LOS BANOS — Despite having the land for three more schools, it could be four to five years before any construction occurs for the Los Banos Unified School District because of a lack of state funding.
Superintendent Steve Tietjen said there's a backlog of school construction projects waiting for state dollars. Further complicating matters, Tietjen said a bond for school construction throughout the state would be necessary in 2014 to deal with all the projects. Tietjen said he doesn't believe it will happen because Gov. Jerry Brown has shown reluctance to add to the state's debt.
"I'm not at all confident the state will pass a bond," Tietjen said. "The need is clearly there to have a bond, and we're definitely going to keep pushing for one, talking to our local representatives."
The Los Banos Unified School District is expected to be at a record-high 10,000 students in August, with more than 1,500 of them attending Los Banos Junior High School.
On June 14, the district agreed to pay $1.51 million for 15 acres south of Prairie Springs Drive and east of Badger Flat Road, south of Target. That site will be a middle school or junior high.
Tietjen said he would like to start construction on a second junior high in 2015. The problem is money. Funding from Measure K, the $44 million bond from 2008 that was used to build Pacheco High School, is available but matching money from the state is not.
Tietjen said he thinks a second junior high will be built no later than 2017. In the meantime, the district plans to turn any free space at Los Banos Junior High into classrooms. Tietjen said there also is a proposal to move some seventh- and eighth-grade students to Los Banos High School. He said nothing has been officially decided and changes are not necessary for the coming school year.
"We have enough space for the current year," Tietjen said.
Elementary campus open soon
The district has purchased two pieces of land for neighborhood elementary schools. One site is 7.95 acres north of East B Street, between Las Palmas Street and Place Road, and the other is 10 acres south of the Stonecreek Boulevard extension.
Tietjen said that because Mercey Springs Elementary School opening in August with a capacity exceeding 440 students is being built, there is not a great need for additional elementary schools in the next five years. However, he said, buying the land makes the projects eligible for construction funding.
"If we don't have the land, we can't get in line for state matching dollars," he said.
Tietjen said the school site he believes most residents would like to see built first is the one near Place Road and B Street. He said a neighborhood school in that area would cut down on many parents needing to drive their children across town.
Los Banos Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or email@example.com.