(Source: Corey Pride Los Banos Enterprise, Calif. (MCT) — LOS BANOS The Los Banos Planning Commission decided the school district’s plan to build a kindergarten through sixth-grade facility fits in the city’s general plan.
It is the only official role the city has in the project, which is otherwise the exclusive domain of the California Department of Education and the Los Banos Unified School District.
The school district is in the process of purchasing the former Merced College, Los Banos Campus in the 16000 block of Mercey Springs Road.
The district will keep one building on the campus that was previously used as a preschool, and it will demolish or sell the other structures and replace them with pre-fabricated classrooms that will be made off-site.
Commissioners had questions about traffic and children getting to and from school safely, but City Attorney William Vaughn declared the queries inappropriate for the hearing.
“You’re not conditioning or approving anything. This is a report back to the school district. You need to get out of your normal focus you’re used to in terms of approving projects, this is more of a reporting function to get the project out among the public,” Vaughn said.
He said because the school system governs itself, the school board will hold site plan and environmental impact hearings.
Community Development Director Paula Fitzgerald said the city is worried about traffic.
“There’s a lot of semi trucks that travel up and down that road, and pretty fast in a lot of situations,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of high school students (already) cross that road and it could potentially be a real hazard.”
School district Superintendent Steve Tietjen said a traffic study is being done.
“One of the early recommendations (in the study) is that we differentiate start times so parents are not competing with teenagers and trying to get to school in the same half hour,” Tietjen said.
He said the school, which will serve the College Greens area, is needed to deal with overcrowding in the district.
“We continue to grow, even though houses are not being built. This is the largest we’ve been this past year, and we’re anticipating 200 more students next year,” Tietjen said.
The school district had more than 9,500 students last year, a record that even outpaces the student population explosion caused by last decade’s housing boom.
Planning Commission Chairwoman Tracey Rosin said she would like to see a collaborative effort on the project.
“Personally, I think it’s very important we work together mutually, consistently, for the benefit of the city,” she said.
Enterprise staff writer Corey Pride can be reached at 388-6563 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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