Technology High School must vacate by next summer its digs at Sonoma State University.
But the move will save the Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District about $5 million.
The Rohnert Park campus reached a tentative agreement with the district to move the science, math and engineering magnet school out of Salazar Hall by the end of the 2018-19 school year. The university is preparing to renovate one of its oldest buildings, Stevenson Hall — the recent focus of a whistleblower trial over asbestos mishandling — and needs the 18,000 square feet currently occupied by the high school to relocate classrooms and offices, said Robert Haley, the district’s superintendent.
“So far, the reactions have been very positive as we have the opportunity to construct a campus, on a district site, that is an improvement over what we have at SSU,” Haley said about the move.
The 345-student high school will relocate 2 miles west to the Waldo Rohnert Elementary School campus, which will undergo its own upgrade next summer. Meanwhile, the 275 third- through fifth-graders at Waldo will move this coming school year to John Reed Elementary, a transitional kindergarten-through-second-grade campus.
In 1998, California State University officials agreed to let the school district open and run the magnet high school on the university campus for 25 years. The school opened the following year.
In 2013, the district renegotiated its contract that was set to expire in 2024, extending it for four more years and adding more floor space for an additional $3.35 million, a cost that would be spread out over 15 years.
Agreeing to leave before the contract expires allows the school district to use the money to renovate Waldo.
Tech High freshman Ella Berger welcomed the move. Although she’ll miss the college amenities, including the Lobo’s dining hall and The Kitchens restaurant in the student center, Berger, 14, said the school needs more space.
“In some classrooms, there are no windows,” she said.
Bella Clark, 16, is excited she no longer will have to walk 12 minutes to Rancho Cotate High School, where she and classmates sometimes take classes because of the limited space and ballfields at SSU. She walked to Rancho every school day her freshman year for physical education.
“That was really frustrating. I was showing up to P.E. already tired,” said Clark, now a sophomore.
Principal Dawn Mawhinney said the new campus will offer additional classroom and lab space and a multipurpose room for rallies and other events.
“We’re going to a site with 20 classrooms, versus 12. We’re going to have a quad … This is going to truly be their campus,” she said. “We’re going to have a site that’s going to be renovated around our needs.”
They’re also going to be closer to Technology Middle School’s ballfields, which they will continue to use for physical education and after-school sports.
But at least one school board member has raised concerns over the move.
“That has a certain cachet when being on a university campus,” said Tim Nonn. “When it loses it, what does it have to attract people?”
Nonn argued the district is rushing into the a move without consulting all board members and the families that will be impacted by the shuffle.