The verdict whether or not to redraw the boundary line between Denair Unified School District and Turlock Unified School District, which would send potential Denair students to Turlock, will come down to the Stanislaus County Committee on School District Organization on Wednesday following a third and final public hearing.
The suspense leading up to next week’s decision comes as the result of a proposal by Ronald Katakis of RBK Development, Inc., who is developing 90 acres at the northwest corner of Tuolumne and Waring roads with 278 homes ranging from 2,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet. Katakis requested residents of the new housing addition be part of the Turlock Unified School District instead of the Denair school district. The property is less than a mile from the Denair schools complex and more than two miles away from Turlock High School.
Fairbanks Ranch LLC Manager Chris Hawke, who is a developer and another one of the petitioners, backed up his position in October regarding the petition with the concept of “community identity.”
“We feel strongly that really the community identify here is with Turlock and the kids that are going to be moving into our development are going to associate themselves with Turlock,” said Hawke in October.
Although the petition claimed that the proposed territory transfer “will not cause a substantial negative effect on the fiscal status of the affected districts,” DUSD Superintendent Aaron Rosander said that it could cost the District approximately $1 million in developer fees and about another $750,000 in annual state funding based on how many students would live in the new homes.
Since Turlock developers are mandated to pay $3.36 per square foot to TUSD to help offset the cost of constructing new facilities and hiring new teachers for the increased amount of students, the first phase of the neighborhood could potentially generate an estimated $1 million in developer fees.
Rosander said that DUSD could also lose $8,000 per student that the state funds each school district. Using conservative estimates, Rosander said that if 90 to 100 students are expected to live in the first phase of new homes, they would generate upwards of $750,000 each school year.
“Small schools matter. Rural schools count,” Rosander told the Committee in October. “This is truly about small schools that make a positive, powerful and long-lasting impact on children.”
Katakis sent a petition in September to Stanislaus County Office of Education Superintendent Tom Changnon, who was required by State Education Code to form the County Committee on School District Organization in order to review the plan and make a recommendation regarding the changed boundary line.
The committee, which is made up of 10 current and former school board members in the county, held two public hearings in Turlock and Denair in October. After the hearings, the committee had up to 120 days to vote for or against the transfer.
“Although TUSD has much to gain with a decision in our favor, we will continue to provide the best possible education to any student who attends our schools,” said TUSD Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan. “Because Ed Code permits parents to choose the school they wish their child to attend, hundreds of Denair students attend Turlock schools annually.
“Moving forward, our District will need additional funding to support these students and programs,” continued Trevethan.
The County Committee on School District Organization will hold their final public hearing at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the Denair Middle School Coyote Center. Upon conclusion of the hearing, the committee will deliberate and take a vote to approve or deny the request.
“Stakes are high for Denair,” said Rosander in October. “This will have a deleterious negative effect on our school district.”