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On track at Keyes Elementary

On track at Keyes Elementary

Students at Keyes Elementary School make use of their brand new track.


POSTED November 3, 2009 5:56 p.m.
Keyes Elementary School students were running circles Tuesday afternoon, struggling to complete a mile on the newly completed decomposed granite track.
“I hate this,” said a Keyes Elementary School third grader as she completed another lap.
Superintendent Karen Poppen laughed at the comment, noting that some children seem to love running on the track, which opened to students on Monday, while others don’t enjoy it quite as much. The exercise they receive through running, however, is very important, Poppen said, and a key component of the President’s Challenge Physical Fitness program.
Before the approximately $2 million project to install a new track and field — the latter of which is set to open Nov. 30 — students simply didn’t have a good place to run around, according to Poppen.
“(The field) was in really, really bad shape,” Poppen said.
The ground was riddled with gopher holes and sinkholes. The irrigation system was in shambles, having been damaged as eight portable classrooms were moved over the field. The old track was simply a dirt area cleared of grass, never a proper track.
“Now it’s leveled, and it’s straight in the parts it’s supposed to be straight,” Poppen said.
The resultant six-foot wide track is not intended for competition, merely exercise. The District does intend to construct a regulation track at Spratling Middle School in the future. Concrete curbing for the track was not included in the design, as the approximately $20,000 cost was out of the District’s budget. A grant application was submitted to the USDA Rural Development Department, which could cover curbing and widening of the track if approved.
The installation of the new track and field was funded entirely through KUSD General Obligation Bonds, approved by voters in 2005. Such bond funds can only be spent on construction, and may not be spent on salaries or operating expenses.
For now, the District is attempting to remain frugal with their remaining General Obligation Bond funds so that it might complete construction on a new Keyes Elementary School classroom building which will house six kindergarten classrooms and two primary classrooms. The KUSD is shouldering the full cost of the new building by itself, contrary to usual practice.
The State Office of Public School Construction, which normally funds 50 percent of any new school building, approved the Keyes classrooms but froze all contributions to school construction almost a year ago as a result of the state budget crisis. Rather than wait for the reinstatement of funding, the District elected to move forward with the building, believing that it could complete construction inexpensively in the current economic climate, allowing bond money to stretch farther.
When the state has construction funds available in the future, the District expects construction costs to skyrocket. As KUSD’s project has already been approved, they will be reimbursed by the state for the dollars spent on the new building — hopefully in the near future, District staff said.
To contact Alex Cantatore, e-mail acantatore@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2005.

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