Creekside Junior High School opens Wednesday for more than 700 students.
The new school has been heralded by community leaders as one that will help the Los Banos Unified School District house a growing student population.
It’s the second middle school in the district after Los Banos Junior High, and will serve seventh- and eighth-grade students. By comparison, Los Banos Junior High’s first-day enrollment is 965 students.
“We are ready,” Principal Carolina Moreno said, recognizing school staff, board members and community representatives at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
At a ceremony Friday, several school leaders and local dignitaries talked about the new school’s impact on the community.
“Creekside Junior High School not only helps us to alleviate the traffic conditions that students face at Los Banos Junior High,” acting Superintendent Dean Bubar said, “but it also provides many new educational opportunities for seventh- and eighth-grade children in our community.”
The ribbon cutting marks a definitive part in the school district’s timeline. But Creekside didn’t come without its struggles.
The funding of Creekside was a point of contention in recent months for board members Marlene Smith, Tommy Jones, Carole Duffy and Dominic Falasco, prompting two investigations totaling almost $30,000 and examining the cost of the lease-leaseback method of construction, and alleged ties former Superintendent Steve Tietjen had with the contractor, Woodland-based Oral E. Micham Inc.
Those audits ultimately determined the school was “in the ballpark” of the advertised budget of about $25 million, and that Tietjen had no relationship with the contractor deeper than an acquaintance.
In an interview with the Los Banos Enterprise last week, Jones said that he was “through with that” investigation into Creekside, and that his goal for voting in favor of the audits was to be as transparent as possible with the public, no matter the outcome.
Creekside also was subject to a Merced County grand jury investigation, which said in its 2016 annual report that the school district circumvented the process required to ensure school safety while being constructed in an airport zone.
Along with Creekside, Los Banos Junior High, Los Banos High and Pacheco High schools are starting Wednesday. All elementary schools will start Thursday. Alternative schools San Luis High and Crossroads started July 19.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562