City, Winters JUSD officials discuss downtown pep rally

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The Winters City Council and Winters Joint Unified School District (Winters JUSD) 2X2 Meeting agenda had only a few topics, but they were of great importance.

Winters City Manager Kathleen Salguero Trepa hosted the short session on Aug. 24, beginning with student and public safety. She discussed the upcoming high school pep rally Friday, Oct. 7, and how Winters JUSD Acting Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte and her are working closely together to plan.

Trepa said the city supports the pep rally location on Main and First Street with the school’s agreement to cover all costs and maintain event approval regulations set by the city’s Special Event Team, which includes the police, fire, and public works department.

“Given the sheer numbers of students in the street, we are concerned enough and want to make sure we apply our standard road closure protocols,” she said. “If you have people turning from Railroad down to Main Street and they are dead-ending into a group of students, that is a safety concern.”

The request and the special event team’s recommendations will officially go before the City Council at the Sept. 6 meeting, Trepa said, adding officials have already decided to shut down the street earlier than usual.

“Instead of closing Main Street and Railroad at the half-block crossing at 3:30, we will implement that closure at 10 a.m.,” she said.

The proposed closure will go past Main and First, allowing motorists to pull into the Anytime Fitness parking lot to increase traffic circulation.

“As the traffic comes down the road, they have an opportunity to turn left or right down an alley and not dead end into a group of people in the street,” Trepa said.

Mayor Wade Cowan stressed the importance of all road closures going before the City Council promptly, bringing up the cancellation of one of last year’s Winter High School events due to special event application requirements.

“I want to make sure we got ahead of things because of the experience last year,” Cowan said. “I want to get on it before it’s too late.”

Trepa said along with supplying mandated water barricades, which the city will fill free of cost, the school district is responsible for having an assigned adult monitor the closure area from 10 a.m. Additionally, the city requests students be released as groups or by class, according to Trepa, who said it will help “avoid some of the gaggling that historically has happened as the kid leave the campus and are excused all at once and sometimes they end up in the street.”

Girimonte agreed, stating that the lengthy event planning process keeps safety at the forefront. The acting superintendent met with Trepa and Winters City Police Chief John P. Miller in June to better understand the historical practice the large gathering.

“It really is a priority for the Winters High School team to sustain it because we view it as a community event,” Girimonte said, adding returning alumni and students’ families make up a big part of the event that has suffered due to COVID-19. “I appreciate the partnership with the city of Winters and Chief Miller.”

The discussion brought up a mutual cost-saving question from Winters JUSD Board Trustee Joedy Michael regarding third-party water barricade rentals.

“Is this something jointly we can purchase in the future instead of everyone renting them if this is going to be the norm?” he asked.

Micahel’s inquiry is not novel, according to Trepa, who said others ask the same. She noted that purchasing water barricades is a problem due to the city’s lack of storage, adding that is why Winters maintains a rental relationship regarding the safety apparatus.

“They are pretty large and take up a fair amount of space,” she said.

Speaking of space, Mary Fitzpatrick, senior project manager with Van Pelt Construction Services, updated officials on the two school district construction projects: Waggoner Elementary’s new transitional kindergarten eight-classroom building and the WHS physical education and music building.

While sub-contractors are being vetted for the high school project with an expected start date at the end of the fall, the new kindergarten building drawings are in schematic design, where architects and the planning committee collaborate. According to Fitzpatrick, a “page-turn” of the graphics on Sept. 7 will assure total compliance.

“They are very conceptual plans,” she said, adding every detail down to cubby doors will be discussed. “At that meeting, they (planning committee) will be encouraged to ask questions and make recommendations on what they are seeing.”

Cowan questioned if the new building would be modular, which it is not. Cowan shared concerns over the drop-off and pick-up traffic at the new location, which Fitzpatrick assured is in review. Girimonte let city officials know the buzz about the new building has parents and staff members inquiring about the addition. City Councilmember Jesse Loren ended the discussion, commending Fitzpatrick for her hard work.

“This is really exciting for the community,” Loren said.

The next regularly scheduled 2X2 meeting is Oct. 26,

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