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Loss of funding for sidewalk means Santa Rosa school can't open

On a narrow stretch of Burbank Avenue in Santa Rosa's Roseland neighborhood, an impressive $28 million elementary school has been under construction since last spring.

The new school on 11 acres adjacent to Roseland Creek is designed to take in 400 to 500 children now crowded into two other Roseland School District elementary schools.

But plans to open the school in the fall are in jeopardy.

The bulk of the money that would have paid for a half-million-dollar sidewalk along Burbank Avenue from Sebastopol Road to Hearn Avenue is no longer available. That money was supposed to come from Santa Rosa's redevelopment agency, which along with every other such agency in the state, was eliminated as of Wednesday.

Without a safe route for children to walk to and from the school, the city will not allow the campus to open.

"The walls are up, the windows in," said Superintendent Gail Ahlas. "We're building this amazing, beautiful school with a creek and an outdoor environment, we just have to believe that there's a solution to be found."

More than $417,000 in city redevelopment funds had been promised for construction of the 5-foot-wide asphalt walkway south of the school that would run along the east side of Burbank Avenue to Hearn Avenue. North of the school, the path would run on the west side of Burbank Avenue to Sebastopol Road.

Sidewalks are rare along Burbank Avenue, a two-lane road sandwiched by steep drainage ditches, culverts and patches of gravel in front of rural homes.

About seven years ago, when Roseland school officials began planning for the school, Ahlas approached the city and county in hopes of finding funding for the Burbank Avenue sidewalk. No portion of the $28 million in state funds to build the school could be used for sidewalk construction beyond the front of the campus.

The school district's talks with city and county officials led to a funding agreement — the county would pay for a share of the project using money from a Safe Routes to School grant, a Caltrans program, while the city would use redevelopment funds.

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