Originally published April 25, 2013 at 5:40 p.m., updated April 26, 2013 at 10:28 a.m.
Fourteen months ago, the Monarch School's new building didn't look like much.
Now, after a $14 million remodel, the space will be able to change the educational lives of up to 350 homeless K-12 students when the school's operations move there next month.
In addition to a major renovation, the school's new space is also now equipped with a science lab, an outdoor playground and equipment it didn't have before.
The upgrades may well help push the school's 70 percent graduation rate even higher. But Principal Joel Garcia said there's another key element the school is focused on, as well.
"We really believe that if they want to come to our school ready to learn, a big piece of it is health," he said. "It might be a toothache or an issue of glasses ... how can we expect them to do their schoolwork if they can't see the board in the classroom?"
To combat those health issues, the school has also opened a new healthcare center for its students. It has also stocked its Butterfly Boutique — an on-campus trove of clothes, shoes and other necessities — that students can visit any time.
"They come to school sometimes and their shoes are worn or torn and they don't have the appropriate clothing or something that fits," Garcia said.
Donations made the entire upgrade and all of the additions to the school possible.
Julie Dillon, chair of the school's Capital Campaign, said the community makes the school as much of a success as the students do.
"This community has gathered together and has donated so much time and energy," she said. "It's really a community school built by so many people."
Families with children are among the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. There are an estimated 18,000 homeless children in San Diego County alone.