Kimball High is indeed shaping up to be a beautiful addition to the city. As construction continues, close to 1,000 freshmen and sophomore students arrived for their first day of school. Construction on the new campus began a little more than a year ago, and already classes are serving our children.
With a feverish push, Kimball High was readied on time for fall classes. While there is still much work to do for our newest high school to be fully functional, everyone appeared to be pleased with the progress.
Everyone, except for the students who had to somehow figure out just how to get in out of the awkwardly placed school.
While the school’s location may at some point be an optimal location, right now it’s sitting in an almost unreachable island surrounded by the most dangerous intersection in town, a pot hole-filled, sidewalk-free, two-lane country road, flanked by a couple of farms and a private housing development caught in the middle of the access dilemma.
On the first day of school, complaints filed into local blogs speaking of how hard it is for those driving to get in and out of the temporary entrance. One blogger stated having to wait 45 minutes to get through the one-way exit.
Other students having to walk found that the city and school district only created a temporary sidewalk for the students coming from the north or northeast side of town. Students from the south and southeast were forced to cut through the private Redbridge Community and take their chances walking the mile or so distance through the gravel and dirt along the highly traveled and danger-filled Lammers Road.
Driving Lammers daily and watching the progress of the school this past year, I kept wondering just when the Lammers Road widening project would get under way. I could not imagine anyone in their right mind would have a high school serving thousands of walking, biking and driving children have access via only a sidewalk-less, beat-up country road.
I was wrong.
Sure enough, and with some amazement, the new high school opened with only a temporary signal light, a small bypass and an asphalt trail cutting through a farm that leads to 11th Street.
So how did this happen? Who would put the lives of our kids at risk so that a school could partially open? And, more important, why would they do this?
There apparently was a plan to have the Lammers widening and improvements completed prior to the opening of the school. However, the Lammers project was contingent upon the creation of the also much-anticipated Tracy Gateway project. Part of the requirements for the Gateway project is widening Lammers Road to six lanes, complete with sidewalks, medians and utility improvements.
According to the city of Tracy Web site on June 1, the construction was to take place prior to the opening of the school: “Within the next 30 days, construction will begin on Lammers Road to widen the street to six lanes. The developer, Tracy Gateway LLC, wanted to get construction under way before the grand opening of Kimball High School in August.”
Clearly, the intention was to have safer access to the new school prior to the opening. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. As construction was apparently delayed for the Gateway project, the school board went ahead and pressed on for the school to open.
Now all we can do is wait for Gateway to bring some relief to the dangers and access troubles plaguing our children as they simply try to get to and from the school that was rushed to open.
Parents concerned with the lack of access to the school have been taking their frustration out on the private Redbridge Community through negative letters to the Press and in their blogs. Redbridge recently added to its back access gate a pedestrian and bike gate to help curb nonresident access into the community supported by homeowner dues.
While Redbridge residents empathize with the adjacent community’s access issue, they are forced to consider the cost of privately supported maintenance incurred through open access to their private community.
Oddly, the Gateway project only requires that Lammers be widened up to the boundary of the Gateway project. So this all but ensures that communities adjacent to the private Redbridge subdivision will continue to resent the installation of the Redbridge privacy fence, as they are forced to travel around to Kimball high school. Students from Redbridge, by all indications, will have to travel north through the dirt along the unfinished portion of Lammers on their walk to and from school.
So, while some celebrate the on-time opening of our new high school, others are left wondering just why in the world we would put our children in danger and divide neighboring communities by rushing the opening of a school while overlooking the little things — like how the kids in question will arrive safely at school. •
• Brian Williams is a 16-year Tracy resident, husband and father of two, who works as a supervisor in the cable, phone and Internet industry.