El Centro Elementary School Superintendent Jon LeDoux (right) and De Anza Magnet School Principal Lori Obeso lead a tour through the kitchen area of De Anza’s new $12 million multipurpose room ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Thursday morning, Sept. 2. The school, which was built in 1968, and the new MPR was paid for through Measure L, a $22.1 million bond measure passed in 2016. | CAMILO GARCIA JR. PHOTO
EL CENTRO — After years of work, De Anza Magnet School finally has a cafeteria, gym, and library to call its own, as the new multipurpose building readies to opens its doors to faculty and students.
“Talking to our students around campus, they are all excited,” De Anza Principal Lori Obeso said on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 1. “Teachers are excited to do programs on our stage, the kids are excited to play basketball inside out of the heat. Yeah, they are all excited.”
Ahead of a ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for Thursday morning, Sept. 2, El Centro Elementary School District officials took this newspaper on a sneak-peek tour of the new facility a day early.
De Anza Magnet School, formerly De Anza Elementary School, was built in 1968 with only an office, two wings of classrooms, and two kindergarten rooms. It was finished without a cafeteria or a dedicated library.
Because of this lack of facilities for decades, the school has shared a small cafeteria with the Imperial Valley Center for Exceptional Children next door to De Anza, both located on South Waterman Avenue in El Centro.
El Centro Elementary School District looked to make the school whole, and that journey started with Measure L in 2016, a $22.1 million bond that would help fund facility updates throughout the district. The funding replaced temporary portables with permanent classrooms, improved student access to computers and modern technology, modernized outdated classrooms, restrooms, and school facilities, and constructed new school facilities to reduce student overcrowding, according to district officials.
The district has tried to get funding for new facilities at De Anza School since the early ’70s, Superintendent Jon LeDoux said, but it didn’t happen. Measure L was the first chance ECESD had to expand the school.
De Anza School’s project would take $12 million, half of the bond money. Ground was broken to begin construction on Feb. 5, 2020. Construction was slowed due to COVID protocols and supply issues, but it was finished over the course of 18 months.
What has been created is a state-of-the-art building that will fit the needs of students of a modern age, district officials said.
The new multipurpose building is 14,111 square feet with a total of 15,701 square feet in functional space and amenities such as a gymnasium, cafeteria, library, performance stage, anything the school needs it for. The outside has been improved as well, with new shades and cement for lunch tables.
The library/media center will be a technology center for both modern and old school tech (read: books). Bookshelves will line the sides of the room while technology and computers will take up the center.
Directly across the hall is a state-of-the-art cafeteria with a full working kitchen, one of only three in the El Centro district. Food will be prepared there and provided to students through two different doorways and food serving lines.
The gym itself has a floor that will be able to take any kind of abuse, be it from feet, tables, sports balls, or anything the school year can bring. There is also a stage that will house the music program and be used for assembles.
The gym, library, and even the restrooms have large tubes that let in sunlight all day. When the lights are not in use there will always be plenty of light to fill the rooms, making this a green solution to save energy, according to Erika Aponte with to the facility’s builder, Erickson/Hall Construction. LeDoux said no one will ever have to be in the dark in this building. These same lights were installed at Harding Elementary School.
“Not only will it be beneficial for kids to have natural light, but it will also be a source of energy efficiency standard for this district,” Aponte said.
LeDoux said he is excited to see this long overdue project completed for the students.
“It’s wonderful. Anytime we can do something for the kids that adds to their experience is the best feeling we can have,” LeDoux said. “And we just know the kids are going to enjoy every square inch of it.”
Principal Obeso said this year’s eighth-grade class will be the first to cross the stage for promotion at the end of the year.
It is more than a multipurpose building, it is a culmination of years of public campaigning and desire for more facilities for students, district officials said.
Obeso said her two sons, who are former students of De Anza School, are a bit jealous of students who will get to use the new building.
“I know how they felt about sharing a cafeteria with next door. They were like, ‘Why couldn’t they have done that when we were there?’ laughed Obeso.
There is still work to be done in the back, LeDoux said. The field behind the gym will have to be restored, but the building itself is ready for everyone.
Students and staff were to see the finished project Thursday morning. Students Angela Servin and Adam Estrada, an eighth and seventh grader who have both been at De Anza since kindergarten, will cut the ribbon to let everyone in. Cookies donated by Erickson/Hall Construction will be handed to the children as they walk out.
Students were to begin using the new building on Monday, Sept. 6.