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County Schools plan campus next to Ceres P.O.
A new $6 million school alternative school campus is being planned by the Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) next door to the Ceres Post Office on Mitchell Road.

Officials admit, however, that the project won't even break ground unless the state comes through with the funding from statewide bonds.

"We don't have the money and the state is gradually finishing the sale of the remaining construction bonds," said Don Gatti, SCOE assistant superintendent for Business. "Our project is essentially approved but at their mercy until they come up with the cash."

SCOE qualifies for 100 percent state funding for being considered a "hardship" district based on eligibility factors.

SCOE purchased the 3.5-acre site adjacent to the south side of the post office two years ago for $1.5 million.

Kathy Lasiter, director of operations for SCOE, is optimistically hoping for a school to open by next spring.

Gatti said the school will help SCOE provide education "services to students who don't make it in regular school."

The school will be designed for approximately 200 junior and senior high school students who are expelled from regular classes, mostly from the Ceres area, including the neighboring towns of Hughson and Keyes. Lasiter said the school will be sized for 10 classrooms which will house 20 to 23 students.

"We have a fairlu transient population coming and going from our programs regularly," said Gatti. "Our goal is to get these students turned around and back to their home schools."

The new campus will replace the existing alternative education school operated in rented property at the former Memorial Hospital Ceres campus.

"What we have is less than ideal," he commented.

SCOE plans to carry over the name of that facility, the Stanislaus Arts Academy, over to the new school, she said.

Lasiter said the Mitchell Road site rated high on SCOE standards since it is on a main thoroughfare with public transportation routes available and sits "on the outskirts of residential areas."

While Lasiter said she's been working very closely with the city of Ceres planning division, the city has no jurisdiction over the project. The state, not cities, have the right to approve projects within certain zonings.

The city did request - and win - that the pedestrian opening between Standford Avenue and Mitchell Road between the post office and school site lot be kept open. The opening is a convenient short-cut from the residential area to some uses on Mitchell Road without having to travel to Whitmore Avenue or Roeding Road. It will be paved and made to look nice, said Lasiter. She said some students may use the pathway.

The city was not especially happy to see SCOE take up commercial property on busy Mitchell Road out of commission but Lasiter said "I think they were okay with it."

SCOE operates other alternative school campuses, including the John B. Allard School in Turlock. It is also opening a new Stanislaus County Culinary Institute in Oakdale and broke ground recently on a Patterson facility to also replace a leased suite.