This fall, renovations are underway at the Lydia D. Killefer School building, located on Olive Street north of Walnut Ave in the City of Orange.
Purchased by Chapman University in 2020, the building is set to become the new home of the university’s renowned Institute for Quantum Studies and the state-of-the-art Advanced Physics Laboratory – a facility that focuses on nano-scale research using non-chemical-emitting equipment that poses no risk to the neighborhood.
Plans for the renovation, which were approved by the Planning Commision on July 17, will preserve the historic nature of the building, which played a pivotal role in the history of school desegregation in the U.S. and is a nationally registered landmark. The design retains the bones of the building but reshapes the interior to accommodate research spaces, offices, meeting rooms and community-accessible exhibits.
A new entryway from Olive will lead to the historic lobby, which is being updated for inclusivity and accessibility. The courtyard and outdoor spaces will be enhanced to create community and a semi-public community room will be built. The lobby features an exhibition niche that will pay homage to the history of the building, including the important role it played in school desegregation.
Integration at Killefer School, which is part of the historic Cypress Street Barrio district, occurred in 1944 – three years before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Mendez, et al v. Westminster School District of Orange County that ended segregation in Orange County schools. The case became one of the precedents for the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, which ended the legal right to segregation across the country in 1954.
The Killefer School represents a rare example of a Mexican school that was preserved after desegregation, and the building continued to serve as the local elementary school until 1989.
Construction is expected to be completed in late 2024. Chapman is complying with all local ordinances regarding construction hours, truck hauling, and noise mitigation.