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School District Plans Rio Altura Closure
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The closing of Rio Altura Elementary School and transfer of its remaining students to Mesa Verde School is settled and will occur by September for the start of the next school year.

The Riverbank Language Academy, however, will remain on the Rio Altura campus and continue to expand in enrolment beyond the current 400.

Following transfer of some Rio Altura students last year and an undertaking to move the remaining 130 by summer, Riverbank Unified School District trustees approved a resolution on Wednesday to close Rio Altura and rule the project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act.

Veteran trustee John Mitchell, who has always supported retaining the school at Estelle Avenue and Stanislaus Street as a community campus within easy walking distance of most students, was the only trustee to vote against the resolution.

Painting the closure as a cost saving move, Superintendent of Schools Ken Geisick said the move would save $400,000 to $500,000 of the $900,000 the district needs to cut for the 2011-12 budget.

By the transfer of students, the district will erase the school improvement sanctions imposed on Rio Altura as one of many schools in the state requiring program and test results improvement, he said.

It also will retain and take with it to Mesa Verde the $500,000 per year in funding the state allocates its Before and After School Program.

While Rio Altura is an old school built in the heart of town, Mesa Verde was only opened a couple of years ago and is located at Eleanor Avenue and Mesa Drive outside the city limits but within the school district borders.

Designed with a capacity of 640 students, it currently holds only 400 and has seven or eight classrooms available to accommodate more students, said Geisick.

Most of its students arrive by school bus and only a few by private vehicle. The district also will have to bus most of the latest students coming from the Rio Altura area.

District officials have held several group talks with Rio Altura parents and their main concern about the transfer was difficulty of transportation for families that have one or no vehicle.

The district will continue talking to parents on the transportation issue, arrange bus assignments for next year, take bus loads of Rio Altura students and parents to visit Mesa Verde and get acquainted with the campus and its staff.