The Turlock unified School District Board of Trustees on Tuesday received an update on a potential boundary change for students at Wakefield Elementary upon the campus’ forthcoming transition into a magnet school, but both parents and principals at the involved campuses have concerns over the safety of the routes children may soon take as a result of those changes.
The Wakefield Two-Way Bilingual Immersion Program is transitioning to a school-wide program by the 2022-2023 school year, and with a small number of students choosing to remain in the traditional school program, a boundary change from the Wakefield student attendance area to the Cunningham and Crowell student attendance areas was recommended at the Oct. 17 Board meeting.
The change to the Wakefield attendance area would allow students living south of Main Street to attend Cunningham, and continue to allow students living north of Main Street to attend Crowell.
Since the boundary change was first suggested, Wakefield principal Luisa Salinas sent out informational fliers to parents and hosted a meeting for the school community. The meeting was lightly attended by parents, TUSD staff and faculty, said Facilities Planner Martell Taylor, and the main worries from those in attendance included safety concerns for students that walk to school.
“For most of the students that opt out of the dual-immersion program, it will add to the distance they travel to and from school,” said Taylor.
The path that students likely will travel from their homes to school involves multiple county-governed areas as well, some parents pointed out, which lack sidewalks.
“There are sections of the path between Wakefield and Cunningham that are unimproved, or don’t have concrete sidewalks,” said Taylor. “Since those areas are county, it’s unlikely that they will ever be improved, or at least not within the foreseeable future.”
Parents also had fears which revolved around Megan’s Law, which requires sex offenders to register with local law enforcement so that community members can be aware of their presence. According to the California Megan’s Law Website, there are currently seven registered sex offenders in the one-mile radius surrounding Cunningham.
“Some parents brought up concerns with Megan’s Law, and wondered whether the district would be able to bus children from Wakefield to Cunningham,” said Taylor. “Staff is and has been concerned about safety and want to look into this.”
Cunningham principal Tami Truax has also expressed worries over the safety of involved roads during meetings earlier in the year, said Taylor. He explained to the Board on Tuesday that former Facilities Planner Roger Smith had worked with the City of Turlock during his tenure to establish state grant funding for safer school routes. As a result, certain areas within the Wakefield and Cunningham attendance areas will be made safer starting sometime next year.
He added that the City also has plans to widen Linwood Avenue in front of Cunningham as early as summer 2019.
“There will be a dedicated turn lane in the center of the road to provide sidewalk on the north side of Linwood,” said Taylor. “They don’t want to do it during the curricular year because it’s such a big change to the campus, but those are a few things that are in the works.”
TUSD will work with the City to see what improvements can possibly be made to areas of concern for parents, said Taylor, and the boundary change will be brought back before the Board at their next meeting.
Board member Mark Walker, who is on the TUSD wellness committee, suggested that parents and students form “walking school buses,” where groups walk to school together in order to promote safety.
Board member Frank Lima liked the idea of walking school buses, he said, but was still concerned about the condition of roads and sidewalks students will be walking along.
“Even though there’s space on those county roads to walk, my concern is inclement weather or rain, where kids don’t want to walk in the mud and instead walk on the edge of the road,” said Lima. “Hopefully the City will get on those improvements.”