HAYWARD -- It's taken some shuffling of students -- moving them to other school buildings or busing them around town -- but so far, work has progressed smoothly for the $205 million school improvement project voters approved in 2008.
The most visible improvements can be seen in a new gymnasium and multipurpose room rising at Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, as well as a new wing that's been stocked with state-of-the-art computer controlled "SMART Boards" along with new desks, chairs and everything else in a classroom.
After some intensive work through winter break, some of the kids still will return to classes in the old structures at the middle school, but not for long -- the buildings will be razed to make way for a courtyard and other facilities come summer.
Then the kids will take their seats at the large, L-shaped wing that's going up now. A similar shuffle is going on at Tyrrell Elementary.
"That's the biggest challenge," Chief Facilities Officer Dave Gallaher said. "We have to make sure everybody is in a good learning environment throughout the construction."
At Schafer Park, students are using a new playfield while new buildings are going up on their old one, while most of East Avenue and Fairview elementary schools have been razed. Kids will continue being bused to other campuses until everything is ready for their return at the start of the 2012 school year.
"They're handling the transition well," Gallaher said. "The kids are actually having fun, and we made it convenient for parents, made sure no one has to walk farther than two blocks to a bus stop."
Gallaher and Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School architect Lee Pollard said the benefits at the new campuses will go well beyond aesthetics.
"We're not doing anything fancy, just making good, quality schools that are great spaces for learning," Pollard said. "I can't think of any other place that's doing schools much better."
The SMART Boards, for example, can be used by teachers in any number of ways, putting computer visuals on a large screen that the teacher can write over. As part of the contract with builders, teachers are offered numerous training sessions to get up to speed on the new technology.
Gallaher said that's been working out well so far.
"I've been impressed with how quickly teachers have (adapted) to it," he said.
Gallaher said they've just passed the $50 million mark in spending, but that the money will be used faster here on out through the construction phase. He added that they are all on track for the scheduled 2012 completion, and within budget.
He said the district's fiscal woes won't have an effect on the Measure I funds, which are to be used only on the stated construction projects.
Last summer, when district officials feared they might have trouble making payroll, trustees took action to permit a loan to be made from the construction pot, but they never had to go forward with it, Gallaher said.
"The amounts they were talking about were pretty small, anyway," he said. "It would have had no effect on this construction."
The Measure I Bond Oversight Committee is scheduled to present a progress update to the school board at its Jan. 12 meeting.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.