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Galt elementary school district asks city to improve roads

Facing possible transportation cuts, the elementary school district wants the city to offer safer walking routes to students

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Posted: Friday, May 18, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:07 am, Fri May 18, 2012.

Faced with transportation funding uncertainty, trustees for the Galt Joint Union Elementary School District have submitted a formal letter to Mayor Barbara Payne requesting the city's support in creating safe routes to school for students.

The letter, the brainchild of board president John Gordon, seeks a partnership for safe walking routes and transportation needs for students.

This could include repairing sidewalks or installing them where none currently exist, or identifying alternative bus service.

"A concerted effort by the city of Galt and the GJUESD could result in creating a shared vision that would address several infrastructure needs," trustees wrote.

"Through collaboration, we could create a gateway that allows walkers and bikers to safely cross over Highway 99 and access not only our middle school, but also a future Walmart on the east side and a potential entertainment complex on the west," the board wrote.

The district has discussed eliminating bus service which will force more students to walk to school if other transportation is unavailable.

This could mean some students may have to walk over Highway 99 and alongside other dangerous roads to get from one side of Galt to the other between their homes and schools.

At the April 25 school board meeting, residents expressed safety concerns with the Amador Avenue intersection as well as several unpaved streets leading to McCaffrey Middle School specifically.

The other three available routes — Twin Cities Road, Simmerhorn Road and C Street/Boessow Road — appear potentially even more hazardous, according to trustees.

Since 96 percent of the students who currently ride school buses receive free or reduced lunches, officials are concerned many may be forced to walk to school if buses are eliminated because parents wouldn't be able to afford to drive them.

"The board would like to work with the Galt City Council to actively pursue any available funding that would result in providing safe walking routes for children attending our schools," trustees wrote. "Our community can't afford to jeopardize the safety of our children."

Gordon said the city council and both the elementary and high school districts are being forced to do more with less and need to discuss how all three agencies can combine efforts and resources to maximize opportunities.

Regarding the safe routes, the elementary district would like to be at the table when the city prioritizes its infrastructure needs, Gordon said.

"As funds become scarce, we may have to look at different ways to do business," he said.

Although City Manager Jason Behrmann hasn't personally seen the letter yet, he said Thursday that the city would work with the district and he has already spoken to Superintendent Karen Schauer about how to do so.

More than 100 employees, parents and community members attended a special meeting on Monday where district officials presented information regarding transportation funding.

The district projects transportation to cost $498,053 for regular education students next school year. Only bus service for special education students is required by law.

At this time, the level of state funding for transportation remains unclear, according to Schauer.

No action has yet been taken on bus service for next school year.

Recently, however, the board did approve reducing classified positions that will close school libraries, eliminate outreach consultants, shrink the gardening staff and reduce the number of instructional assistants to help close a $3.9 million funding shortfall.

Six bus driver positions are facing the same fate, but the board has postponed making the final layoff decision until it can obtain more budget information.

The district will attend a state fiscal meeting next week to further clarify funding for transportation and other district programs given the governor's May Budget Revision.

Resident Al Baldwin, who attended Monday's special meeting, addressed the city council on Tuesday regarding the budget crunch the school district is in, especially in regards to transportation.

"We've got to do something to protect our kids ... by fixing the sidewalks that are coming up so they don't have to walk on the other side of the street," he said, shifting his attention to school board members. "They need your help."

Contact reporter Jennifer Bonnett at jenniferb@lodinews.com. For more information about local education issues, read our Education Café blog.

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