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[whitespace] Students start new term among construction projects

District officials taking safety precautions

Cupertino--Despite open holes and trenches at Fremont High School and other high schools, officials for the Fremont Unified High School District say construction will not pose a safety hazard for students when they return to school on August 30.

With numerous trenches and holes exposing gas, electricity and phone lines around the campus of Fremont High School, the school and the district recognize the need for strong safety measures. According to FUHSD's communications manager, Cindy McArthur, contractors "are working around the clock to make sure the schools are safe."

Safe routes through each school existed for band camps, athletes and staff members during the summer's heavy work, but the schools still need a few touch-ups before they can handle the full load of students. Workers will close and pave most trenches before the students arrive, but must leave some open to facilitate future work. These will have fences placed around them, and should not constitute a significant safety threat.

Students and teachers will have to get used to the construction on campus. The renovations, designed to update buildings and technology infrastructure at the five schools in the district, will not end before school begins. In fact, FUHSD expects construction, which began in April, to continue full-time for about four years. Construction on new buildings, such as a new library at Fremont, will begin next year.

William Savidge, the district's director of facilities modernization, pledges to work with teachers to ensure that construction does not hinder the learning process. "The best thing we can do is be flexible," he said. "If a teacher has a test scheduled, we'll turn off the jackhammers."

Planners have consulted extensively with faculty and staff members from the schools to ensure the best possible learning environment, both during and after construction.

The work done until this point has mostly involved renovation of existing buildings. Bathrooms have been rebuilt and improved. Workers have gutted classrooms and in effect rebuilt new ones around the existing frames. Most importantly, classrooms have received special attention in regard to new technology. Classrooms will now come equipped with numerous hookups for computers and an enviably fast connection to the Internet and the schools' internal networks.

The schools will have their own internal servers, which facilitate access to the Internet. In addition, FUHSD has formed a contract with Cisco, which has the technology giant assisting with the updates. The company also will implement a voice-over IP system for the schools, meaning that all telephony will occur over the Internet.

With a voice-over IP system, voice information becomes packets of digital information that travel across the Internet. The schools will only need a local telephone service to connect with the Internet, so a student could call France for information on a project and it would only cost as much as a local call.

While the construction may not give the schools the greatest looks for the first day of school, students and parents are asked to keep the future in mind. Fremont Principal Pete Tuana said, "These improvements aren't just for the next five years, they're for the next thirty. This new technology and these new products are very exciting."
Kevin Fayle

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Web extra to the August 31-September 6, 2000 issue of Metro.

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