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JFK School modernization, addition planned
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The Stanislaus County Office of Education is making plans to renovate and expanding the existing John F. Kennedy School on Stonum Road in Ceres.

SCOE officials told the city they plan to replace existing facilities with a 32,000 square foot special education school.

SCOE plans to relocate the maintenance and operations yard at the southeast corner of Stonum and Nadine to a different location. In that corner location, a new John F. Kennedy High School for very handicapped children.

The current JFK building in the middle of the campus will also be renovated.

"The idea is to build a new high school out where the maintenance yard is and make it a nice facility that would accommodate our students and staff but also blend in with the community, clean that corner a great deal if you will (with) sidewalks, gutters and curbs, all the appropriate stuff that it should have," said Don Gatti, SCOE's ssistant superintendent for Business.

Younger children are served at Margaret L. Annear School at another location on the campus.

SCOE is seeking funding through the state's school construction program through its hardship funding.

Plans are still being finalized so no official cost estimate has been set forth. But officials estimate in the ballpark of $10 million with a $4 million modernization of the existing school building. The multi-purpose building will also be modernized, said Kathy Lasiter, DIrector of Operations for SCOE.

"What we'd like to build and what the state will pay for will ultimately be two different facilities," said Gatti. "They just don't fund us the full amount. They have not kept pace with inflationary costs."

He predicts that the project will have to downsize to keep costs more in line with state funding.

Lasiter expects that plans will be submitted in August to the California School Architect's office.

The changes will allow students to be separated out with only high school students utilizing the new facility. Lasiter said the school is projected to serve 180 students in SCOE's in five to 10 years, about 30 percent more than currently served.

City officials last week determined that while schools are allowed in the residential zone, a conditional use permit is required before any work can take place. Lasiter said the public will be notified of the CUP application before it goes to city decision makers.

Actual construction is targeted in late spring.

The school will include features not found in a regular high school simply because of the special needs of handicapped students. For example, each classroom will have an adjoining restroom as well as open to a fenced outdoor space. Lasiter noted that the campus will have sensory rooms.

"We're finding that autistic students really respond to ... the sensory perceptions of light," she said.

Another feature will be rooms for training of lifeskills for older students who are preparing to go out into the world on their own.

"We'll have rooms actually set up like a kitchen, a bedroom, a restroom with a shower so that we teach them how to take care of themselves."