Berkeley School Hopes to Build New Campus at Old Train Station

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A newly-built Montessori school on a historic Berkeley site may be open for classes by next fall.

Berkeley Montessori School officials announced yesterday that the school reached its $1 million goal for a new site, overcoming a major hurdle to the construction of a new campus.

The money, donated from parents, community members and local foundations, will be used to advance the negotiations for a $5.1 million bond through the San Francisco-based investment company Stone and Youngberg.

The total funds will cover construction of the new campus as well as the purchase of the historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot site located at 1310 University Ave.

But funding remains on shaky ground because the school is still negotiating with the bond company.

Before finalizing the bond measure, Stone and Youngberg are requiring the school to prove its non-profit status and secure necessary permits from the Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board and the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

School officials met with the Landmarks Preservation Commission last week in a preliminary public hearing and expect to meet with the Zoning Adjustments Board in late September.

If approved for the bond, the school will likely pay in installments over the next 30 years, school officials said.

The new campus, designed by Pfau Architecture, will use recycled and sustainable materials and renewable energy systems that will be incorporated into the school's science curriculum.

"There are many things that will be built into the school that will be passive educational tools," said Anne Holmes, the school's development director. "We are going to expose one of the walls so they can see what is inside, and there will be a gray water system so students can water the organic garden."

Parents said they are pleased with the new site and are glad to contribute to the process.

School officials said a move was needed because their current site, the former Hillside Primary school leased from the Berkeley Unified School District, is too close to the Hayward fault line to accommodate the expanding school of 260 students from pre-school through eighth grade.


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