by TJ Nolan
The 2008-2009 school year is bringing change to students at San Clemente High School. There was a lot of work done at the school over the summer. Construction work, that is.
When school reopens Tuesday, September 2nd, students will be greeted with new amenities: an additional gymnasium, boys and girls locker room at the swimming pool, a tiled pool deck shower and a new base for the pool’s scoreboard. There is also a gift for parents who drop their students at school and for students that drive: a reconfigured parking lot that will change traffic patterns and ease the backup on Avenida Pico.
The Parking Lot
Traffic flow in and out of the high school is impacted three times a day: in the morning as students race to arrive for the start of the school day, at lunch when most of the school’s senior students are dismissed, and again at the end of the school day. The new configuration will solve the congestion problems. As will a new traffic signal.
Leaving school has always been a slow proposition. The only traffic signal that allows a left turn from the school onto westbound Pico is located on the western side of the school. The school parking lot is at a higher elevation than the street. The driveway is steep, which forces cars to travel slow or risk bottoming out. Thus, only about seven to ten cars can get through the green traffic signal before it turns red. Cars then line up well into the parking lot to wait for the signal cycle to turn green again. Then the race to beat the light begins anew.
To turn right from the school onto eastbound Pico isn’t better. Students leaving from the non-signaled gates have to wait for a lull in traffic, and the elevation is a problem here as well. Cars must depart the driveways slowly and merge onto Pico where traffic is traveling faster. Those wishing to turn left on Calle Frontera—or make a u-turn—must cross three traffic lanes to get into the far left lane. The number of cars often exceeds the left turn pocket and backs up into the traffic lane. Those wishing to turn right onto Avenida Presidio or travel straight on Pico must also compete with oncoming traffic. The whole process can sometimes be harrowing.
The City of San Clemente and the Capistrano Unified School District are working together to improve traffic on Avenida Pico in front of the High School.Not anymore.
Ben Parker, Senior Civil Engineer, and project manager of the Street Improvement Project states that the city and the school district have been working together to improve the area around the high school. The first phase is the parking lot reconfiguration.
Longer driveways and retaining walls will replace the short steep ramps. This will allow faster incoming and outgoing traffic, resulting in less impact on Pico drivers. New medians and re-striped parking spaces will direct cars around the lot with greater ease. No more “to each his own” in the school parking lot.
The second phase involves widening Pico and adding another traffic signal. The western ramp of the school will now be an entrance only. Two eastbound and two westbound pocket lanes are dedicated to moving cars into the high school parking lot. At the new signal, three lanes will be dedicated to move cars out of the lot. The middle exit lane will have a left/right option. The far right lane will exit into a new right turn pocket that will turn onto Presidio.
To make room for these dedicated turn pockets, Pico will be widened. The sidewalk on the northern side of Pico will be removed and a new one will be added on the south side, parallel to the school. A westbound lane will be added and medians rebuilt.
Those used to the old in/out will have to learn new traffic patterns, but it will be worth it to ease the pile up and stress of getting to and from the school.
The new “little” Gym will be used for volleyball and The Gym
Funded by community development fees, construction on the additional gymnasium started before school was out and is dubbed the “little gym” because of its smaller size. San Clemente High School Principal, George Duarte says, “It’s a practice gym for basketball and volleyball. It has a trainer’s room and a multi-purpose room for [physical education] and wrestling. It has no bleachers or scoreboard like the larger gym.” It also has high windows along the west facing wall that allows natural light to enter.
Students using the swimming pool now have larger locker areas for clothing changes and new lockers in which to place their backpacks and gear. The pool deck shower is titled in the school’s colors of red and black. Coaches and teachers also have a new office.
The other bit of new construction at the high school will begin after school starts. Two classrooms on the upper campus will be converted to life science laboratories. When completed, freshman students will no longer have to walk down a steep hill to the lower campus for labs.
It’s going to be a very good year.