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Alhambra Unified Schools - Construction Projects Move Ahead

  • By David Barron

KeithMatsuoRGBWebVersAnyone spending time around Alhambra schools these days can see the campuses changing.
Construction and modernization is taking place throughout the district, and while some projects are smaller, and others are more dramatic, the physical landscapes of the District’s schools are being updated and expanded to fit the demands of this generation of students and many more after them.

“Public works construction, specifically in education, is very unique. It’s not something like the houses we’re seeing in this state, and even the country, that are built and vacant. In a school, buildings aren’t sitting around, they’re used immediately., “explained District Director of Construction, Keith Matsuo (pictured at left).

Since starting as Director in November 2008, Mr. Matsuo has had an active year. He serves as a liaison between the District and Division State Architecture (DSA), building relationships with people within the agency and keeping communication with them fluid and efficient.

DSA is responsible for approving building plans for K-12 schools based upon the main criteria of access, fire safety, and structure. In the case of 2 2-story buildings erected at Garfield and Northrup, the plans were passed in record time.

“We’ve had 2 classroom buildings built within a year [at Garfield and Northrup], and that’s just unprecedented in this district. ” Mr. Matsuo said.

Elementary school construction is funded by a $50 million Bond, Measure MM, which was voted for in November 2008. It passed by a nearly 70 percent margin. The monetary boon is twofold: the State will match the District’s funds.

Of course, the State is also experiencing a budget crisis that creates a delay in doing so. In the case of Garfield, Northrup, and Brightwood (which will begin constructing a 2-story building in 2010), the schools received what is called “unfunded approval.”

The trick then for the District is to move ahead with some projects and pull back on the reins with others, ensuring that when the State begins selling bonds again and has money to give, the District will have the money necessary left to match.

Elementary schools are not the only places seeing their campuses change. Measure C--an $85 million Bond for high school construction-- was passed by voters in 2004. One of the most spectacular examples of construction in the District happens to be taking place at Mr. Matsuo’s alma mater, Mark Keppel.

“Mark Keppel’s construction and modernization is the biggest budget project the district has ever had,” he began. “Walking into the library over there now, essentially everything you see is new.”
In addition to the modernized library, Mark Keppel already has a new parking lot, new lunch shelters, and a renovated auditorium.

In 2010, it will have 2 new classroom buildings, a new full-capacity gymnasium, new water piping and doors will be installed in its original main building, a new girls’ team locker room, and a renovated science wing in the original building. And as a goal for the entire district, as many portable classrooms as possible will be removed.

The removal of portables comes with help from the Overcrowded Relief Grant (ORG), in which high schools are eligible for and elementary schools are in line to receive.

Funds from the bond are need-based, and at this time Mark Keppel has had the most changes necessary to its campus. Alhambra High School and San Gabriel High School are also undergoing work through Measure C, such as San Gabriel’s new football field and upcoming remodeled auditorium and Alhambra’s new tennis courts and upcoming new classrooms.

Mr. Matsuo has previously worked in the district as a teacher, assistant principal, and dean. Working in construction is also fitting given his unique background in contracting on the side since he was a teacher.

Having been in the District a long time also gives him a familiarity with the campuses that helps in overseeing their construction needs.


(Editor’s Note: This article was based on a press release submittd by the Alhambra Unified School District.)

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