Rio Americano High School
The Shack in the Back
June 1, 2020
Students pass a house-like building everyday while walking to their classes–But what is it?
Senior House Educates Elderly
Ever been to the very back of the school, where the portables, the levy, and the B-wing meet? Ever walked by History teacher William Taylor’s room and wondered why there is a house on campus? You’re not the only one.
“This building used to be the living facility for the high school guard,” said Joe D’Alexander, the man currently in charge of the aging house.
D’Alexander runs the Sacramento branch of the nonprofit organization SeniorNet, an international program striving to teach people over the age of fifty how to use technology, especially computers.
“SeniorNet has been in business since 1990, and in 1998 our previous facility shut down,” said D’Alexander, “We started looking for a new location and San Juan offered us this place.”
The program then had to convert the house into the world class instruction facility it is today.
“I did all the wiring.” said D’Alexander “We don’t have a wifi set up yet, so we wire all the internet to each individual computer.”
“There are 16 computer stations, each individual has their own computer during classes,” said D’Alexander.
On top of that, the house has other technology unique to senior instruction.
“We older people have trouble hearing,” said D’Alexander “The headset microphone we have allows the instructor to talk loud which takes care of hearing problems.”
D’Alexander also has a machine which converts old slides into digital copies.
“During our youth our pictures were in the form of slides, not mega-pixels,” said D’Alexander “Most of my generation has oodles of slides so we teach how to repair and organize them.”
“We also teach courses on graphics [Photoshop] using Adobe and we are about to start teaching a course on iPads.”
“They [the students] are as nervous as can be. The mouse is their biggest enemy. We know this so we don’t rush them and they eventually start to relax,” D’Alexander said.
“It is not so much now, but 15 years ago most people had no experience with computers and it’s our job to teach the stragglers.”
D’Alexander, along with his fellow instructors and assistants finds teaching “very satisfying” which is why they volunteer and don’t mind the absence of a paycheck.
“We charge thirty dollars for every six sessions,” said D’Alexander.
The money they charge, along with the money donated by sponsors goes to funding for facilities and technology used by the program.
Along with River City Bank, San Juan can claim the title of sponsor for the educational organization.
What You Don’t Know About Rio
The Senior Building
Ever wondered what this house-like structure is doing in the back of our school? This building has been here for decades, but the exact date it was built is unknown. It used to be a place where senior citizens would take classes about computers and even code. Classes were during school time, usually from 8:00AM-3:00PM Monday-Friday. About 3 years ago, the organization dissolved and the classes stopped, but before closing, they donated money to our school and our district for letting them use that space. The property and building are owned by our school. Right now the place is used for storage and the majority of items inside are desks.
Have you seen this garden outside the A wing? It used to be an area where special education kids would go out and work and maintain. When in use, the garden held fruits/vegetables and flowers; however, It just simply hasn’t been used in the past few years. This year, two civitas students were supposed to revive the garden, but after school closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining the garden was impossible.
The Temporary Building
If you look closely you can see a black border on the ground. This was the T wing (for temporary). It was built in November of 2000 and was only compromised of one building (T-1). Constructed during a time of “modernization,” (removing asbestos, changing to a modern HVAC system, lighting systems, and wheelchair access) whole wings had to be moved into a platoon of portable classrooms. Teachers would take turns using the building until their classroom was modernized. When modernization was finished, the building was taken down and shipped to another high school or middle school campus that was being modernized. T-1 contained a pebbled gray floor, lower-than-usual ceiling, dimmable lights, and lab peninsulas like you can find in Mr. Montbriand’s (D-8) chemistry classroom. The front of the classroom featured a long lab bench (demo table) and sliding whiteboards with plenty of storage behind them.
From the 33 years Mr. Baird has been teaching at Rio and of all the different classrooms he has taught in, T-1 has been his favorite. He was also the first teacher to move in.
The Interior of T-1. Photo by Dean Baird