“It’s a monumental night,” Superintendent William Draa said. “I’ve been working on this since 2000 and diligently since 2002. I kept telling them (the trustees) this is going to happen, this is going to happen.”
In a vote more than a decade in the making, school officials were unanimous deciding to purchase the 30-acre campus in Lathrop’s River Islands development. The land will be used to build an elementary and a middle school charter.
The schools, which will eventually include a high school campus, will be in the middle of a future residential area that will feature 11,000 homes. Also in the same area will be a $55 million business park, Draa said.
To make the land purchase possible, Banta officials obtained state funding — $1.1 million for the middle school and $830,000 for the elementary — which was matched by a contribution from River Islands.
According to the superintendent, none of the money for the charter came from the Banta district.
Contractors are expected to break ground in early November for the estimated 15-month project. The charter school is slated to open its doors in August 2013.
At first, the student population will consist of about 450 children from areas throughout the Central Valley, as charters are not restricted to residential jurisdiction like traditional public schools. The curriculum will focus on creating a pool of applicants who will be able to fill future technology jobs expected to come into the Central Valley.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Draa said. “Hope to expand to 24th century technology to meet the needs of the students.”
After the vote, each of the members said the project was a long time coming, but worth the wait.
“We were talking about it 10 years ago, and I did not think it would happen,” said Frank Silva, the board president. “And it’s here. I feel the district is in a good position, and we’ll be very proud of this school.”
Trustee Steve Weinzapfel said he was glad to be work with the western Lathrop developer.
“River Islands wants to sell houses,” he said, “but they also want to provide the best educational programs they can make available. I’m very comfortable we put this thing to rest tonight. We’ve got a partner with River Islands.”
Trustee Daniel Rocha said he’ll be happy when the construction firm gets the project under way.
Draa and Assistant Superintendent Albert Garibaldi said they put in more than 600 hours on the project, including public workshops and negotiations they called extensive.
“Mr. Draa has been actively involved in building a strong relationship with the River Islands development from the very beginning,” Garibaldi said. “It was these ties, with the project built on trust, and his collaborative spirit, that allowed negotiations to progress even in the most difficult of situations.”
Garibaldi called River Islands project director Susan Dell’Osso an energetic spirit of cooperation. He said her extensive knowledge made the agreements possible, as well as fair and balanced for both the district and River Islands.
Dell’Osso, who has been coordinating with Banta officials from the beginning, responded to the board’s vote Thursday by saying, “We’re working with the best school district in the county, and River Islands is very fortunate to be a part of Banta.”