When students return to The Met Sacramento High School in January next year, they'll have a completely redesigned campus, one with energy-efficient windows and lighting, new plumbing and heating, and countertops made with recycled glass.
The charter school near Southside Park will be the first in the city to meet national standards for energy efficiency. The new design exceeds criteria set by the U.S. Green Building Council and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools.
Administrators say remodeling will both save money for the district and help students learn.
"At a time when budgets are tight, we're doing a project that's win-win-win," said Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond.
"It's thinking, 'How do we utilize our assets?' It isn't deficit thinking, which is 'We don't have, we can't do,' " he said.
The $6.9 million renovation is financed by $390,000 in state grants and Measure I, a bond approved by voters in 2002.
The Met is a 300-student charter school, funded by the district but administered by Big Picture Learning, a national charter school network.
Students at The Met work with one teacher throughout their four high school years, taking specialized subjects, such as sciences and foreign languages, from other teachers. Students also spend two days a week interning in Sacramento businesses and agencies.
Administrators could not say exactly how soon the renovation project would pay for itself. School board Vice President Patrick Kennedy noted that energy-efficiency retrofitting at a typical school can save $100,000 a year.
More difficult to quantify is the cost to students of going to school at an aging facility, Raymond said.
The classrooms were too small, and there were no proper science labs, said Allen Young, The Met's principal.
"We have a spectacular staff, we have spectacular students, but the facility's been lacking, and finally that won't be an issue," he said.
Junior Brenna Badeker recalled eating lunch outside with her classmates when a window suddenly fell out of its frame onto the asphalt.
Another student's foot was fractured when a heating unit in a classroom came unbolted from the wall.
"It'll make it easier to learn without things breaking down all the time," Badeker said.
The Met is scheduled to reopen in January. Its students will relocate to Sacramento High School during construction, but the two schools will operate separately.
Abel Guerra graduated from The Met last month. While a student, he worked on the new plans as an intern at Stafford King Wiese Architects, the Sacramento firm responsible for the design.
Other students also were able to contribute. Young said staff, students, and community members had been meeting for over a year to discuss the new design, which includes a garden and showers for staff who bicycle to work. "No one needs a sweaty administrator," Young said.
Construction at The Met is part of the district's Project Green, which aims to make all of its schools more ecologically sustainable.
The district has set aside $5 million to fund proposals by committees of students, parents and teachers at each school, Raymond said.