New science, art classrooms open at Diegueno Middle School

The new classroom building at Diegueno Middle School.
(Karen Billing)
Camden Mansavage and Allegra Gillian work on a science experiment in the new classroom. Courtesy

Diegueno Middle School students and staff are enjoying the “new classroom smell” of two new classroom buildings that have opened this fall. The projects were funded by San Dieguito Union High School District’s Prop AA general obligation bond that passed in 2012.

“This is an amazing school that has been made even more amazing by everything being done thanks to Prop AA,” said Principal Cara Dolnik, who is in her first year at Diegueno since coming over from Carmel Valley Middle School.

The 21-acre campus nestled in the Village Park neighborhood of Encinitas was built in 1983 and is home to 950 students. The school added two new classroom buildings, Building B and Building G, and last year Building P was torn down to construct a brand new classroom building. The new building, which will include a maker space for STEM programs and four general use classrooms, is expected to be complete in December 2019.

The new B Building was originally the school’s locker bay—left on one of the classroom’s exposed wooden beam is an old sign that reads “Loitering equals loss of locker.” Walls were put in to create two new classrooms for special education and the rooms feature lighting that adjusts with the natural sunlight coming into the classrooms and technology upgrades.

Across the quad (which features a new shade structure for students), Building B welcomed students in late October. The building features two science classrooms, an art classroom, one general education classroom, offices and a new fully-outfitted health office.

Unlike the old classrooms used for science, these science labs are larger spaces specifically designed for students’ science explorations, Dolnik said. Teachers can also collaborate and share in a prep lab that has windows that roll-up into the classrooms.

All of the new classroom walls have tack paneling and three white boards with projectors for ease of instruction.

Students creating masterpieces in the new art room. Courtesy

The art classroom is an expansive place for creativity, Dolnik said. There are sinks all around the classroom walls and a roll-up door that opens out to a patio. The art classroom also has its own teacher workroom with plenty of storage space and sinks all around the space that has already been decorated by “phenomenal” art teacher Kelly Casassa.

While the district added heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) to 24 Diegueno classrooms in 2013, Building G’s new classrooms were the last to get the HVAC treatment as the modernization project was the in the works. The air conditioning was working well on a warm fall day.

In addition to its other campus improvements, Dolnik said they plan to have discussions about the landscaping in the main quad such as bringing in common area tables and seating that create collaboration spaces for students and opportunities for outdoor instruction. Dolnik said that as this is Encinitas they should take advantage of the sunshine and beautiful natural environment.

Construction is underway on another new classroom building at Diegueno Middle. Karen Billing