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high-tech education

School district’s new IT center begins construction

Starting this summer, a relic of the old Napa High School campus will begin serving the most 21st-century of purposes.

The former high school shop building, which opened in 1926, is beginning a makeover into the Napa Valley Unified School District’s information technology center. In addition to serving as the home for the district’s IT staff, the center will host computer training for school faculty and students, according to Napa Valley Unified officials.

Preparation work on the $6.04 million overhaul began in December, and the project is scheduled for completion by July 15, according to district spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett.

Once home to Napa High’s carpentry shop and later a storage area for school district records, the structure, which will grow from 8,950 to 11,100 square feet, will receive the fittings needed to host computer training and office space for Napa Valley Unified.

Plans reviewed by the board last fall call for the old shop building to retain much of its 1920s character – including its brick work, exposed rafters and large window spaces – while receiving seismic upgrades and modernized utilities to support an array of computers.

Inside, the IT center is to include both wired and wireless communications, along with flexible spaces adaptable to small or large groups, according to the plans shared in September. The main conference space will feature large-scale video monitors, and instructors’ workstations are expected to be equipped with three screens.

An addition to the shop building will house the IT center’s file servers, using a hot aisle containment system to channel warm air into the cooling equipment and increase its efficiency.

The technology center will provide students and school staff two classrooms for software and hardware training, as well as an “emerging technologies” laboratory where faculty can test new equipment before using it in the classroom, Emmett said.

The former shop building also is expected to host student interns receiving IT training, according to Don Evans, director of school planning and construction. Seismic reinforcement of the 89-year-old structure – including new joints for its roof braces – was needed to allow students inside, as the state Field Act sets minimum earthquake resistance standards for any school building used for instruction.

“It’s that type of opportunity to let them see what happens in an IT center, to see the various positions that are available in the workplace,” Evans said Monday. “It’s going to be right on Napa High campus and only seven blocks from New Tech. That’s why we felt it important to do the extra engineering to let students use it.”

Sixteen companies across Northern California bid on the contract before the school board in November chose Lathrop Construction Associates Inc., the Benicia firm that oversaw the building of American Canyon High School in 2010. A $20,000 preliminary contract allowed Lathrop to start pre-construction work, including demolition and the temporary removal of roof tiles, before its bid amount received the school board’s final approval on Thursday.

Napa Valley Unified’s IT building will be the second new facility opened by the school district this school year. In August, the district opened the Center for Excellence, on the New Technology High School campus, to train local teachers and paying customers from other districts in the project-based instruction techniques offered by New Tech.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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