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Parents, staff and students overwhelmingly support keeping Cosumnes River Elementary School open while a new facility is built on the site, the Elk Grove Unified School District board was told Tuesday night.

The board is expected to take action on the task force report at its Dec. 9 meeting.

“The task force was a community effort,” said L. Steven Winlock, associate superintendent for Pre-K-6 Education, at the start of the CRES presentation. The 22-member task force was led by CRES Principal Michael Gulden and included parents, teachers, staff members and community members.

Gulden told the board the task force also explored what the community wanted to do if it isn’t possible to remain on-site during construction. Recommendations developed from a survey of parents included keeping kindergarteners as close as possible to Rancho Murieta/Sloughhouse, limiting bus travel to 30 minutes each way for other students, relocating the entire school to a single location, or, alternatively, creating groupings of grade levels that keep families together.

Other options suggested were home- or private schooling and leasing property for the portable classrooms. 

School officials

District officials L. Steven Winlock and Robert Pierce offer their presentation to the school board.

Calling safety the paramount concern in the process, Robert Pierce, associate superintendent for facilities and planning, listed noise, vibrations, dust, construction traffic and odors as considerations in remaining on-site. “There’ll be disruptions,” he warned.

From a visual perspective, a mountain of dirt in back of the existing school “may be the most ominous construction consideration for staff, students, and also parents,” he said. 

The 50-foot mountain will be created by the “massive grading” required to turn hills into a flat area for the new school. Some 40,000 cubic yards of dirt would be stockpiled in this way until the new school is built and the old school is razed. The soil will then be used to fill in the void and raise the ground eight to 10 feet to create playing fields for the new school, Pierce said. The stockpile will be engineered to stay in place, but the “sheer magnitude of that hillside” and other slope changes on the site will be “somewhat ominous to look at” even though they won’t be safety issues, Pierce said.   

The tentative start date is June 2009, with grading planned to begin as soon as the children leave for the summer. It would have to be completed by August, before the return of the students. “That’s going to be the majority of the noise, that’s going to be the majority of the dust,” Pierce said of the massive grading effort. “Building construction would then take place from August 2009 and run through August 2010. … We would start demolition of the (present) school in June of 2010.”

Pierce said road construction work would begin in June 2009 with the realignment of Kiefer Boulevard across Highway 16 from the school. The work would be completed by October 2009. “There’ll be some road-widening of 16, as well,” Pierce said. There will be a four-way intersection with turn lanes.

Brian Myers

Board President Brian Myers asked,“Will we have an option for parents who, hearing all this, say, ‘You know, I don’t really want my child there'?"

“Once the decision’s made, to stay or go, it will be final,” Pierce said.

“… If some turn of events came about and somebody else told us the students couldn’t be there, and we had to come up with a plan, do we have such a plan?” asked President Brian Myers.

Pierce said no single school could accommodate the entire student body, but the 502 students could be accommodated.

“Will we have an option for parents who, hearing all this, say, ‘You know, I don’t really want my child there'? ... Will you offer that as a standard option?” Myers continued.

“Yes,” Winlock replied.

“We have a home-school system in place,” Trustee Pricilla Cox pointed out. “It certainly looks to me like a viable option....”

“I don’t think people have the magnitude of the vibration and the noise and the dust and all,” Myers said. “I’m hoping that parents are understanding and willing to put up with some mess for a while for the end product. … It’s going to be tough.”

Myers said he wanted back-up plans that would provide flexibility in scheduling the school year and places in the Rancho Murieta area that could function as temporary classrooms, if needed.

“With all due respect, we have to deal with the reality of the situation,” Trustee Chet Madison Sr. said. “When this starts, I really don’t see a good quality of education on that site. … I really think we need a contingency plan right off so we can get this job done. We have gone over a decade now trying to get a school out in that area. … Once this starts out with heavy construction going on out there and kids are bailing out … we’re going to have a mess on our hands. … I have a real concern with safety … parents coming to pick up kids …”

“I think a part of me really agrees with what you’re saying,” Myers said. “This is an example of this board listening to the community and trying to work with it. … Even though we may want to dictate something different, we’re allowing them to control their destiny. I hope they respect that and don’t come back at us saying, ‘Why did you do this to us?’ because we really didn’t. … We could put the kindergarteners at Sunrise and the rest of the school at Pinkerton. It could be done. But we’d have a roomful of people here screaming if we tried to impose that on them. … We’re doing what this community wants to do. I hope it works.”  

Winlock said the staff will review the options and bring them back to the board Dec. 9.

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