Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Developer, city fast-track Canyon Oaks Elementary in American Canyon

AmCan school dedication

Developer, city fast-track Canyon Oaks Elementary

By SARAH ROHRS, Times-Herald staff writer

- City dignitaries on Tuesday dedicated a new elementary school flanked with unfinished homes and cul-de-sacs where the pavement has barely dried.

Canyon Oaks Elementary School is a case of a housing developer building a school even before the homes where the school's kindergarten through fifth grade students will live.

The usual course is that housing developers provide land and school impact fees, and the school district builds - only after slowly plodding through red tape to get enough money and approvals.
American Canyon students won't arrive for another three months, but the school is already fully landscaped, and even has flags for the flag poles. The only thing missing from the finished rooms are desks.

Standard Pacific Homes is building about 700 homes in northeast American Canyon. The new school is on Silver Oak Trail. Saws and hammers and other home-building sounds filled the air Tuesday as about 50 city and school dignitaries attended the dedication.

"It is unusual because of the collaboration with the developer to get the school built. They built the school and turned the keys over to us," said Debbie Brenner, Napa Valley Unified School District assistant superintendent for business services.

Standard Pacific spent $7 million for the school, which cost $17 million. The school district contributed $3 million and the state put in $7 million, Brenner said. Local funds stem from Measure M bonds.

Standard Pacific spent far more than it would have in ordinary school impact fees. Brenner said those fees would have been about $2.2 million.

"The only thing we were obligated to do was provide a site," Martin said. "We wanted to build a school. It's good for the community."

The developers, city and school district joined together to get the school built quickly, Standard Pacific East Bay division president Glen Martin said.

American Canyon City Manager Mark Joseph said city officials "spent a lot of time persuading the developer" the area would need a new school. The school is the first elementary school built in the Napa Unified School District in 30 years, Superintendent John Glaser said. Standard Pacific had never built a school before, Martin added.

Canyon Oaks was built quickly because developers and the school district agreed to use school building designs the state had already approved, Martin said. That cut down on the normally long design review process.

American Canyon parent Yanet Hernandez toured the school, peeking into new classrooms and multi-purpose rooms with her mother and young daughter. Her son Oscar will attend when school starts Aug. 17.

"We are happy. We live close by and now I won't have to go all the way to Napa Junction. This is more convenient," Hernandez said.

Maren Roca Hunt, the school's new principal, is coming from Winters Joint Unified School District where she has worked for 11 years, including the last helping to open a new elementary school.

- E-mail Sarah Rohrs at or call 553-6832.

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