Standing outside the new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) building, which opened this week on the South Pasadena High School campus, Geoff Yantz was asked his thoughts on the finished product.
The district’s superintendent, who watched the structure go from design to construction over the past 13 months, gave it high marks.
“I’m excited and very proud of all the work the team put into making it all happen,” said Yantz, talking about the approximately $13 million project on the Diamond Avenue of the campus, across from the school’s two gymnasiums.
While it was built over a span of about a year, the new STEM building has “been in the making for many,” explained Yantz, who wasn’t around when the original concept was brought up about eight years ago. “We finally have a building that is reflective of the commitment and the quality that our students and teachers exemplify and deserve.”
A comment made by one student leaving one of the new math classrooms this week was a vote of confidence the local school board made the right decision in making the STEM building part of the school’s landscape as the superintendent overheard, “Boy, it just feels good to be in this classroom.”
For Yantz, the words from the teen were golden, knowing that students do appreciate the work of the district, especially after enduring a long stretch of classroom instruction inside portables.
When the idea for constructing a new building was initially addressed, the Board of Education at the time spent long hours analyzing and evaluating the best location to place long-needed science labs on the school grounds. Originally, the plan was to construct only the labs, but it later grew to include math, technology and engineering. The district ultimately reached out to residents for financial assistance to make it all happen.
“They eventually landed on this location,” explained Yantz, noting that at one point a project design was put forth and pulled back by the school board. “We didn’t want to borrow money in order to build it. We decided we would sort of live within our means and build the four science labs that were of critical need at the time, then we would go for a bond measure to replace the portables that were here for the math classrooms.”
He’s grateful for the community stepping up and supporting a $98 million bond measure passed in 2016, which funded the new project that has received nothing but praise from administrators, teachers and students.
For security, a tall brown metal fence surrounds the new facility featuring 11 rooms, including six math classrooms, four science labs and a flex classroom that will house a new engineering program scheduled to start next year. A locker room for girls’ softball, a conference room and restrooms are also part of the structure.
While construction was underway, student instruction was held in nearby portables that will remain for the next major project on campus – a modernization of the gymnasium, including new tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts, visitor stands, locker rooms, a field house and teacher offices. It’s expected to launch in November 2020.
Among those finding the new STEM building to their liking is the school’s principal Janet Anderson. “There has been a lot of excitement about moving into our new Math/Science building,” she said. “The students have been extremely positive about their new learning environments. Each room provides a lovely and updated space for learning, and the move has the added advantage of providing teachers their own classrooms; no longer will they have to move equipment nor will students have to search for them. There are amenities and technologies not previously accessible. Beginning next year, we will also be able to use the ‘flex room’ for our new engineering classes!”
SPHS Senior Mia Alva says the place feels like part of college campus. “It’s nice,” she said. “It didn’t take that much time to finish it, so I didn’t expect much from it. It’s great. There are flat screen TVs, white boards everywhere. The teachers are happy. They’ve been in bungalows for so long. It was, like, surprising (to see).”