School district awaits state approval for projects

COSTA MESA — The Newport-Mesa Unified School District is preparing two grade 7-12 sites to have new theaters and middle school buildings as it waits for official permission to begin construction.

At both the Costa Mesa and Corona del Mar campuses, old buildings have been demolished and the utilities removed; at Costa Mesa, two new computer labs were constructed, said Tim Marsh, the district's administrative director of facilities support services.

"At this point, we're doing all the prep we can over the summer to minimize the negative impact" of construction during the school year, Marsh said.

Both sites are slated for a new theater and middle school enclave that will give the seventh- and eighth-graders a more separate area for their lockers and most of their classes on the high school campus.

Part of Costa Mesa's dirt lot on Arlington Avenue, where middle schoolers were dropped off, will be used for a new paved parking lot that will serve the middle school campus and extracurricular activities after school.

Costa Mesa will also have a couple of classrooms in the middle of the school renovated so they can hold specialty classes like ceramics, after the two projects are complete, Marsh said.

Plans for the two projects — the enclaves and theaters are considered separate — were submitted to the Division of the State Architect for a plan check in late July, Marsh said.

The district is waiting for the state architect to approve the plans before the school district asks for bids, Marsh said.

He estimated a late September or early October time frame for the bidding.

Once construction begins, it will take 24 to 30 months to complete.

For Jennifer Piatti, Costa Mesa High's Parent Teacher Student Assn. president, the upcoming construction projects are very exciting.

Piatti said she sees the new theater as an opportunity for the community and hopes the feeder elementary schools will also enjoy it.

The enclaves will help keep the identities of the middle and high schools separate, she said.

"We have a good campus," Piatti said. "We're going to have a great campus when this is all done."

The projects are funded by the $282-million Measure F, a ballot measure voters approved in November 2005.

The district has been waiting to sell the bonds until a time when taxpayers wouldn't have to pay more than $18.87 for every $100,000 of assessed valuation — the same rate residents were paying for the 2005-06 Measure A bonds.

Newport-Mesa sold $95 million in bonds in May for the campus upgrade projects after the school board approved the sale of up to $100 million of the bonds in April.

The district had already sold about $70 million of the Measure F bonds to fund other projects, including Estancia High School's Jim Scott Stadium, Costa Mesa High's aquatic center, and the installation of science classrooms in elementary schools.

The latest round of bonds sold will also fund plans to renovate Newport Harbor High School's Davidson Field.

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