New Sonoma Valley High science wing to break ground in June

Construction of Sonoma Valley High’s new science wing--which will include six 960-square-foot classrooms and three 1,200-square-foot labs--is scheduled to begin in June.|

After considerable discussion, the Sonoma Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees voted 3-2 to move ahead with an agreement to build a new science wing at Sonoma Valley High School, despite the need to find additional funding for what could be a major construction project at Altimira Middle School.

Board President Anne Ching and trustees Cassandra Landry and Troy Knox voted to approve the agreement with GCCI General Contractors, Inc. in Santa Rosa for the project, while trustees John Kelly and Celeste Winders voted against it at the board meeting on May 11.

“We need a state-of-the-art science building for our kids,” Ching said. “I feel that if we delay, we’re going to end up with a much higher pricetag in the end.”

Knox said he thinks that the new wing, along with the Sonoma Valley High School Aquatic Center, could help to attract more families to the district and provide a big boost to students.

“I know it’s a big price tag, but our students are worth it,” he said.

Construction of the new wing is set to begin in June and will include six 960-square-foot classrooms with multiple marker boards, built-in storage cabinets, lab counters and room for a demonstration table in front of the classrooms. It will also feature three 1,200-square-foot labs with 16 two-person work stations, three prep rooms and three storage rooms.

Kelly and Winders voiced support for eventually adding a new science wing, but were concerned about approving the agreement before the cost of required seismic upgrades at Altimira are known.

Modernization of the science building was on the board’s list of priorities after Bond Measure E passed in November 2016, bringing $120 million to the district to upgrade classrooms, science labs and school facilities. The modernization of the science buildingwas estimated to cost $8.7 million, but when the district got into the design phase, it found that the building’s foundation would not support the work.

The district then began planning to build an entire new science wing, which was expected to cost $15.5 million, but is now estimated at $14.7 million. Measure E funds will cover the project, including $11.3 million in construction costs and $3.4 million in other expenses, including architects, environmental studies and security.

While preparing the district’s Facilities Master Plan, Perkins-Eastman consulting firm stated in January 2023 that seven buildings at Altimira do not meet contemporary earthquake safety standards. This will require the district either to conduct a retrofit or demolish and reconstruct those buildings.

Joshua Braff, the district’s superintendent of business services, indicated that a retrofit could cost approximately $15 per square foot, totaling between $5 million to $7 million.

“But my expectation, at this point, is that the buildings will all need to be demolished and reconstructed, and I expect each will cost in the range of $10 to $15 million,” Kelly said after the meeting.

In August, Perkins-Eastman is expecting an estimate on the cost of the work at Altimira. Possible sources of funding include a bond measure, grants and loans.

“We won’t plan on the funding until we know the scope,” said Braff.

Reach the reporter, Dan Johnson, at

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