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CUSD scrambles to finish project
School starts in Ceres on Tuesday, Aug. 11
Carroll Fowler
Jesus Castillo and Jorge Enriquez, construction workers for J.L. Bray Construction, work near triple-digit heat on Thursday afternoon to place rebar for a new sidewalk pour. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/Courier photo

A $2.6 million rehabilitation project to rebuild the parking lot and resurface the playground areas of 58-year-old Carroll Fowler Elementary School is in full swing as the start of school looms into view.

Ceres Unified School District officials remain optimistic that the parking lot will be done before the Aug. 11 start of the 2015-16 school year but work on the playground will continue.

The Carroll Fowler project is one of many going on at CUSD campuses.

The aged campus was experiencing too many traffic conflicts in its long parking lot since with staff and visitors parking in the same lot where parents were dropping off and picking up students. The remodeled lot will put staff parking in one lot and student pick-up/drop-off in a different section.

"It's actually going to look similar to the new Mae Hensley parking lot so there will be a drop-off area that's separate from the parking lot," said Amy Peterman, CUSD's Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

According to CUSD's Director of Maintenance and Operations Mark Garza, the parking will also be expanded by 12 more stalls.

Construction on the back side of the school, to tear out cracked cement and asphalt on the playground, will continue past the start of school.

"The basketball courts were awful," commented CUSD Superintendent Dr. Scott Siegel.

"The entire backside of the campus had a lot of broken asphalt and concrete, a lot of trip hazards out there," added Garza. "It almost looked like a jigsaw puzzle out in back."

Drainage was poor when it rained with water standing ankle deep, Garza said. During some downpours, staff had to set out planks so kids didn't get their feet sopping wet.

"This summer it looked like a war zone," said Siegel of the Carroll Fowler campus.

He reported that the underground work, including the digging of a 20-foot-deep French drain and replacement of sewer lines, took the longest time. Paving will take place at a faster pace.

CUSD will be finishing up the parking lot as well as providing a "safe path to travel" by Aug. 7. Only the field itself will be available for student use as the playground work is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 17.

Carroll Fowler was built in 1957.

Construction is also taking place at Ceres High School where remodeling is occurring in the kitchen and food serving area. Because it's a matter of time for the refrigerator - which is built into the structure - to fail, CUSD has ordered $1.2 million in rehabilitation.

"We're replacing the walk-in refrigerator and freezer and creating a dry storage area," said Garza. "Actually the whole interior is going to be gutted."

The CHS campus will also be seeing the removal of the old band room behind the de la Porte gym for a new six-classroom wing. Demolition work is slated to start in late August.

Westport Elementary School, located about five miles southwest of Ceres, is undergoing kitchen remodeling as well. The $875,000 project will continue into the fall and create a serving area for a "more efficient way of feeding our kids," said Garza.

The floor of the multi-purpose room/cafeteria will be ground down and polished for a smooth concrete finish.

During kitchen construction, food service at both CHS and Westport will be accommodated by cooking meals at other school sites and transporting it over.

Over the summer, the cafeteria floor of Adkison Elementary School was stripped of its tile and ground to expose the aggregate and polished.

"The reason we do that is it saves us a lot of man hours cleaning that on a daily basis," said Garza. "It's a lot easier to clean."

Peterman said that as CUSD is moving toward the One-to-World devices for all students, computer labs are being decommissioned.

"Many of the sites are no longer going to need their computer lab because every student will have a device," said Peterman.

Because student enrollment is on the rise, CUSD plans to use the computer lab space for classrooms.