Visiting dignitaries and community members joined more than 90 students from Sheridan Elementary School Thursday, Sept. 15 to celebrate completion of the Safe Routes to School Project.
“It goes without saying that this school is incredibly important to the community of Sheridan,” said Placer County Supervisor Robert M. Weygandt, the event’s special guest speaker.
He noted the project was the first in an unincorporated area of Placer County funded through the Federal Safe Routes to School Program.
School Principal Kris Knutson recalled his arrival in Sheridan eight years ago, saying he was surprised to see students riding bicycles in the middle of streets. The problem was that the streets were lined with drainage ditches and there were no separate paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Students Darren Bowen, Makenzie Macfarlane, Sage Thomas and Joshua Gavris addressed the gathering, while other students stood next to them lending moral support. Two other students, Orlando Basurto and Alexandria Garcia, rode bicycles through a banner that hung at the school’s main entrance in lieu of a traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The student speakers echoed the key point made by the adults: completion of the project was an event worth celebrating, because it ensures students can walk or bicycle to school on paths intended for their use and no longer need to share roadways with automobile traffic.
The school serves preschool and elementary students and is a collection point for middle and high school students who ride buses to and from Lincoln.
Wopahoe Construction of Lincoln, the county’s contractor on the $207,732 project, constructed asphalt multipurpose paths on Camp Far West, 11th, 10th and H streets. The company also built multipurpose paths adjacent to the school’s perimeter fences so children can walk in front of parked cars, rather than behind them.
As part of the project, the intersection of Riosa Road and 10th Street was turned into a four-way stop, a designated bus-loading zone and new striping for parking spaces were added at the school and a sign that displays the speeds of approaching vehicles was installed on H Street.
Other guest speakers during Thursday’s celebration were Chairman Jim Houck of the Sheridan Municipal Advisory Council and Brian Haley, a member of the School Board for the Western Placer Unified School District.
Two of Haley’s grandchildren, Mazie and Makenzie Macfarlane, were in the audience as he spoke. “It’s a wonderful place to live and this is a wonderful school,” he said.
On hand at Thursday’s event were dignitaries from many agencies and organizations, including the Western Placer Unified School District, California Highway Patrol, CAL FIRE, Sheridan Cemetery District, United Auburn Indian Community and Sheridan Municipal Advisory Council.
Several county departments and divisions were represented, including the Public Works Department, Sheriff’s Office, County Executive Office, Redevelopment Agency and Child Support Services.
Supervisor Weygandt emphasized that the project is one of many changes under way that are building a brighter future for the school and community. “When the time is right, you try to seize that moment,” he explained, saying the Sheridan community has displayed an energy and spirit of cooperation that has aided the county in many of its efforts.
Supervisor Weygandt represents Sheridan on the Placer County Board of Supervisors.
Completed projects include:
· The use of grant funds to provide cutting-edge computer technology equipment at the school,
· Pedestrian safety improvements,
· Low-cost loans for home improvements and the rehabilitation of abandoned houses, and
· Sewer-capacity improvements.
Efforts under way include a community plan update, water improvements and the Riosa Road Improvement Project. The completion of the sewer and water improvements will enable Placer County to lift a housing moratorium that has been in place in Sheridan for more than 25 years.
During Thursday’s celebration, Principal Knutson spoke enthusiastically of the school’s new computer equipment. “We are one of a kind,” he explained. “Nobody else in California has what these fourth- and fifth-grade students have in their classroom.”
Through its Redevelopment Agency, Placer County applied for and received a 2010 Community Development Block Grant for Sheridan. About $80,000 of the federal funds were spent on the school’s computer equipment, $280,000 is for the housing rehabilitation assistance program and $380,000 is for water-system improvements.