The first phase of a major expansion at The Bishop's School is well under way with completion set for the opening of the new school year in the fall.
Girders framing the two-story structure of the school's new science center along Draper Avenue have been erected, and huge mounds of displaced dirt from excavation work cover the school's athletic practice field.
"The new science center will have approximately 10 labs, classrooms for science, as well as a presentation room and another laboratory downstairs," said Lenore Fraga, the school's chief operations and financial officer, who admitted heavy winter rains have presented construction challenges. "We still have a due date of August. We're actually building it from the inside out because of the weather. They are looking to hang the roof on it within the next 30 days so they can keep it dry."
The mountains of dirt on the field are thanks to the construction of an underground garage.
"When it's done," said public affairs director Suzanne Weiner, "it will have a Nike-turfed softball field and other fields to be done in fall 2005."
The expansion is reconfiguring the school's campus and adding more than 130,000 square feet of floor area and two classroom buildings, while enlarging its athletic field, as well as the new underground parking facility.
Bishop's expansion plan was supported by the La Jolla Community Planning Association and the La Jolla Town Council. A master plan removing existing buildings and constructing new ones on campus was approved by the San Diego Planning Commission and City Council.
Nine existing buildings on the school campus between Draper Avenue and Cuvier Street are being demolished and replaced with twin two-story buildings - one for science and one for arts and athletics - that will total about 20,000 square feet apiece.
Existing facilities add up to 177,650 square feet and will be 313,916 square feet when the campus expansion is complete. Campus additions will fulfill the institution's major needs for decades to come. Student enrollment is expected to increase about 10 percent, from 660 to 725 students, by the time the project is complete.
Bishop's expansion will increase on-street parking, upgrade the sports field to host school home games and provide new classroom space fulfilling the school's science, gymnastics, arts and athletic needs. The school's new aquatics center, completed in August and dedicated in October 2004, was expanded to accommodate water polo and swim programs.
Underground parking will increase off-street parking by about 125 spots. The expanded sports playing field will be big enough to host home varsity games for lacrosse, soccer and field hockey.
Fraga said the school's underground parking structure will benefit the entire community.
"It will give us over 230 or so spaces," she said. "It will help us free up a lot of parking issues all around town. There's a drop-off point to be used, which will actually funnel people off La Jolla Boulevard down into the parking garage."
Fraga said the school's current main parking lot off La Jolla Boulevard will be reconfigured with a circular entryway for bus access. "Now the underground lot will be the main lot, and we'll have a lot more parking capacity than we had before."
The school's campus was designed by famed architect Irving Gill, who also designed the La Jolla Woman's Club and the La Jolla Recreation Center near the school in the community's cultural district. The new buildings have been designed to be architecturally sympathetic to the original campus architecture, emulating but not reproducing Gill's distinctive style.
"Historical was very big in everyone's mind when they designed the new buildings," said Weiner. "They wanted to have that Irving Gill feeling."
Later phases of the expansion will include a new library information center and a new arts and athletics building, creating a new home for the school's performing arts program. A future new gymnasium will be used primarily for practice and middle school programs. Bishop's hopes to have its campus completed by 2009, the 100th anniversary of the school.
Fraga said the school has issued bonds to pay for expansion construction costs.
"We are also in a major capital campaign for all the phases of the campus master plan," she said.
Fraga said the second and third phases of the school's master plan will include construction of a library on the front part of the campus bordering La Jolla Boulevard.
"There will be an athletic center on the Draper side of the property next to the science building," she said.
Tennis courts now situated on Draper where the science and athletic centers are being built will be moved north to accommodate building expansion.
Construction on the next two phases of the school's long-term expansion is uncertain.
"We're hoping it will happen in the near future," said Fraga.
Fraga said that the community has been very accomodating regarding construction. "We're looking forward to having the underground parking structure completed so that the traffic flow gets back to normal in our community."