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Mesa Verde School Opens Its Doors
Mesa Verde Elementary School, the first school built by the Riverbank Unified District in 60 years, opened with a formal ribbon cutting on Monday, Jan. 11.

Children coming off the buses and from their parents' cars joined the early morning ceremony organized by Chamber of Commerce members and attended by school district staff and city officials.

"The enthusiasm and excitement of the students and their parents was very apparent," said the school's first principal, Kimberley Newton, of the opening. "They were all just so pleased with the facilities. It continued through the day. The kids were so happy in the classrooms, so happy to be here."

Officials at the ribbon cutting included Chamber President Carla Strong and officer John Cox, Riverbank Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick, Assistant Superintendents Susan Taylor and Ron Costa and Director of Maintenance Rick John. Also in attendance were City Manager Rich Holmer, Chief of Police Bill Pooley and representatives from the offices of Congressman George Radanovich, State Senator Dave Cogdill and Assemblyman Tom Berryhill.

New, clean and smelling of fresh paint, the school was without a mark on its concrete walkways and walls or stain on its carpets and full of equipment that actually worked, from water fountains and door hinges to a public address system.

The school is located at Eleanor Avenue and Mesa Drive outside city limits but in the northeastern section of the school district. About a year in construction, the $18.3 million facility was largely funded with a local school bond issue that passed on the third attempt.

It was designed by Darden Architects of Fresno and built by C. T. Brayton & Sons of Escalon, who also built the new gymnasium at Riverbank High School opened last year.

Classrooms open off central corridors and skylights set high in the walls bring natural light to the corridors and from them into the classrooms.

Monday marked the first day back after the Christmas-New Year's vacation for all the district's schools. The district gave all students and staff three instead of the usual two weeks break to better prepare Mesa Verde for its opening.

The opening also marked the end of year-round school at Rio Altura Elementary implemented several years ago to accommodate the district's swelling enrollment. All district schools are now back on the traditional calendar with a long summer vacation.

While starting with an enrollment of 400 students, the school is designed to accommodate 650 children and will eventually house that number.

Mesa Verde features a 7,000 square foot administration and library building located nearest to the intersection, a 20,000 square foot eight-classroom building, a 10,000 square foot six-classroom building and a 3,400 square foot facility for kindergarten at the east end of the campus.

Still under construction is a 10,000 square multipurpose building that will include a student cafeteria, staff room, and large hall with a stage.

For the time being, students will eat in several rooms purposely left uncarpeted in a classroom building.

Newton noted Monday's ribbon cutting would be followed by a larger open house for the public in March once the multi-purpose building is ready for use.

The school's playing fields lie to the southeast. A baseball diamond is already seeded (and currently off limits) and two soccer fields planned west of it. Equipment for basketball hoops and tetherball stands last week lay ready for installation on blacktop next to the classrooms.

Lying well beyond the city's boundaries, the campus will rely on a large water tank and a septic system for its utilities until spreading development brings city piping close enough to connect to its facilities.

The campus has a decidedly rural air. Farm animals like cows, goats and horses graze in the fields surrounding the campus and are visible through the chain link fence separating it from neighboring homes.

In preparation for the opening, the district chose the school's first students and teachers six months ago and trained them together at Rio Altura and California Avenue Schools so they could move as ready-formed units into Mesa Verde.

From Rio Altura School, Newton takes with her Colleen Nabors and Jenny Banda as office staff and veteran district employee Dave Reed to lead her maintenance team. Most of the teachers such as Lupe Duarte and Gracie Northern are also moving from Rio Altura where that school has now shrunk to about 150 students and the Riverbank Language Academy on that site soon will grow to 350 students.