Friday, May 27 , 2016, 1:41 pm | Fair 65º

Orcutt Academy K-8 To Open Year in New Digs on Spacious Los Alamos Campus

Olga Elementary School to share facilities with charter school while also enjoying a newly renovated gymnasium

By Janene Scully, Noozhawk North County Editor | @JaneneScully |

Students and teachers returning to Olga Reed Elementary School for the new year will be greeted by another school on the Los Alamos campus, as well as a major modernization of the gymnasium.

The campus is the new home for Orcutt Academy K-8 classes, filling previously unused rooms and sharing some of the same facilities as Olga Reed School’s approximately 200 kindergartners through eighth-graders, plus staff.

OAK-8 had been housed at the Casmalia school, but last spring the Orcutt Union School District board of trustees agreed to relocate the school to Los Alamos.

The charter school’s 81 students will be located on the Helena Street side of the campus, according to Olga Reed Principal Joe Dana, who is also the Orcutt district’s director of charter programs.

“Basically that move is going well,” Dana told Noozhawk. “The teachers have pretty much been here all summer, unpacking boxes, getting their rooms set up.

“What I think is kind of cool is ... we’re going to have a ‘school warming’ event for Orcutt Academy families, kind of like a house warming where we’re going to invite them to come and see the campus,” he added. “They’ve already been here, but we’re going to invite them to come and see what we’ve done so far.

“We’re going to invite them to bring a school-warming gift of some sort, whether it be a ream of paper or a box of pencils or whatever. We’re kind of excited about that.”

To ready for the newcomers, the maintenance staff performed various chores such as painting, mounting screens, installing pencil sharpeners — “basic nuts and bolts types of things,” Dana said. They also completed electrical upgrades to accommodate computers and purchased storage cabinets for classrooms.

The Los Alamos campus offers more facilities for students than Casmalia.

“That is a very limited campus,” Dana said. “This campus has additional classroom space for the Orcutt Academy, and it also gives the academy the chance to use larger common facilities, such as a gym, cafeteria, the science lab, the library, a grass field, a track, proximity to the Los Alamos community.”

The first day of school is Wednesday for Orcutt Academy and Olga Reed students. The campus also houses a county special-education program with about eight students, along with a county-operated preschool.

Olga Reed School had been operated by the Los Alamos School District before becoming part of Orcutt’s district four years ago.

Another major project occurring on campus is modernization of the gym, which was built in the 1940s, according to according to Scott Stearns, the district’s director of maintenance, operations and transportation.

“But it really has never been modernized since then,” Dana said.

The gym is getting new roof, lighting, windows and other upgrades in a project estimated at $400,020. J&P Construction of Los Alamos is the contractor.

Construction crews recently removed the roofing material in anticipation of replacing it and adding gutters and downspouts.

Some of the demolition has uncovered dry rot and termites in the old changing rooms.

“They haven’t really been in good shape for a very long time,” Stearns said.

Dana is already eyeing those small rooms for much-needed space for counseling, speech therapy, academic integration and more.

“We’re having a great time with it,” Stearns said, adding the concrete structure was built like a tank, which has made parts of the demolition challenging.

Work is expected to continue through October and means the gym won’t be available until then.

“We’re going to go without the gym for the first few months of the school year,” Dana said. “We can live with that because we’re excited about the improvements that are going to happen. We’re looking forward to a sparkling, modernized gym.”

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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