Slight delays anticipated in Rivera Middle School upgrade in Merced

Rivera Middle School in Merced Wednesday. (2-12-14)
Rivera Middle School in Merced Wednesday. (2-12-14) bahbeck@mercedsunstar.com

Dirt may not move until July at Rivera Middle School.

The campus at 945 Buena Vista Drive is destined to become a school for kindergarten through eighth-grade students next year. But any site work must wait until approval is given by the Division of State Architect on project plans, expected this summer.

Several years ago plans were prepared for converting the middle school into a K-8 campus but they were suspended when the school’s budget dropped like a rock, said Greg Spicer, Merced City School District associate superintendent for administrative services. The plans were revived as the district’s long-range facilities master plan was completed and approved in January.

The WLC architectural firm prepared Rivera revision plans and was retained again by the district several months ago to complete the shelved effort. Spicer said a number of codes and regulations have changed in the past few years and reconfigured plans won’t be ready to send to the state until about Wednesday.

Adam Cox, a member of the district’s board of education, said Wednesday he was disappointed the K-8 project was going a little slower than expected. He said the school conversion is still on track for a 2014-15 opening.

Spicer said the Rivera campus is the largest in the 17-school district, encompassing more than 15 acres. He said administrators are being a little cautious and not doing any excavation until state approval is received.

“We won’t start moving dirt until it is OK,” Spicer said. “Seven portables have to be moved since they are in the way.” In the meantime, other preliminary construction planning can be completed.

Three new buildings will be built on the site to accommodate kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The project is expected to cost about $9.3 million and will use the remaining $6.7 million in the Measure S bond fund.

The district is planning to seek a $60 million general obligation bond in June’s election for modernization of technology at all 17 district campuses, along with safety upgrades. Some of those funds would be directed to the Rivera project.

Board member Gene Stamm said the state now requires soil samples from the site and any extra dirt that would be brought in. He said completion of the Rivera project is crucial as other modernization is done and sixth-graders are moved from middle schools to elementary schools.

“It’s going to happen,” Stamm said, “just be pushed back a little further.”

Rivera School was built in 1968 and named in honor of late district Superintendent Rudolph Rivera.

Superintendent RoseMary Parga Duran said making Rivera a K-8 campus fulfills promises made when the Measure S bond went before voters nine years ago. The northwest portion of Merced has no elementary school and students living in that area are bused to campuses in other parts of town.

Duran said the expansion of Rivera School will make a big difference in that neighborhood. She said administrators will be meeting with Rivera staff to keep them informed about the construction process.

“We’re excited to be moving forward and want to make sure we’re done by 2015,” Duran said.