California High campus isn’t quite the same

Students have options from games to gatherings

As returning students walk around campus, they might notice some new changes from nearly a year and a half ago. Some additions include several new murals, four portable classrooms, games and activities in the quad, and the opening of the parking lot to seniors at lunch.


Two colorful murals, one of them designed by a student, were added to campus over the summer. One adorns the world language building facing the library and textbook room and features a depiction of the school’s library and quad next to the wording: Greetings! California High School. The mural  also includes a colorful sunset, California poppies and the school mascot, a Grizzly bear.

The other mural, designed by junior Sathvika Sitaraman, welcomes visitors inside the administration building. It’s split in two on the wall across from the attendance desk with half featuring the library and main building with the wording: Have a Grizzly Day with an orange trail of bear prints. The other half depicts Mt. Diablo, greenery and a continuation of the path with the words Grizzly Pride.

Sitaraman cited her inspiration as the idea that high school is a bridge between students’ childhood and their future effect on the world.

“There are so many paths you can take and so many ways you can impact your community,” Sitaraman said. “That’s why there is a path from our school campus to a representation of Mount Diablo.

“I’m happy I was able to make some kind of impact on the school,” she said. 

Administrators first offered a design contest for the world language building mural in November 2019, when Sitaraman entered her design. But the mural couldn’t be designed by a student, partially because of delays from students and the pandemic. 

The school contracted the company Murals for Schools, which indicated it would be difficult for their artists to make the student submissions look professional, assistant principal Tucker Farrar said. Instead, Murals for Schools offered several sample mural designs, and after consulting many staff members, administrators carefully decided on the final product.  

“We narrowed it down, we picked certain parts of certain ones, and we checked in with a few students,” Farrar said. “A mural is very permanent, so we didn’t want to rush into it.”

Murals for Schools completed the world language mural in June for about $5,000, Farrar said. The cost was split between Cal High’s site money from the district and the Associated Student Body funds. Site money is given to the school by the district for purchases that “add to the culture of the school,” Farrar said. 

Administrators were grateful for students’ submissions, even though they weren’t used for the world language mural. Aside from receiving a small gift card for her participation, Sitaraman was rewarded for her efforts later.

“They asked me if I wanted to design the office mural because they liked my design,” Sitaraman said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to make some kind of mark on the school.”

Equipped with the dimensions of the wall in the administration building, she used colored pencils and watercolors to create the design in a week. Since the district required a particular color of paint in the office, the mural had to be painted on canvas. The San Francisco Bay Area Muralist team took Sitaraman’s design and painted it in their studio in two months, and a framing company framed the mural on site. 

Farrar and other staff members who work in the office appreciate how the mural adds color to the office and makes it more inviting.

“We love it,” Farrar said. “We’re going to make a little sign using her [description of the mural’s meaning].”

Activities Section

The quad has a plethora of new activities for students to try during lunch and brunch.

By the commons, cornhole, ping-pong tables, foosball, tetherball, a basket-shooting game, and even a life-size chess set have been added. At lunch, students can be seen huddling around foosball tables and playing improvised three-versus-three ping-pong.

“[Principal Megan] Keefer had the vision to bring the fun back to lunch,” Farrar said. “When our students came back to campus, we wanted to give them something to break the ice.”

The activities are all meant to be COVID-19 and outdoors friendly. Students have been taking full advantage of the games to pass their 30-minute lunch periods.

“I think [the games] are great,” sophomore Shriivanth Gunanidhi said. “They help us make new friends.”

On the other hand, junior Jenna Warnert likes that the activities give her something new to try with her friends.

“[The activities] are fun to do instead of talking to your friends during lunch,” Warnert said.

Ping-pong has been especially popular. Both junior Alex Herrick and sophomore Zachary Daluyaya play it the most out of the quad activities.

“Ping-pong is my favorite,” Herrick said.

Daluyaya has tried almost all of the games.

“Ping-pong is the most fun,” Daluyaya said.

Parking Lot

Seniors now have access to the parking lot during lunch for the first time in campus history. The change comes as an experiment for seniors that stems from COVID safety requirements.

At lunch, seniors congregate in small groups around friends’ cars, hang out, and eat lunch together.

“It’s a privilege, and we want them to make good choices, and so far it’s working out great,” Farrar said.

Seniors have been relishing their new freedom.

“This is such a vibe,” senior Mikayla Grumley said while sitting in a blue camping chair in the bed of Chavez’s pickup truck.

Added Madison Chavez, “I really like it, especially because it’s very crowded in the quad.”

Opening the parking lot was also a solution to overcrowding in the quad. Because of COVID-19 restrictions that require students to remain masked while indoors, all students were eating lunch in the quad because they could no longer eat inside the commons or the main building.

“We have lots of students who are cramming into campus,” Farrar said. “We made the decision to open up the parking lot. It’s shaded, and students in the past have wanted to hang out there anyway.”

The parking lot offered a way for students to spread out while still being supervised. New rules are in place to help with supervision and to follow COVID guidelines.

Seniors are allowed to be outside their cars, in the tailgate of a car, or in the bed of a pickup truck. They are not allowed to be inside of their vehicles.

“We can just walk up and down the rows, and if they’re in their tailgates we just see them and say hi,” Farrar said. “But when they’re hiding in their cars with the windows up, then there might be a tendency to make poor choices.”

Senior Jack Heinz disagrees with the rules.

“Why not let [seniors] sit in their car when it’s their own property?” Heinz said. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.”

Still, Heinz enjoys relaxing and eating lunch in the parking lot.

“There’s a more calm feeling,” Heinz said. “Just more chill vibes.”

Portable Classrooms

Four new portable classrooms arrived in early August on the basketball courts behind the main building next to the varsity baseball diamond. They remain empty and their use has not been determined.

The portables were ordered more than a year and a half ago because enrollment projections predicted the student population to increase, assistant principal Jeffrey Osborn said.

“We were anticipating that we wouldn’t have enough space for all of our students,” Farrar said. “Turns out we do have enough classroom space for all of our students, so now we have these portables.”

Because nearly 100 Cal students are attending Virtual Academy and some have moved away, the enrollment projections when the District Facilities Development Department ordered the portables turned out to be inaccurate. 

“With those numbers at that time, we definitely needed those {portables],” Osborn said.

The portable classrooms don’t yet have desks. Administrators have not determined how the portables will be used once they’re ready.

One of the ideas was to use them for lunch-time game rooms.

“[One portable would have] some space for students to play board games and hang out,” Farrar said. “Another might be a gaming room, where students can go in smaller groups and set up four or five TVs with some consoles and have gaming.”

Students would be able to use the game rooms during brunch and lunch under supervision.

Farrar and Osborn also voiced the possibility of checking out some of the portables to teachers as needed. 

“We have a classroom where the air conditioning is not working very well, and the maintenance guy has been out numerous times,” Osborn said. “It’s an option for that teacher, while the AC isn’t working or whatever the issue may be, to go down and use it.” 

Teachers would potentially be able to sign up for the portables for a week at a time, and even check out two adjacent ones to have more space and split their students into smaller groups.