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Groundbreaking Riverbank School District Plans New Elementary
Their spades were different sizes but they shoveled with the same purpose. Half a dozen grade school youngsters joined trustees of the Riverbank Unified School District on Sept. 16 in turning dirt at the groundbreaking for a new elementary school.

Located at Eleanor Avenue and Mesa Drive northeast of town, the school will offer a 600-pupil facility in a district that already includes Riverbank High, Cardozo Middle and California Avenue and Rio Altura elementary schools, plus Riverbank Language Academy now housed on the Rio Altura campus and Adelante Continuation at Riverbank High.

"This is the first new school the district has built in 60 years," Board Chairman Ron Peterson noted, recalling the site was once a peach orchard, then planted with oats before being pulled out of agriculture and bought by the school district in the 1970s.

Retained as a possible future location for bus storage or maintenance, it will now return to its original purpose as a school site.

The city's population has climbed from 2,000 to 20,000 and classroom blackboards gone to white boards, student notebooks have become computers and many other changes have come over the last 60 years, he noted.

To fund this $16 million school, plus the new high school gymnasium and other district improvements, it took three attempts to pass a local bond measure that eventually succeeded in 2005 by a vote of 66 percent in the form of Measure P.

Peterson also introduced Healthy Start Director Esther Rosario at the groundbreaking. The two spearheaded the campaign to get the bond measure passed.

Rosario said she was given the opportunity to choose Riverbank as a place to raise her children and never regretted it. She recalled how hard the high school students worked to get the bond measure passed, from making signs, to manning the telephones at Galaxy Theatre to finally going door to door to see they spoke to every homeowner.

"I'm very pleased to see the young children here too and thank all the volunteers for their energetic and unwavering support," she said.

Appointed Superintendent of Schools a few months ago, former RHS Principal Ken Geisick said he never expected to be in the enviable position of a district superintendent at the groundbreaking for a new school.

The crowd of more than 100 people was larger than expected and more diverse, he observed. It included County Supervisor and Riverbank resident Bill O'Brien, city officials Vice Mayor Sandra Benitez and City Manager Rich Holmer, Chamber of Commerce Director Carla Strong and Police Lieutenants Tim Beck and Bill Pooley in addition to students, staff and parent representatives from all the district's schools.

Geisick also called on representatives of the building contractor C.T. Brayton & Sons of Escalon and the architect Darden & Associates of Fresno to say a few words.

"I look forward to the ribbon cutting in18 months," Geisick concluded.

Bob Brayton remarked jokingly his contract allowed him only 15 months but he'd take the extra months if he could get them. A district official, heard but not identified in the crowd, called out the contractor would get only 15 months as specified "and no overtime."