Bentley School hopes to open a $12 million, 22,000 square-foot middle school next to its high school in the fall of 2009.

The city could give its final approval for the construction on Tuesday. The three-story building would sit west of the high school and be visible from Highway 24.

Bentley's 120 sixth-through eighth-grade students now share the school's Oakland campus with the elementary school.

"We're really just building a better middle school facility because we want to have the best we can," said Devereaux Smith, the school's director of development and communications. "What we really want to do is make bigger classrooms."

The new building will give middle school students more space, Smith said. It also will separate them from the elementary school.

"There's a big size difference between an eighth-grader and a kindergartner," Smith said.

The student population at the Lafayette site is capped at 500 students, Smith said. The high school has about 320 students, and the middle school is slated to expand to about 180 students, Smith said.

Moving the middle school could help the Oakland campus, where the student population exceeds the number allowed in the school's permit from the city.

City staff and the design review commission were pleased with the design of the proposed building when they first discussed it in January, Lafayette Senior Planner Greg Wolff said.


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"The design of the proposed classroom building is clean, modern and of the high caliber shown in the gymnasium, classroom and student center buildings to the east, designed by the same architect," Wolff wrote in his report for the January design review meeting.

He and the commission were only concerned about the "incremental creep" of the design, noting it was slightly larger and more visible than the buildings described in the master plan Bentley submitted in 2002. Current plans also include fewer trees between Highway 24 and the new building.

Smith said the school would "happily provide" whatever trees the commission decided were necessary to screen the school, Smith said.

The building will also meet Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards for green buildings, she said.

Bentley's master plan was approved by the City Council, so the middle school needs to be approved only by the Design Review Commission, not the City Council or the Planning Commission.

Bentley plans to start construction once it has raised $7 million for the project, Smith said. Right now it has between $2 million and $3 million, she said.

The Design Review Commission meets at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Reach Paul Thissen at 025-943-8163 or pthissen@bayareanewsgroup.com.