New buildings and ongoing renovation projects will greet students from Santa Maria and Nipomo schools when they return to class in the next two weeks.

Financed using voter-approved bond money, administrators say the projects — some several years in the making — will improve the experience for students throughout the region.

Although delays to the renovation of Nipomo High School stadium will cost the school’s football team its first few home games, Jim Empey, Lucia Mar Unified School District’s assistant superintendent for business services, said the project is slated to be finished by Sept. 13.

While most of the track and field is dirt, crews recently completed a 15-inch-wide concrete curb that divides the football field and nine-lane track.

Poured with more than 300 yards of concrete, completion of the curb was a major milestone for the project, Empey said.

“You can’t plant sod without drainage, and the drainage is in the curb, so you can’t do anything grass-related until the curb is done,” he said. “You can’t pour the foundation for the track until the curb is done. The curb is a big deal, but getting it right is also a big deal.”

The extended rainy season initially kept the project behind schedule, and Empey said recent hangups with the Division of the State Architect ‘s approval process delayed the project further.

“Anything that could possibly be a safety concern has to go through DSA,” he said, “and because we’re in southern California where there’s more construction, more schools and more of everything, the wait is longer.”

The state has yet to approve plans for permanent visitor bleachers, according to Empey, a process he expects to take several more months.

“We thought by turning in plans in October we would be done with all the construction by June,” he said. “DSA isn’t just going to rubber-stamp something without looking at it.”

Crews working at Nipomo Elementary School installed nine new prefabricated buildings over summer.

Designed to replace existing temporary classrooms, the new facilities were installed as part of a modernization project aimed at bringing new life to some of the oldest buildings in the district.

Both projects were financed by Measure I, a $170 million general obligation bond approved by voters in the November 2016 election.

Progress was also made on several construction and renovation projects at Santa Maria High Schools.

Santa Maria Joint Union High School District’s planned Career Technical Education Center and Ag Farm is roughly 70% complete, according to Gary Wuitschick, the district’s director of support services.

Billed as a state-of-the-art hub for the district's agricultural and career-technical programs, the project has a $19.9 million price tag.

The complex will serve as the district's dedicated agricultural farm and livestock area while providing new workshops for the diesel mechanics, engineering design and environmental engineering, residential and commercial construction, and machining and forming technology programs.

The project, which will accommodate up to 500 students and staff, is expected to be finished in December.

The district has also submitted plans to the Division of the State Architect that would completely transform Santa Maria High School.

A new building — planned as a three-story, 50-classroom complex facing Morrison Avenue — will shift the entrance of the campus from West Camino Colegio.

The facility is expected to be finished by 2022.

Reach reporter Mathew Burciaga at 805-739-2205 or mburciaga@leecentralcoastnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @mathewburciaga


Education Reporter

Mathew Burciaga is a Santa Maria Times reporter who covers education, agriculture and public safety. Prior to joining the Times, Mathew ran a 114-year-old community newspaper in Wyoming. He owns more than 40 pairs of crazy socks from across the globe.