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Turlock Unified looks ahead to future projects
walnut alternative school site
Unused, district-owned land next to Walnut Elementary Education Center could one day be the site for an alternate elementary school according to a presentation at last Tuesday’s Board of Trustees meeting. - photo by ANGELINA MARTIN/The Journal

With over 20 facilities projects either completed or in progress throughout Turlock Unified School District in the last two years, the Board of Trustees last week took a look at what potential future projects could entail.

At the top of that list? A new school.

With over 300 single-family homes currently under construction around Turlock, TUSD Facilities Planner and Safety Coordinator Martell Taylor told the Board on May 15 that projects for additional learning sites are being explored in order to match student growth, most of which is anticipated to take place on the north side of the city.

The district is overcapacity at its elementary grade levels, Taylor said, and junior high levels are heavily-impacted as well.

“We regularly communicate with the City of Turlock and are aware there has been increased activity with developers,” Taylor said, explaining that projections for student growth in the next five years will be determined by the number of housing units that are built.

Included in the project options are a new high school, a new junior high school, a new elementary school and an alternate elementary school. The latter, a smaller, neighborhood school that would serve 480 students, is the most plausible, as it would be situated on the unused land at the Walnut Elementary Education Center campus, which the school district already owns.

An alternate elementary school would be built in phases and utilize existing Walnut infrastructure, costing $16,096,838. A timeline, including priority, has not yet been established by the Board of Trustees for the alternate elementary school, nor the other new school projects.

A new elementary school serving 880 students would be constructed on a 12-acre site to be determined, and is anticipated to cost $39,767,738. A proposed new junior high school is expected to cost $82,273,950 and would be constructed on a 25-acre site to be determined.

Trustee Mark Walker expressed concern about the need for a new high school in Turlock – a topic surrounded by uncertainty. Though right now plenty of homes are being built on the north side of town, Turlock’s Morgan Ranch Master Plan is expected to eventually offer entry-level housing in the city’s southeast area.

“It’s tough when you don’t know what direction the city is growing in,” Board President Barney Gordon said.

Whether on the north or south side of town, when constructed, the new high school will accommodate 1,500 students and be built on a 55-acre site to be determined. The anticipated cost is $108,673,988.

“It’s a tough question,” Trustee Frank Lima said. “Home builders can build 500 houses, and within a year have 500 new families in there. We can’t build a new school in a year.”

There are 12 projects that have been completed across the district campuses since 2016, and three were funded through Bond Measures N and O: Wakefield’s kindergarten relocation project, security fencing at several sites and topographical surveys for projects at numerous campuses. Projects that are currently in progress include fencing at the remaining school sites, a new track at Pitman High School and parking lot improvements at many sites, among others. Of the 10 projects currently in progress, all are funded through Measures N and O, except for energy improvements.

In addition to potential future school sites and projects that are in progress or already completed, Taylor also presented to the Board potential future, unfunded projects, determined via the Measures N and O survey progress. In total, the 16 potential projects add up to nearly $79 million and could be funded through a variety of means, Taylor said, such as Mello-Roos financing, developer fees, state funds and grants, general funds or bond funding.

“Depending on the funding option, certain criteria must first be met,” Taylor said. “Our TUSD staff is currently exploring various options for securing additional funds to complete these proposed options.”

Some projects that have been proposed include upgrades to facilities like the cafeterias, restrooms, athletic fields and more at several elementary sites, as well as improvements at the district’s Transportation Department. A new stadium is proposed for Pitman, while at Turlock High School, the hope is to remodel several classroom buildings and increase parking along Canal Drive.

Moving forward, Site Design Committees in conjunction with TUSD staff will bring proposed projects to the Board of Trustees for their consideration.