EL CERRITO -- The new Portola Middle School campus is starting to take shape, and contractors say they are making good progress grading the site and preparing an older building for renovation.
Workers for the contractor, Richmond-based SGI Construction Management, are 120 days into the two-year project. They will soon be pouring the foundations for the 101,000-square-foot school's multipurpose room and the building that will house the gymnasium, library and administrative offices.
The new school is being built on the site of the former Castro Elementary School, at 7125 Donal Ave.
The contractor is retaining the shell of the building that once contained classroom and administrative offices for the elementary school and renovating it to house 12 classrooms for the new middle school.
The contractor has also excavated under a portion of the older building to clear space for a 3,500-square-foot community meeting room that residents requested during the planning stage of the project, said Lee Pollard of Hibser Yamauchi Architects in Oakland, the firm designing the new school.
To protect residents' views, SGI is excavating into the hillside to lower the level of the multipurpose room, on the east side of the site, as well as the gymnasium complex and a new building to house 22 classrooms.
More than 30,000 cubic yards of earth have been removed and hauled to Bay Point, where it is being used to cap a toxic waste site at a former chemical plant, Pollard said.
"We have to dig down so the buildings won't be up too high," he said. "None of the buildings will be higher than (the former Castro classroom building)."
The roofs of the multipurpose room and the gym will be planted with vegetation that will help treat water runoff, provide insulation and create more attractive views from the east, Pollard said.
"The roofs will have a fairly low need for water," he said. "There'll be a need for occasional weeding."
A ceramic tile mural on the Castro classroom building has been covered up for protection during construction and will be retained as part of the new school.
A parking lot and outdoor basketball courts will be located where construction trailers now sit on the west edge of the site.
The opening is scheduled for fall 2016, said Magdy Abdalla, the West Contra Costa school district's chief engineering officer.