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Trustees Tour New School Site
As the new Mesa Verde Elementary School nears its anticipated opening date in January, trustees of the Riverbank Unified School District received a tour of the construction site at Eleanor Avenue and Mesa Drive on Sept. 15.

C.T. Brayton and Sons of Escalon is the general contractor for the $18.3 million facility largely funded with a district bond issue that finally passed in 2005 after three attempts. The school is rapidly rising in the northeast corner of the district and expected to open after the Christmas vacation with an enrollment of about 500 students.

"It's coming along nicely," said board chairman Egidio 'Jeep' Oliveira. "There was a question if the district could afford both a new elementary school and a second high school gymnasium. But we didn't have to cut costs. We're doing both. We've kept our commitment to the taxpayers."

As a former sports coach, he was as interested as anyone in seeing a brand new gym replace the RHS cramped facility but he didn't want to leave out the younger children's needs either.

Trustees expected a delay in financing a multipurpose building with kitchen, cafeteria and stage at Mesa Verde. That building's construction is part of phase two and trailing classroom and office construction but the concrete slab is poured and it should be finished in two to three months after the rest. Meanwhile, workers are leaving several classrooms uncarpeted so students can use them as a cafeteria until the multipurpose building is complete.

"Christmas vacation is generally two weeks," Oliveira noted. "This year the district is making it three weeks long so it has time for Mesa Verde staff to move in and prepare the school for a Jan. 11 opening."

Trustee Ron Peterson also had several comments on the school he visited with fellow board members and district staff.

"I'm very pleased with the school so far. It's a first class educational complex," he said. "I like the openness of the classrooms, the high ceilings, the natural light coming in. And it's in a nice, peaceful, rural setting."

Parents will be able to drive into a loop and drop off their children close to the classrooms, which is especially valuable for Kindergarten children, he said of the parking arrangements. Kindergarteners will be housed in a separate building with its own playground at the east end of the site.

The district had owned the land for almost 40 years and building an elementary school there was a good use for it, Peterson added.

He also was happy the multipurpose budding is well into construction and should be complete in a few months. The district food manager Carol Cantwell had a lot to do with planning the cafeteria and kitchen part of the building, he said.

Trustee John Mitchell Jr. commented, "The school will be the most beautiful in Riverbank."

It will come at some cost, however, because the children will have to be bussed or have their parents drive them there. It is too far to walk as some students now attending Rio Altura do.

"I don't know whether the parents of students who will be transferring from Rio Altura and California Avenue schools realize this," he said.

The charter school, Riverbank Language Academy, is expanding and eventually will take over the entire Rio Altura site, requiring all the children living in that area to attend Mesa Verde, he added.