Arranging More Harmony at TOW

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The music department will finally have a place to call home at Top of the World Elementary now that a $2.1 million building project is on schedule to break ground in June and be completed by the end of next year.

“A new music building has been a dream for quite some time at TOW, and it’s great to see it coming to fruition,” Principal Michael Conlon said in a statement.

Currently, the strings and choir teachers creatively reconfigure classrooms when they arrive for lessons, while the band practices in the multi-purpose room on the 40-year-old campus.

“A permanent space would allow me to utilize every minute that I have with my students and maximize our possibilities to creating music,” said performing arts teacher Cyrus Hwang, who teaches at both El Morro and TOW elementary schools. “All of our sheet music, supplies, and extra instruments would be located in one place and we could immediately access these items when they are needed.”

“Also, I think the students would benefit from being able to set up a personal playing space without having the constraints of classroom furniture in the way of their arms when they are trying to bow the violin or cello,” he said.

The school board on Monday, Oct. 24, approved a change of architects for the project, which will also include replacing three modular classrooms at TOW. The board needed to “close out” necessary paper work for approval to start construction, said district Facilities Director Jeffrey Dixon.

Construction on the project awaits certification by the Division of the State Architect, which has oversight over secondary public schools, Dixon said.

The first architectural firm initially hired by the district, SVA Architects of Santa Ana, apparently failed to file documentation and reports with the state architect, according to Dixon. In January, the board agreed to pay SVA up to $194,860 for design and construction documents for the four TOW classrooms.

On Monday, the board hired Ruhnau Ruhnau Clarke, of Riverside, for an amount not to exceed $60,500, under a new architectural/engineering service contract. The firm, which recently renovated the high school track and field, will be responsible for seeking certification from the state architect for the TOW project.

Three modular units due to be replaced are currently occupied by 40 students in grades one through four in the Community Learning Center, an alternative school within the district housed at TOW. The fourth building will be a music room with sound-proof dividing walls, Conlon and Dixon said.

The music building is part of the district’s commitment to educate students in a well-rounded approach, according to parent Jennifer Baker, a music teacher professionally and participant in developing the district’s five-year arts plan. “It’s been on the back burner for some time,” Baker said. “It’s a blessing for the strings program and for the wandering music teachers.”


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