CUSD Completes Harold Ambuehl Elementary School Modernization Project

Capistrano Unified School District completed a comprehensive modernization project over the summer at Harold Ambuehl Elementary School, upgrading the facilities with new safety systems, much needed repairs, and new equipment.

Students, teachers and staff returned to the 2019-2020 school year finding an upgraded play area, drinking fountains, fencing, restrooms, fire alarms, and library, which will eventually become the “Innovation Center.” 

“The site was old, in need of repairs, modernization and ADA compliance upgrades,” said Clark Hampton, Deputy Superintendent, Business and Support Services, Capistrano Unified School District. “With funding available, we were able to address some, but not all, of the needs.”

The plans on the Ambuehl Elementary School Modernization Project were first shared to the Board of Trustees during a workshop meeting in February of this year by CUSD Chief Facilities Officer John Forney. 

In 2017, CUSD contracted Kitchell development company to conduct a districtwide assessment of the schools’ facilities conditions. Ambuehl Elementary served as a case study.

The $5.7 million project, funded from the sale of Whispering Hills and Mello-Roos facilities district bonds, incorporated mandatory improvements from the Division of State Architect.

CUSD staff and the district architect met with Ambuehl teachers, staff members and the Parent Teacher Association to gather improvement ideas and input on existing facilities.

A critical priority was addressing the school’s fire safety systems. The San Juan Capistrano school had heavy fire doors that would have to be closed manually to isolate fires. The modernization plan installed automated door systems in case of lockdowns and fires.

The plan also included a corrugated metal structure for better shade, a play area including rubber surfacing, drinking fountains that would become water bottle fillers and fencing improvements near the school’s entrance. 

The Ambuehl modernization is just the latest in upgrades and improvements that have been accomplished on time and under budget, and is one of seven CUSD schools the district upgraded over the summer, ready for students on the first day of school.

In the first seven weeks of the summer break (from June 7 to July 25, 2019), five HVAC technicians and three HVAC assistants logged a total 1,411 hours working on the replacement, according to Ted Norman, director of maintenance and operations for the district. 

Maintenance and Operations and Facilities staff worked on a field replacement at Capistrano Valley High School, modernized Dana Hills High School’s kitchen and continued work on solar installation at Aliso Niguel High School, San Clemente High School, Tesoro High School, and Capistrano Valley High School. The solar is financed through federal renewable energy bonds and the project could bring a savings of over $57 million dollars over its 25-year lifespan. 

Visit for more information on campus upgrades and the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

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