KINGSBURG – Construction of the new sports facilities at Rafer Johnson Junior High has officially started. Kingsburg Elementary School District and school officials say they’re looking forward to the students and community having access to the new track and improved courts and baseball fields.

“Now that stuff’s coming down and being moved, you can visualize where things are going to be. It’s really going to be a first-class facility,” Rafer Principal Bobby Rodriguez said. “I think it’s going to create more opportunities to explore new sports and maybe try out for track.”

The sports facilities improvements will cost $2.9 million and are being funded through Measure A bond dollars, KESD’s Chief Business Official Nick Taylor said. American Paving has been contracted to do the construction work. The $10 million measure was approved in June 2016. Bonds are being sold in two series, thus $5 million were initially sold and another $5 million will be sold this summer.

“It was kind of a shame that we have Rafer Johnson Junior High but no track at the school. He’s a gold medalist track athlete. Having this track will give kids a good reason to exercise and enjoy the new facility,” Taylor said.

Pointing to architect maps, Taylor explained how all the courts will be demolished and relocated so the all-weather track can be installed. A soccer field will be created in the center of the track. Four tennis courts will be built with the option for pickle ball play. The facilities will be available after hours to the public and will have lighting for night use. The school will host track meets and soccer and softball teams will be able to use the grounds for practice and games.

Another major improvement will be the new baseball field that will include a diamond and dugouts. A berm of earth will be leveled and fencing will be installed to keep balls from breaking classroom windows.

Rafer’s principal said the school’s track program will likely get a boost since students won’t have to travel to Kingsburg High to participate.

“Having the track here will make transportation so much easier. [Students] can be in track and be able to get picked up. Or if they need to go to the office, we’re here so they can call [home].”

Rodriguez said he’s especially excited for the school’s P.E. program as those teachers will have vastly improved courts and fields for instruction.

“Once everything’s all new for the next school year, it’s going to be real exciting to see. It’ll create that new vibe, not only for the school, but for the community to share and benefit from,” Rodriguez said.

P.E. teacher Chris Bouck said having an evenly paved surface for students to use will make state-mandated testing safer and more accurate.

“The track they run now is more like a cross-country course. We have to deal with the ground changing levels and do a state test on that instead of a flat, level ground,” Bouck said. “So this is going to be a huge improvement for that. The students are excited and also it’ll be great for the community, too.”

Val Huerta, superintendent for American Paving, said the goal is to complete the work on schedule and minimize disruption as much as possible. He reminds students to be safe and stay outside the construction areas.

“We blocked off some of it, but the inner part of campus is still open. If they’re outside of the fenced areas, they’re fine. We haven’t had any issues so far.”

It was only the second day of work, but by Feb. 14 the tennis and basketball courts, fencing and trees were being removed to make way for the new facilities. Grassy areas were also being disked where the new baseball field would be installed.

The projects are slated to be completed in 180 days and should be finished in August before the start of the next school year. As the projects get closer to completion, any ribbon cuttings or opening ceremonies will be announced.

Taylor said other improvements will also being funded through Measure A dollars.

Here are the details by school campus site:

  • Reagan: Reagan Elementary will see its playground area extended. “That’ll mean more irrigation and play field area,” Taylor said. “Soccer players will be real happy with that. Also, we’ll add shade in their amphitheater area.”
  • Lincoln: Lincoln Elementary will have two baseball diamonds installed. Since second and third graders attend this school, the fields are being created mainly for community use. “We thought it would be a nice compliment to Safarjian Field right next door,” Taylor said. Also, the proposed Hash Housing development would add another field in the immediate area once it’s built.
  • Washington: New preschool buildings, playground and a designated parking lot will be built at the northwest corner of campus at Williams and Sierra specifically to meet the needs of preschool and kindergarten students, Taylor said. “If you’ve ever been around Washington School, you know there is no parking. Preschoolers are different than six graders where a parent can just drive up, open the door and drop them off. Preschool parents need to park, get their children out of their seats and walk them in. That really creates a lot of congestion around the front of the school.”
  • Central Valley Home School: Since there has been an increase in enrollment at the home school, that campus will have an additional portable classroom installed.
  • Roosevelt: Lower fencing has already been replaced with taller fencing at this campus to improve security, Taylor said. A metal storage building will be relocated to this campus’ grounds maintenance area. “Next, we’re going to improve their parking, basketball area and add a shade structure.”

The district is also using professional development funds from the state to install a building next to the district office where teacher training and board meetings will take place. The building has been pre-fabricated and installation was set to start Feb. 15, Taylor said.

“We have a rich training program but we’re constrained by having a small board room. This will allow us a lot more square footage so it’ll be less crowded in there.”

The reporter can be reached at 583-2427 or