Tracy Schools show off new additions

TRACY – Students in the Tracy Area Public School District haven’t been the only ones getting ready for classes to begin next week. All this summer, both Tracy Area High School and Tracy Area Elementary have been construction zones, as workers replaced windows, pavement, the high school track and more.

At an open house event on Wednesday evening, Tracy Superintendent Chad Anderson showed off some of the new additions. He said they represented an investment that will hopefully keep Tracy’s school buildings in good shape into the future.

“Everything is almost done,” Anderson said Wednesday. Renovations should be completely finished by Tuesday, the first day of school for Tracy.

The building improvements are being funded by a $2 million bond and a 10-year capital projects levy passed by district voters last November. The list of improvements at both the elementary and secondary schools include new windows, brick work, new sidewalks, driveway and parking lot surfaces and the replacement of the high school track.

Anderson said Tracy school officials arrived at the final list by prioritizing building needs at both schools.

“We wanted make sure we were addressing the highest needs,” Anderson said. “The highest need was by far the parking lots and sidewalks, that was A-1.”

He estimated that the concrete sidewalks, asphalt parking surfaces and driveways outside the high school and elementary school were more than 40 years old, likely original to the buildings. All were badly deteriorated, with potholes and cracks that were safety hazards.

“The bituminous was just turning to gravel” at the high school parking lot, Anderson said. He said the school district had been spending between $5,000 and $20,000 a year on asphalt patching.

The work to replace the parking lots and sidewalks began in June, right after school ended, Anderson said. The old surfaces were completedly removed, and construction workers dug down 17 inches to lay a new base for the pavement, he said. The parking lots and driveways were updated with additional parking spaces and energy-efficient LED lights, which he said will save the district in utility costs.

“We had a lot of debate over our track,” Anderson said. “Because it was shot.” The surface of the track had deteriorated to the point where cracks posed a hazard to runners. However, he said school officials decided to update the track and preserve an asset to the school.

Rebuilding the track was a major undertaking. Anderson said the track bed was dug down 32 inches, and a new base, track and recycled-rubber running surface were built.

Other major updates to the school buildings included new, insulated windows in both schools – as a bonus, Anderson said, the new silver-colored window frames “really dress up” the buildings. Updates also included repairs to damaged brick work and flashing and a set of new bleachers in the high school gymnasium. The bleachers have several rows of seats with backrests, as well as wider aisles with handrails and easier-to-climb steps.

Several classrooms got a makeover, as well, Anderson said. New carpet was installed in some classrooms in both school buildings, and four social-studies classrooms at the high school got permanent walls instead of sharing accordion-style partitions.

Anderson said the high school’s outdated and often-malfunctioning bell system has also been replaced with a new system of digital clocks. The clocks, both in the halls and in the classrooms, are designed to stay synchronized with each other. During passing periods, they even display a five-minute countdown to help keep students from being late to class.

Anderson said there’s more construction work still to come at the high school.

“The high school roof was part of the bond project, but construction will wait until next year,” Anderson said. The roof replacement was originally planned for this summer, but the logistics didn’t work out with the parking lot construction and other renovations.

Anderson said the renovations would be good for the Tracy district. Preserving two functional school buildings would be more cost-effective than having to build new.

“It’s a big project and done well,” he said. “Hopefully we can get another 45 years out of it.”