There is no current plan to rebuild Fairmont School, El Cerrito’s oldest and largest elementary school. During the 2015-2016 school year, the school district completed an update to their facilities master plan that altered the construction priorities throughout the school district. For Fairmont, this unfortunately meant going from the head of the line to tenth in line. There is a possibility by 2019 of some physical improvements (see below for more information) but the project scope and timelines are still in flux as of December 2018.
In Summer 2017, the school district added a new portable to allow for full-day kindergarten at Fairmont (no increase to total number of classes), which relocated the portable housing the library, and replaced one other aging portable. The district also extended the playground boundary (onto school district property that had long been “on loan” to the city as public park space), completed exterior painting, added better bike parking, improved security with new gates, and will be improving sound quality in the Multi-Purpose Room and adding LEDs throughout campus. This work was slated to be completed during the summer, but was ongoing as of Fall 2017. All this funding came out of the district’s annual maintenance budget, not district bond funds.
History of Fairmont's Rebuild
Fairmont is one of 37 elementary schools in the West Contra Costa School District, serving a large part of the East Bay from Kensington to Hercules. When the District closed Castro Elementary School in 2009 in order to have a new location for the junior high school serving El Cerrito, the Castro zone was absorbed into Fairmont, Madera, and Stege’s zones. Castro’s principal, many of its teachers, and a district-wide special education program moved over to Fairmont. There was an understanding among some community members and voters that Fairmont, among the oldest facilities in the district, would be “compensated” for absorbing the former Castro students by getting what was then already a long-overdue rebuild. Madera was a newer facility, and both Kensington and Harding had been rebuilt fairly recently, so Fairmont was the El Cerrito elementary school in the oldest facility. Since the closing of Castro, both Fairmont and Madera have been officially, consistently overenrolled, with the City of El Cerrito planning more housing units throughout the city, particularly along San Pablo Avenue in the Fairmont zone.
Beginning in 2010, district architects held meetings with the Fairmont community to develop plans for a new facility. On May 4, 2011, the School Board approved the master plan for reconstruction of Fairmont Elementary school. The project was approved by the state, but was held up by the reconstruction of Korematsu Middle School (formerly Portola), as a result of the decision to use the temporary campus on Moeser during construction, which would also have been needed as a temporary site for Fairmont during construction. Korematsu's project was delayed by lawsuits related to the Castro Elementary campus. Korematsu students moved into their new campus on the former Castro site on March 28, 2016. For Fairmont, however, that was too late as rebuild plans had been officially halted by a new facilities master plan process initiated in late 2015, before Korematsu's move and before Fairmont's construction could be updated and put out to bid.
Fairmont's PTA leadership was very vocal in advocating for our reconstruction and for moving us up in the construction priorities. (For some sense of that history, please visit http://richmondannex.com/share/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=845.) By May 2016, however, it was clear that Fairmont would have to wait to be rebuilt, as the school bond program had only enough money for 2-3 new schools, and even that money would not be available until after 2018. It is not clear when Fairmont will be rebuilt, but it will likely take passage of another school bond.
Current Facilities Issues
Meanwhile, Fairmont is allocated about $3 million in district bond money as a Critical Needs Allocation (CNA), which the district committed to implementing in Summer 2018 although as of fall 2017 the necessary preliminary assessments and community outreach had not yet started. It is expected that much of the CNA will be legally required to go toward accessibility improvements.
Finally, in the 2016-17 school year, interested parents discovered that the District’s long-term lease with the City of El Cerrito for the building at 6500 Stockton, originally constructed as part of the Fairmont campus, was ending on June 30, 2017. After this information came to light through public records requests, the Board generously gave the City more than a year to make its moving plans, and approved returning that building to school use by ending the City’s lease on June 30, 2018. One of the fact sheets from this time gives many more details about the situation.
After District review of the existing buildigns on the 6500 Stockton site, staff determined that upgrading the building to current state standards for instruction would be prohibitively expensive. The overcrowding issues at Fairmont will be addressed in other ways. HY Architects, the firm that has worked with Fairmont since early reconstruction plans, is currently working on plans to reconfigure the site for primarily administrative and special educational purposes. The parking lot between the school, library, and 6500 Stockton is also owned by the District and its future is being reviewed as part of the study about how the district can best use 6500 Stockton to benefit its students. The library building itself however, is not owned by the District. This news article gives more information.
Construction on the main classroom buildings will include adding bathrooms, reflooring classrooms, and addressing various code issues with fire and water services. That part of the project is proceeding separately from projects to repurpose the 6500 Stockton site. Funding for the Stockton site will not rely on bond funds.
Fairmont community members are welcome to attend PTA Board meetings, where the facility subcommittee generally reports out the latest developments in the ongoing discussions with the district about improving the facility for the students. If you subscribe to the newsletter, you will always get those meeting notices, as well as our occasional call to action regarding time-sensitive issues. More information from the subcommittee attached below.
Overcrowding -this flyer was created before the district's decission not to extend the lease and includes useful statistical information
Archived Documents and History
View the latest series of designs, including materials samples. For the earlier history of this project, please click here to see the redesign project information.