Matilda Torres High Progress
By Frédéric M. Martin, Editor-in-Chief
The Matilda Torres High School construction project is on track. Building footprints are clearly visible. By the time this newspaper is published, steel columns and beams will already be erected and likely cased in cement, prioritizing building A, administration and classroom building, to be completed by July 2019. There is currently no real construction delay to speak of, other than a short week of wet weather, which can easily be made up. Steel delivery is around the corner and concrete footings were to be poured in early July. Off-site infrastructure is also being concurrently developed: infrastructure for traffic lights are being installed at key intersections — Martin and 26, as well as D and Ellis, while at the same time, connections for the school complex to the city sewer system and city water are being laid, and electrical connectors to the grid are being installed. We do not expect delays.
The construction budget is very much on target as the project cost is in fact baked into the contract, with any extra costs only possible if project modifications are specifically requested by the district. The schoolboard will probably decide, within the next three months, if we want to have the school open for some freshmen classes in August 2019. If all goes as planned, building A, which houses the administration, the school library, some classrooms, and building F with the multipurpose room/food service area should be available for the staff and students by August 2019.
The last three school bonds, passed in 2002, 2006, and 2014 delivered enough elementary schools to allow the school district to move away from the year-round school schedules that significantly stretched MUSD resources, back to a traditional school schedule with new facilities, while also enabling the middle school expansion. To a certain extent, we are still catching up, thanks to the three bonds that Madera voters passed in the last 16 years. Without those bonds, temporary school structures would have needed expensive retrofits, with costly replacements. Other, additional temporary solutions would have been necessary even though they would not address infrastructure requirements that result from growing student and teacher populations crammed into campuses that were not built to accommodate that many people: too few bathrooms, small dining cafeterias, parking lots sizes, and traffic management.
The school infrastructure was not originally built to accommodate population growth, adequate dining facilities (without stretching the lunch hour over multiple hours), nor with enough bathrooms, etc. Although the bonds have resulted in reducing student concentrations in the existing school facilities, we want to get to a point where we have a fully equipped and functional learning environment that properly scales to the student population it serves and to the staff and teachers who work for MUSD.
The new Matilda Torres High School will be visually stunning, will feature amenities unparalleled anywhere in scope, design, and functionality in our region, and the entire complex will become the crown jewel of the school district that will boast one of the most attractive building structures in the city of Madera. The high school population will also be properly distributed between the three campuses, to deliver the most optimal educational environment for all the students in the Madera Unified School District.
This important High School project concludes the decades long effort that has patiently, yet un-waveringly, worked to provide the right kind of educational infrastructure that both works for all its stakeholders. This project will also deliver a marketable solution to attract families to Madera, thanks to the concerted efforts to provide one of the best educational institutions in the state. The upswing in MUSD’s performance is not a fluke. The combination of all the upgrades in construction, of raising expectations of the district’s educational and administrative excellence, and the initial results we can already quantify all point to a bright future for Madera. We believe retrofit upgrades to existing schools and new high quality facilities will create an attractive overall environment and provide a formidable marketing asset as Madera Unified competes to hire the best staff in the Valley, attract new families, and boost local real estate values.
Madera Unified’s leaders expect our students to compete anywhere in the world by empowering them to for any career or university. Higher expectations are designed into the quality of Torres High School’s facilities to foster a superior education and deep sense of community pride in Madera.