IMPERIAL – On a dusty parcel of open land on Clark Road, just east of the Paseo Del Sol sub-division in Imperial, city officials, Imperial School District members, and members of the community gathered to break ground on the Imperial Unified Elementary School District’s new elementary school Thursday evening.
The city of Imperial has doubled in size in just the past ten years due to an increase in housing and businesses, and this is the third new school constructed in the district within the last 20 years, officials said.
The new school will don the name Cross Elementary, after the street that will lead its future students to the front doors. The district has been working on this project since 2007, and the facility will consist of seven buildings with 60,000 square feet housing kindergarten through fifth grades.
Cross Elementary will have 34 classes, including six kindergarten classrooms. The cost of this project will exceed $34,000,000 and is expected to be completed within the 2018-2019 school year and will open for the 2020 school year, officials stated.
During the ground breaking, members of the school board expressed commitment to providing the best possible educational experience that can be delivered to students with available resources, and thanked the many hard-working volunteers from the Measure O committee whose dedicated efforts effectively communicated the importance of passing the bond that made the ground breaking possible.
“We have over a thousand students at Ben Hulse. We have over 850 students at T.L. Waggoner, so between the two schools, we have close to 1,900 students,” said Bryan Thomason, Imperial Unified School District superintendent. “Even if we had this school tomorrow, we would still be over about 600 students, so it will be full as soon as its built.”
“This has been in the works since 2007,” he said. “This is from Measure O that was passed in November 2016, and so we have been working on it feverishly. It was a $40,000,000 bond issuance and that’s where the funding came from,” Thomason explained.
Stefan T. Chatwin, Imperial city manager, was asked to address the additional traffic and activities that come with the addition of a school.
“The school was planned when the subdivision was going in, so traffic studies were done, and we will continue to look at those traffic studies as needed, to tweak those that will happen,” Chatwin said. “So yeah, those things were taken into consideration.”
“We worked to closely with the school district and we have a great relationship with the school district. You know when you live in a small town, a lot of what you do is connected,” Chatwin said.
Javier Ramos, principal of T.L. Waggoner, spoke about his thoughts on the ground breaking and how this new school will alleviate the student numbers in the classrooms.
“I think our current situation, our elementary (schools) are packed with students, so we are at capacity and not able to grow with portables or extra classrooms, and so this will reduce the crowding and make it more manageable,” Ramos said.
“It’s a conversation that has been had since the housing boom took off,” Ramos said. “People want to move here, and contractors want to build here, so naturally the population goes up. It’s been talked about, and it finally got approved and the community will benefit from it.”