By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
Helix Charter High School Executive Director Kevin Osborn wants people to know how recent facilities upgrades at the Helix campus affect academic outcomes.
On Dec. 5, Osborn spoke to a crowd of students, school district officials and city, state and county representatives gathered to celebrate new and modernized classroom buildings on the Helix campus.
“With the new 1100 buildings that have the CTE [Career/Technical Education] computer technology classes in them, we just increased the number of AP sections by five. We have four new AP computer principle classrooms and one extra computer science class,” he said, adding that before the new classrooms were built, there was only capacity for 18 students to pass Advanced Placement computer science per year. “The numbers that you see in STEMM AP education — our students passing calculus and computer science classes — we expect that to reach closer to 100 in the next few years with these brand new facilities.”
STEMM stands for science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine.
In addition to the additional CTE computer technology classrooms, recent upgrades at Helix include a new weight training center, fitness room, a new building for CTE Sports Medicine, new art classrooms, upgraded team rooms, a new building for the Associated Student Body with academic support classroom and a new student services building.
“Our new student services building absolutely allows us to provide world-class student services to our families,” Osborn said. “In the past, [principal office, counselor office and administration] used to be all over the place. Now they are in one building and when a kid or a family comes up to be served, they’re all being served in the same area and a counselor, academic advisor or principal can meet with each other to support each other in meeting those kids’ needs.”
Grossmont Union High School District Superintendent Dr. Tim Glover described the Helix renovations as a “massive effort” that began in 2004, thanks to money raised from bonds authorized by Propositions U and BB.
“Across the district as a whole, we are seeing great strides to build world-class facilities that match world-class staff, families and students,” Glover said. “In the next four years, there’s going to be around $190 million in construction projects across this district to make sure we have world-class facilities for us.”
One of the goals of the district is to increase the number of solar panels. At Helix, a 2.3 megawatt solar carport was installed, with a projected savings in utility costs of $7.7 million over 25 years. There are eight such projects being built across the district and three more sites that will be considered at the next school board meeting, Glover said.
“Over the next 20 years, what that means is about $65 million that can be redirected from energy costs back into our classrooms and our staff so we’re very excited about our solar projects.”
To date, 85 percent of the Helix campus has been remodeled — 12 percent of the campus has been demolished and rebuilt, and 73 percent has been modernized. And more renovation is ahead.
“Something that I’m really looking forward to is our gymnasium,” Osborn said. “Hopefully in December of next year, if all goes well, we have a design to do a complete renovation and remodel of the gymnasium that will serve our PE programs and our athletic programs extremely well. And if all goes well, it will be available in January of 2019.”
Gabe Saltzman, student charter board representative and ASB representative, also spoke at the ribbon-cutting. Saltzman said he attends a class in each of the new buildings on campus and shared how the renovations improved campus life for students.
“I’ve been at ASB for four years now, and since we have moved into the new building last year, we have benefited from it being more centralized,” he said. “We have access to the gym, access to the field and we have become more organized.”
The new CTE building, where Saltzman takes an advanced sports-medicine class, is also a favorite because of how it will help team sports at Helix.
“As a captain of varsity lacrosse, I can tell you we’re very excited to use that weight room and new team rooms this upcoming spring,” he said.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at firstname.lastname@example.org.