Diegueno Middle will debut new-look classrooms on first day of school

A new math classroom at Diegueno Middle.
(Karen Billing)

Diegueno Middle School is prepared to launch into the school year with completely transformed math classrooms and a renovated Cougar Hall: There will be no more playing basketball on carpet, thanks to the brand new flooring in the updated multi-purpose room.

The San Dieguito Union High School District’s construction work on the Park Village campus included a total overhaul of the C building, which was built in 1985. In the “summer sprint” teachers moved everything out on the last day of school and are getting ready to move back in this week into classrooms with all new furniture, carpeting, walls, windows and paint. The modern classrooms’ blue walls match the new blue chairs.

“The teachers are most excited for the new technology and the new furniture,” said Principal Celeste Barnette. “They are game changers.”

In the classrooms, gone are the old sleigh desks, replaced with modular furniture that can be moved into different configurations for more effective learning and instruction. In one math classroom, higher tables have been used to ensure everyone has a clear view of the teacher. As a bonus, the low tables come outfitted with bag hooks so backpacks don’t get tossed haphazardly to the floor.

An updated math classroom at Diegueno.
(Karen Billing)

With the renovations, the ceilings were dropped so the wooden beams are still visible but new lighting was added and the building’s high windows were tinted, removing the need for the dated old curtains that used to hang there.

“We found some little surprises in the building,” said Ralf Bernard, the district’s construction projects manager. When they tore down the old walls they uncovered some 1980s hard rock graffiti written on the bricks: “Metal rules”.

As much as possible, Bernard worked with the staff to meet their needs. Bernard said there was a challenge in that Diegueno’s classrooms are smaller than standard size (870 square feet versus 960 square feet) so they took out the old built-in cabinetry and replaced it with moveable storage units to be more flexible. Along with the new desks, teachers are better able to maximize the floor space.

Each classroom has new safety doors and the projectors were replaced with TV monitors and new whiteboards.

“It’s fantastic, we’re super excited,” said math teacher Emily Coulter of the new modern space. “I’ve never been in a classroom with color on the walls!”

The newly remodeled Cougar Hall.
(Karen Billing)

The campus’ renovated Cougar Hall not only includes new flooring for hoops but also a new music and drama room. The music room space has been transformed with brighter paint, new acoustics, custom-made instrument lockers and a private practice studio.

The school’s nutrition services area also got an overhaul—they now have air conditioning.

This summer’s sprint was the first of three phases of work, funded by Prop AA. Next summer, Diegueno’s social science, English and science classroom buildings will get the modernization treatment and there will be a lot of hardscape improvements around campus as well as a solar installation.

The district will be matching a generous $50,000 donation to install a new shade structure over the blacktop area.

The following summer in 2025, the front office will be remodeled as will the locker rooms that haven’t been touched since 1985. Then the whole school will be complete.

Students and parents helped clean up the campus before school starts.
(Karen Billing)

Before students come back to school on Aug. 15, Diegueno art teacher and ASB advisor Kelly Casassa organized a campus cleanup on Aug. 7. Students came to school on their last days of summer break to pick up trash and to paint welcome signs for Cougar Camp, an event for new students.

In her 10 years at the school, Casassa has come up with many ways to help beautify the campus, including several student-created murals. The clean-up was just another way for Cougars to show pride and to create a more welcoming school environment for all: “We love Diegueno,” Casassa said.

Bailey Thompson and Wyatt Hill made welcome signs.
(Karen Billing)