On Monday, Jan. 3, Tracy High School’s new library opened to students after 1½ years of construction. Though only about 25 percent of the library’s books were on the shelves today, said Susan Perry, the librarian for Tracy and West High schools, the new space is already serving students.
“I think it’s a far more inviting atmosphere,” said Perry, as students lined up to turn in economics textbooks from the previous semester.
The new library, in addition to featuring far more space for books and materials than its predecessor, has a dedicated lab with 34 student computers, staff offices, meeting rooms both large and small, and 18 classrooms.
Judy Saldana is one of the teachers moving from portable classrooms to a new permanent home in the library this week. A mathematics special education teacher, Saldana said the just-completed building offers her more flexibility in how she teaches.
“(Students) just love it. It’s more spacious … We get the opportunity to do a lot of different activities in here,” she said from a classroom that, like all the other ones in the new library, comes with hidden storage and a projector hooked up to an in-room computer. “We’re really pleased to be moving in.”
But the two-story building is only part of a campus-wide revitalization that’s completely changed the Tracy High campus over the past four years.
District Superintendent Jim Franco today called it “The most unbelievable transformation I’ve ever seen.”
In addition to the new library, Tracy High has seen the construction of a 40-classroom building to replace the old West Building, a new cafeteria and music facility, and renovated science and math buildings.
Bonny Carter, the district’s director of facilities and planning, explained that the campus redesign also included more quads and open spaces, where students could gather and socialize.
While some construction is ongoing, those familiar with the school say the change is dramatic.
“It’s totally different,” agreed Principal Jason Noll, who graduated from Tracy High in 1983.
The metamorphosis comes courtesy of Measure E — a $51 million school bond passed by voters in 2006 that is not to be confused with the city of Tracy sales tax increase approved by voters in November 2010.
Augmented with matching state funds, that $51 million investment by property owners within Tracy Unified boundaries has paid not only for the new buildings at Tracy High, but also a sports stadium, swim facility and, soon, a theater at West High School.
The Tracy High library was completed at a cost of $11.7 million. The West High theater, which should open in December of this year, will cost around $3.7 million.
Carter said that the school district was able to get a lot done with the money at hand because the economy has kept construction and material costs relatively low.
Franco said there is some Measure E money still unspent, and district staff will create a list of priorities for spending that money, as the district intends to squeeze all value possible from the bond.
Tracy Unified is also on the verge of the second phase of spending its Measure S bond — a $43.1 million bond approved by voters in 2008 to renovate the district’s oldest elementary schools.
The first phase involved installing surveillance and safety equipment at several schools. Phase 2, according to Franco, involves physical upgrades to McKinley and Monte Vista schools.
Neither the Measure E nor Measure S money can be used on ongoing operations, such as teacher salaries. The money is earmarked specifically for one-time capital improvements.