For months now, the Southern Humboldt Unified School District Trustees have been talking about building a new “state of the art” high school on a piece of property yet to be purchased in Redway or Garberville.

But South Fork senior Donny Ristow has come up with an idea of his own – a redesigned high school on the existing Miranda campus. Ristow’s work, which includes a cardboard model and scale drawings, is impressive, even given that he is at the top of his class.

Ristow has been a district student throughout his school career. He attended first through sixth grade at Redway Elementary and was in the last class to graduate from Miranda Junior High.

”The consolidation that’s been happening has affected all my classmates directly,” he said.

Ristow has fond memories of Miranda Junior High, and his plan for reconstruction leaves that configuration of buildings as it is because he doesn’t think any changes are needed.

”Everything flows together over there,” he says.

He also approves of the Redway campus.

The thing he liked best about the eighth grade at Miranda, he says, is that he got to be the oldest. Now, he says, “the eighth graders are mixed in with the high school population, where before they would have been by themselves with the seventh graders in an area separate from us. So that’s a different experience than I had, and seems different from what the normal experience would be. What they’re having is not necessarily a bad experience, but it is different.”

His parents are Don and Barbara Ristow. Barbara Ristow works at Trees Foundation and Don Ristow is the General Manager for the Miranda water district. His younger sister, Teresa, is a junior at South Fork.

”They were both electricians,” Ristow says, of his parents. “They designed our house.”

Ristow says that he has always been interested in architecture, although he’s going on to U.C. Santa Barbara, which doesn’t offer an architecture major.

”I see the school every day,” he says, “and it seems like it was not built with a general plan in mind. There’s all this wasted space, and things like the tennis courts could have been placed elsewhere. The library and the cafeteria look as if they were just plopped down. What I took into consideration when I was designing this was a way it could all come together and best use the space.”

Ristow’s design calls for leaving the existing gymnasium in place but relocating and rebuilding the classroom wings as two-story structures that would maximize the use of ground space. This leaves room to add a theater and a combination sports complex and office wing, and a state of the art industrial/auto shop wing.

Ristow also has redesigned the sports field by moving the baseball field across the road to where the transportation department is located. He hasn’t quite come up with a new design for transportation as yet, but it’s still a work in progress.

”There might be a lot of work to do on that site before we could move the baseball field over there,” he says, “but it fits perfectly on that lot.”

Ristow lives in Miranda and that may be one reason why he would like to see the high school stay where it is. He understands why a Garberville location would be easier for students in Alderpoint or Shelter Cove, but, he adds, “We have this land already. This is the school district’s property.”

He also doesn’t think the Community Park would make a suitable location for a school because it would take up so much of Tooby Flat.

”Every time I come to this campus I see things like, how if the library were positioned differently we could fit a whole other wing in here. People talk about moving trailers or modular classrooms and I don’t think that’s the right move.”

His design makes use of passive solar heat. “The buildings are built with windows that get a lot of southern exposure, plus they also have skylights. Because our school district doesn’t have a lot of money, there’s a plan for solar heating with actual solar panels. That could be a second stage of the building.”

Stage Three of Ristow’s design includes a swimming pool.

Price estimates for his design are within reach for the district, which anticipates $17 million for the initial building. Ristow envisions the first phase of the construction of his design taking place while the other buildings on the campus continue to be used, with additional modular classrooms brought in for the construction period. He says the cost for that would be about $15 million.

Ristow expresses gratitude for the help he got from his advisor on the project. “His name is Joe Collins and he runs the Briceland Vineyards, but he’s also an architect. He told me all about how to do the southern exposure and how to get people to flow into the right direction and how to deal with parking. He was a big help.”

The general idea, Ristow says, is that a high tech, state-of-the-art school facility would attract students. “Parents will want to bring their kids to this school,” he says.

Ristow is enthusiastic about the rebuilding of the high school even though he himself will be off at university if and when it comes to pass.

”My parents are always going to live here,” he says, “and maybe me, too, one day.”

He’s thinking about his own kids, he says, and the kind of school he wants for them. “I’d like them to have a school we could all be proud of,” he says.

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