basics.