How Much Do New Buildings Benefit Students?


Bo Lamb III, Contributor

The new buildings at San Rafael High School are futile wastes of money that don’t really benefit the students and does nothing to solve the high student-to-teacher ratio that students and teachers struggle to cope with every school year. The proposed building is nothing more than a new administrative place and social area.  There are many deep rooted issues plaguing the student and teacher experience at the school which makes the staff’s focus on new administrative buildings and cafeterias seem like poor prioritization.

Over the past couple of years, San Rafael High School has had a seemingly strong priority on non-essential spending such as a new football stadium and a new administrative building. Some of these new buildings came at the expense of tearing down occupied classrooms that either had to terminate or try to make the best of a portable classroom. Classes like the auto shop had to close while classes like the APT physics academy now have to cram an entire workshop into a tiny classroom on wheels.

Shortly before the new building had begun construction, the contractors called upon some SRHS students to give their input on what they would like the new building to look like and what its purpose would be. Jake Luria, currently an SRHS senior who was a part of the committee, stated in a recent phone interview that the new building is “designed to be modern and eye-catching while serving as an administrative building with a student lounge area for students” and “allow the current administrative area in the AD building to be converted into new classrooms.” 

An interview request to learn more about the reasoning behind the new football field was sent to the school principal, Mr. Dennis, with no reply. From the “SRCS bond program” website, we do know that the project was budgeted at a whopping 9.6 million dollars. What’s the benefit of the new stadium? It is safer for student athletes and has a 25% increase in bleacher capacity. Yes, it may be great for the football team but the team literally only makes up about 4 to 5% of the student population. Seems a bit odd considering the fact that nearly all of my classes have thirty or more students attending at once. There isn’t much of an impact on the community either as student attendance to football games has always been pretty slim even after its construction completed. The stadium got its initial hype but quickly devolved into a place for students to eat lunch rather than watch football.  SRHS student Gabriel Nuer likes the idea of the new administrative and cafeteria building but also wishes the school would have chosen to build more classrooms and educational spaces before building the brand new football field. 

With Covid-19 keeping students out of school, the progress of the construction of the new building has rapidly accelerated and now that the exterior is taking its final shape, the real purpose of the building has become more apparent. The building is supposed to change the perspective of outsiders by making the campus look like a more modern and renovated space. Placed along Point San Pedro Road, a busy four-lane road that connects the two halves of the town, it would be hard to miss the building while driving by. The buildings that were torn down to make room honestly didn’t look the prettiest but they were heavily utilized.. If the school really wanted to make more of an impact on the  students, the old single story science buildings that could use a second or even third story, would have been either renovated or rebuilt. 

Though the design of the new building is pretty, its budgeted cost of approximately forty million dollars would theoretically be enough to fund the purchasing of just over one thousand medium-sized portable classrooms! In a more likely alternative, spaces4leanring, an editorial that specializes in high quality educational facilities, estimated that a 84,700 square foot building that is capable of serving over six hundred students would cost about 16.27 million dollars. For 27 million dollars less than the current building, not only this would solve the teacher-to-student ratio issue and give students a place to relax, it would give the school room to grow for years to come. Even if only a few more portable classrooms were constructed, It would have been progress in the right direction. Instead, students looking to go into trades such as the auto or metal fabrication industries now have no opportunity to gain experience in the field before going into a trade school. It could have a detrimental effect on the success of all high school students regardless of their path after they have graduated.

Some could argue that the school could be “freshened up” but if you asked the people that go to the school, whether it be a student or a teacher, most students would tell you about the sub par classrooms. There aren’t even enough places for the students to sit down and eat lunch leaving many with no other option than to sit on stairs or on the ground in the hallways. I get the idea of having a new building and beginning to modernize our historic school, but without the basic necessities, there is no reason to attempt any further progress.

Increasing the modern look of the school does not bring any major relief to the dire student-to -teacherratio crisis and instead exacerbates the issue by depleting funds that could have been used to create buildings that were designed specifically to house as many classrooms as possible. The number of classrooms that will be added by the transformation of the pre-existing AD building would be minimal relative to the number of students a new dedicated building would be able to accommodate. 

It’s possible that the new building could improve the morale of students, but I think the true reference for morale is within their grades. It’s known that most students will suffer from stress with the weight of a bad grade and everything should be done to promote the rebound of a students academic career. A lot of that could be helped by simply increasing the staff which would reduce the workload of teachers and make one on one time with students less scarce. A nice cafeteria would do essentially nothing to ease the real stressors of high school. 

From my experience in the current administrative buildings in the front of the AD building, they do not seem to be cramped at all and offer ample room for private offices, storage, and waiting rooms. On the other hand, students sit shoulder to shoulder in small portable classrooms filled with the sound of a new administrative building under construction. The aforementioned seating issue has also been made worse due to the area of campus that holds most seating now roped off. 

To truly make our beloved high school a better place for all, attention needs to be taken away from the opinion of people driving by the school and given to the student by making the class sizes smaller and making teacher resources more accessible. It sounds cliche but, I think many will agree with me when I say that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.