School district OKs $24.3M upgrade for special-needs school

Glendale Unified’s special-needs school is set to receive some special attention.

In a 4-1 vote, school board members opted this week to proceed with an expansive set of construction plans for College View School. An updated cost estimate for the project hovers at $24.3 million.

The physical overhaul of the campus will be among the first capital projects funded by Measure S, a $270-million school bond passed by voters in April 2011.

Located on Mountain Street across from Glendale Community College’s upper parking lot, College View currently enrolls 75 severely disabled students from Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge and Burbank. Built in 1977 and passed over for refurbishment amid Measure K, a $186-million school bond passed in 1997, the site no longer meets student needs, according the district’s special education experts.

The project approved by board members this week calls for the complete demolition of the existing facility, followed by ground-up construction of a new two-story, 52,030-square-foot classroom building. It will contain improved therapy areas, including a pool, greater playground visibility, storage and lighting. Plans also outline the addition of standard restrooms and staff offices that currently are missing from the site.

The district’s chief business and financial officer, Eva Lueck, said the project’s costs could hit $24.3 million.

Driving up the price is the new building’s second floor, which officials hope might someday house an advanced secondary education program — labeled Middle College — that they hope to launch in collaboration with Glendale Community College.

At a meeting last month, staff members reported the projected cost of a four-classroom second-level at $1.8 million, with a total project cost of $19.4 million. Upon direction of board members, they expanded the plans to include six classrooms.

“That [estimate] came in much, much higher that we ever anticipated,” Lueck said. “Our $1.8 million was not even close to the mark … so I really wanted to bring that to the board’s attention in their decision-making process.”

Two dozen College View parents and staff attended the meeting Tuesday to express their support for the plans.

Azita Fatheree said that the campus community has proved safe and nurturing for her son while also serving as a support system for her family.

“The shell of the school will also make a huge difference in what he is able to do at that school and how he is able to grow,” Fatheree said.

School board member Greg Krikorian, who in February expressed concerns about the costliness of constructing a second floor for a program that doesn’t exist yet, again balked at the project’s price tag and cast the lone dissenting vote on Tuesday.

“I am 100% for redoing College View brand new,” Krikorian said. “I just have a hard time accepting a $6-million increase to the project.”

Assistant Superintendent for Special Education Amy Lambert and others said that having the second-story classrooms will allow the district to integrate typical students into the site, something strongly encouraged by the California Department of Education.

The district has already been criticized by state education officials, who said that the school did not provide its students with enough interaction with their more typical peers, board member Mary Boger said. And the extra space provides the district with options, whether Middle College materializes or not, she added.

“Having that second story at College View provides us essentially with a second school for $6 million,” Boger said. “I defy anyone to tell us how we could create a six-classroom school for $6 million anywhere else.”

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