Vikings Are Coming Home
When the ribbon is cut on Feb. 6 to reopen Blair’s main school building, don’t be surprised if the Blair community’s exuberant celebration seems a big reaction for a remodel. The hype is justified.
There’s a lot to celebrate. Almost two years of construction, finished. Almost five years being squeezed into the small old Allendale Elementary campus, over. Ten years since the architect drew up plans for the remodel, behind us. Hard work passing a bond measure to pay to fix up the campus, that was 22 years ago! Then needing a second bond measure when Blair didn’t get updated--even that is ten years past.
Most high school classes will be held in the A Building, but the A Building will be utilized by the entire student body. Blair is an International Baccalaureate (IB) World School serving grades 6-12, including the Health Careers Academy and the district’s International Academy. (Blair offers three IB programs, Diploma, Career-related and Middle Years. Blair also has a Spanish Dual Language program.)
Much of the remodel is not glamorous, but essential. The bulk of construction and cost went to replacing outdated infrastructure--electrical, heating and cooling, water, sewage and fire suppression systems and roofing. For the first time, JROTC and the Music Room have air conditioning!
The new building reorganizes the first floor to orient towards one main entrance off the parking lot. The administrative areas are now clustered on that northwest end. The library is relocated to the former Main Office area and is now much larger. Though the A building footprint increased a little, essentially the project did not expand Blair or its capacity. All possible A Building teaching spaces will be put to use immediately as classrooms.
The building sparkles with new interior finishes, lighting and doorways. A big change is railings on the second and third floors instead of bulky concrete. The third floor has two gleaming science wet labs. After five decades of bungalows in the parking lot, the lot is resurfaced and now has outdoor lighting.
Blair staff are exceptionally patient and long suffering. During this time on the Allendale campus, the entire Counseling Center, Registrar, Attendance, Student Store and Assistant Principal have been shoehorned into one bungalow together. The new Counseling Center has a student work area, counselor offices with real privacy and a conference room; an expanded Student Store conveniently faces outside. For five years now, Viking costumes and all other ASB supplies have competed with students for space in Ms. Frances Nicholson's bungalow. Ms. Nicholson first began teaching at Blair in 1979 and is one of the few staff still here who have been through this 20-plus year roller coaster process of the remodel. We're glad she can finally see it finished before she retires.
Even before the A Building closed in 2014 for the eventual remodel, Mr. Michael Birnbryer-Lao was making do with one bungalow to house Blair’s entire instrumental music program. Over a quarter of Blair students, about 250, participate in a music class or ensemble. Remodeled Room A120 now includes office space, instrument storage, practice rooms and space for our Music Tech Lab. Given a sneak peek hard hat tour during construction, Birnbryer-Lao got emotional at seeing his future large classroom space.
Student anticipation is building each day. All school year a poster on the outside of an Allendale bungalow classroom has counted down the days to moving back. For students who have gone without so many high school building basics, every small thing is exciting. Word quickly spread about A building drinking fountains with water bottle refilling stations! Instagram posts about the ribbon cutting ask, “Ever wondered what it’s like to walk down a real hallway?” A recent Blair grad commented she wasn’t impressed by fancy buildings during college tours because her Blair experience proved great programs succeed in spite of facilities. But it is time to give Blair students back their full library and finally give students a high school environment. Current seniors have spent their entire high school years in temporary quarters. Instead of quoting a famous person, a yearbook senior quotation last year said, “I went to high school in an elementary school.” Clearly, Blair Vikings have shown great perseverance but are ready for different ways of building character!
Pasadena Unified School District opened Blair High School in 1964. The main A building wasn’t finished in time, so classes were all in the C building. “Temporary” bungalows had to be added in the parking lot around 1970. The C building was eventually designated for grades 7-9 after grades 7 and 8 were added in 2003. Anticipating reconstruction of the rundown C building, in 2005 students were relocated to a second village of bungalows in the parking lot. Measure Y funds ran out before doing much more for Blair than tearing down the old C building. After Allendale Elementary closed, the middle schoolers moved to this new “BlairEast,” joined by the International Academy in 2008 and then 6th graders in 2009. The C building rebuilt with Measure TT funds opened in 2011. Measure TT has also funded the A Building remodel. Measure TT was approved by voters in 2008 for these needed capital improvements. These bond measure funds are separate from, and cannot be used for, school district operating expenses. With the reopening of the A Building, Blair can finally put decades of facility uncertainty behind.
This remodel has been a long journey for Blair. Ms. Dianne Moore who worked at Blair for almost 40 years, said, "A great deal of blood, sweat and tears went into bringing our high school to this current status of renewal...We never lost faith." Join her and others at the ribbon cutting to see the building in person! There will definitely be lots of Viking pride on display. Alumni, please help spread the word about this event. Don't forget to wear your green and gold school colors.
The ribbon cutting ceremony begins at 3:30 pm on Wed. Feb. 6, followed by tours of the building, student music, food and fundraising for the Blair Annual Fund. Those willing to make a significant contribution financially can leave a legacy by having a room named for them. (Email for naming details.) Street parking only on Feb. 6; the ceremony will spill into the parking lot with food trucks and tents, and info. tables and food sales by Blair clubs and sports.
This celebration is open to all--Blair students, staff, parents, alumni, neighbors, the school district and the entire community.