At the mercy of various construction challenges and weather, the Oakley Union Elementary School District (OUESD) recently announced Summer Lake Elementary School will not open until July, with the start of the 2020-21 school year.
“The school is beautiful,” said OUESD Superintendent Greg Hetrick. “The buildings are absolutely amazing and are done, but we had some final concrete things to get put in, the landscaping, cleaning things up — that part’s not done, so we can’t move kids in. It’s not ready.”
Originally slated to open for the 2019-20 school year, the construction has seen several delays, with officials in constant anticipation that each holiday break would mark the launch of a student and staff move from their host site at Iron House Elementary School into the new facility at 4320 E. Summer Lake Drive. However, after recognizing that a move so late in the school year could have a negative educational impact on children and staff — and without a firm construction completion deadline — Hetrick announced the decision to postpone the opening at the district’s Feb. 19 board meeting. He then broke the news to students the next day, beginning with the fifth-graders.
“Our No. 1 priority was to ensure that — first and foremost — the school is going to be safe for students, and, secondly, that they have access to all the things they need to be successful students in the Oakley school district,” Hetrick explained. “It’s frustrating. We kept shooting for the next break, the next break, and the families who live there in Summer Lake have lived there for years, waiting for this school to open ... To drive by a school to get to another school is always hard. It would be nice to be able to walk to your neighborhood school. It’s going to happen, it just won’t happen right now. I feel terrible for the students, the families, the staff.”
Hetrick pointed out factors leading to the holdup, among them weather delays and waiting for crews who work on various projects.
“Construction has been happening all over the state, and you have to keep a big crew busy or they move on to other work,” he said. “When you have certain elements waiting on other elements, it holds things up and workers move on, then you have to wait for workers to return ... So here’s what we’re going to do: focus on how we can best finish out the school year at the Iron House campus.”
Iron House has hosted the majority of the Summer Lake student population and staff, while Vintage Parkway Elementary School has hosted the transitional kindergarten. Once Summer Lake opens, the move will ease the impact on those other school sites.
“I know this is not what any of us had planned for, but our students, teachers and staff are amazing and continue to remain positive and excited about our new school,” said Summer Lake Principal Erin Roberts. “The new school facility is beyond beautiful. We continue to be thankful for our partnership with Iron House School during our time here. Our motto this year has been ‘School is where our students are,’ and we will continue to serve our students and families.”
Hetrick agreed with Roberts’ sentiment on the community’s positivity, noting the fifth-graders, while disappointed, also responded with excitement for the things ahead.
“People have been awesome, and they’ll continue to be awesome,” said Hetrick. “That’s one of my favorite things about the Oakley school district is its great people.”
For more information on the OUESD, visit ouesd.k12.ca.us.