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Playground to parking lot
Julien parents balk at construction plans
julien pic
Due to construction at Julien Elementary, Field Day was canceled for the first time. - photo by NANCY ANGEL / The Journal

While students across Turlock have been enjoying the warm spring weather during recess and physical education time, students at Julien Elementary have been watching the bulldozing of their playground. The Julien construction plan, which includes the creation of a new parking lot, is a point of contention between a group of parents and Turlock Unified School District administration.

In 2006 the district authorized spending $9.9 million for a series of modernization projects, with Julien Elementary included as one of eight school projects. The modernization plans for Julien were approved by the Board of Trustees on May 6, 2008. The modernization plan includes creating a new parking lot along Canal Drive to replace the former bus loading zone, new play courts, renovated physical education fields, and removal of the portable bathroom building near Johnson Road.

“The JMP has been going on for several years,” said a substitute teacher for the district who refused to be named for fear of retribution. “Four years ago there was a teacher, parent and neighbor input regarding several ideas about modernization. At the last meeting, held in the Julien cafeteria, the district said they would get back to us to address our concerns. This never happened. The plan moved forward.”

Construction began April 29 and is expected to proceed in phases for 16 months until August 2014.

“The whole plan is flawed,” said the substitute teacher.  “The blacktop has been torn up for a parking lot that will only add 9 spaces to the existing parking. How are teachers suppose to park when there is a line of parents trying to drop off their children?”

The playground is another major concern for not only the parents at Julien, but its students as well. Due to construction, Field Day was canceled for the first time, bringing some students to tears, said the substitute teacher.

“At recess the kids are so bored,” said Jovan Caviglia, a former Julien student who currently has siblings attending the school. “There’s nothing to do. The boys in the classrooms are getting in trouble because they don’t get any free time.”

On Wednesday, a group of Julien parents and retired district staff members gathered to discuss their concerns about the modernization and how the parking lot plan will be hazardous for students.

“With the parking lot plan entrance/exit on North Johnson Road, traffic will now be backed up around and onto Canal Drive as well as on North Johnson,” said a parent. “It will interfere with cars entering and exiting the Village Fresh Center’s parking lot, interfere with the bus stop as well as the high school traffic. Students waiting on the sidewalk will cross the new lot’s driveway, oblivious to incoming or exiting autos. It’s an accident waiting to happen.”

According to TUSD Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Mike Trainor, the Canal Drive parking lot was the most efficient plan for the school.

“The district tried to move the congestion from Canal,” said Trainor. “The new lot will provide a substantial amount of parking and a drop off area where parents can safely drop off their children. In order to create an efficient facility with the limited amount of space that we have at Julien, we had to move the play court area and cut down some trees. There was no way around it.”

Trainor said he is willing to reach out to parents and community members who have questions or concerns about the modernization and its plan to move forward.

“We spent an awful amount of time working on this project,” said Trainor. “A lot of thought and effort has been put into it and I ensure that Julien will be an efficient and safe place for children to be around.”