In any other year, Williams residents would have come in droves to the official opening of the magnificent new multipurpose room at the Elementary School.
But with this year’s coronavirus precautions, Williams Unified officials kept the event to a few dozen people, mostly school, city, and county officials, along with the builder and architect.
The multi-million project took about 11 months to complete and will comfortably accommodate an increasing population of students.
“It was built for us to feed 900 students,” said Superintendent Edgar Lamkin. “It’s also a community building to provide support and an opportunity for our community to use it.”
The facility replaces a cafeteria constructed in 1974, which was built for 150 students. The project also included an expanded parking lot with a student drop-off area, installation of a new four-way stop sign at the intersection of E Street and Pinewood Court, and new playground blacktop. The new multipurpose room includes a state-of-the-art kitchen, with roomy walk-in freezers and refrigerator. It also doubles as a gymnasium, complete with six basketball nets.
Lampkin said the district has struggled to feed about 450 students in the old cafeteria. The new facility will now serve the elementary school and upper elementary school, which has about 800 students combined.
“Even with social distancing guidelines, it still gives us that opportunity to be able to feed a lot more students than what we were doing before,” he said.
School officials thanked the community for the money to build the facility. The $11 million bond in 2016 also funded infrastructure improvements and other projects.
“The community gave us the money to do this,” said School Board President George Simmons. “The oversight committee oversaw how we spent the money, not just on this project but other projects like the fitness center at the high school. And we spent every penny we could possibly do to make sure this building was built.”
Stone Creek Engineering oversaw the construction of the building. Principals in the project included JK Architecture Engineering and Clark/Sullivan Construction.
The multipurpose room was completed on schedule, officials said, despite some unexpected contingencies, including ground issues that called for a complete redo of the playground and blacktop.
Simmons said every penny, nickel, and dime has been accounted for and that the money was well spent.
While officials were disappointed that voters did not support another bond in 2020 that would allow the district to move forward with its 10-year plan for additional modernization projects, they were not disappointed with what they built so far, especially the new multipurpose room, which was the district’s greatest need. The new facility will allow the Elementary School to reduce lunch periods from six to two or three, as well as provide space for school assemblies and partner activities with the city of Williams.
“It’s fantastic,” Simmons said. “The kitchen is the best I’ve seen.”
Trustee Sylvia Vaca said that while another bond would be needed to make additional improvements at the high school, she was grateful to the community for the new elementary school multipurpose room, which was several years in the making and is a “dream come true” for the children.
Friday’s grand opening included entertainment from the Williams High School Mariachi Band, under the direction of teacher Max Stout, and a taco take out dinner, prepared by students in the Tri-County ROP culinary trailer.
Colusa County Superintendent of Schools, Mike West, said in addition to the district’s leadership, it was the community’s vision that made the project come together.
“When you look around this building, a lot of words come to minds: state-of-the-art, safe, secure, functional, and beautiful. But the real piece of this, which is also very true, is that if you look at the faces of the food services people, they were smiling, because they like it – and that’s exciting as well.”
West said everyone should be proud of their support of Williams Unified School District.
“This campus, with this beginning and the weight facility as well, is fast becoming the jewel for education in Colusa County. I travel around the state a lot and I’ve seen a lot of different facilities and there are many huge districts that would love to have a facility such as this.”
West said all the students in the country and the students in Williams deserve nothing less than a multi-use facility like the one just completed. ♣