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America’s Finest Charter School Gets a Makeover

CONSTRUCTION: $32M Renovation Adds Classrooms, Updates Systems

A Mount Hope charter school is undergoing a $32 million, whole-site renovation by Erickson-Hall Construction Co. of Escondido that will give the more than 50-year-old school a new face and new classrooms.

Original designs for the work on America’s Finest Charter School, 730 45th St., came in way over the $40 million budgeted by the San Diego Unified School District, but the cost was brought down to $32 million by reconfiguring the project and adjusting the construction timetable, said Mat Gates, president of Erickson-Hall, an employee-owned company.

Mat Gates
President
Erickson-Hall Construction Company

The school will gain a 25,793-square-foot, two-story elementary classroom building and the project will include renovation of a 9,865-square-foot middle school building, a new kindergarten playground, removal of 10 portable classrooms, new upper-level play areas, a turf field, and ornamental fencing.

“It’s really creating a new front entrance to the campus. They’re going to have new security fencing and a walkway where you go through the administrative office before you get onto the campus. It’s really going to give it a facelift as well as a logical path of (foot) traffic,” Gates said. “When we finish the new building, we’ll be shifting the administrative offices to the new building.”

OBR Architects based in North Park designed the renovation.

Redesign

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The school is wedged into an especially small site – 40,000 square feet – which makes the project particularly challenging with no room to store materials during construction, according to Gates.

“It’s going to be a real case study for lean construction practices,” Gates said. “We’re going to be flying things off the truck, into the workplace, and putting them in place pretty quickly.”

The original school building dates back to the 1960s and was showing its age with mechanical systems that needed replacing.

“Because of the age of the structure, it was falling out of code. Utilities are failing, pipes are rotting. It was time for a new system, new services,” Gates said. “Part of the architect’s task was to encourage sustainable or low impact materials, locally sourced materials.”

The remodeling will include the addition of high-efficiency windows that allow daylight in, but reduce heat gain.

“You’re going to get a lot of daylight, regardless of the time of day,” Gates said.

Sloping roofs will also add shade during peak daylight hours.

Gates said that the initial plans called for construction of a stand-alone 8,000-square-foot multi-purpose building after some of the other work had been completed.

To cut costs, the multi-purpose building has been redesigned as an addition to another building to be built at the same time as some of the other work rather than a separate structure, shaving about eight to 10 months off the construction timeline, Gates said.

“You’ve got crews already there, they just keep working. You wind up saving a significant amount of time and cost,” he said.

The work will be done in three phases and take about 32 months to complete.

“When all is said and done, that existing building is going to look brand new,” Gates said.

Founded in 1998, Erickson-Hall specializes in school projects, which account for the bulk of the company’s work, along with fire stations and other civic structures.

“From Apple Valley south to the border, we build schools,” Gates said, adding that he considers them particularly significant because “schools are essential buildings,” not only because they house children but because they double as shelter during emergencies.

“Where do they tell you to go in a natural disaster or fire? Your rallying point is a school,” Gates said. “Those buildings are going to be there for a long time.”

Erickson-Hall Construction Company

Founded: 1998
CEO: Dave Erickson
Headquarters: Escondido
Business: general contractor
Employees: 205
Website: www.ericksonhall.com
Contact: 760-796-7700
Notable: An employee-owned company, Erickson-Hall has completed more than $2 billion in construction projects, of which $1.5 billion has been education projects.

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