Comments on School Consolidation DEIR

Amador Unified School District is circulating the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the its planned school site consolidation. The Foothill Conservancy has submitted the following letter on the document:

January 29, 2024
Jared Critchfield
Deputy Superintendent, Business Services
Amador County Unified School District

Superintendent Critchfield,

The Foothill Conservancy would like to offer the following comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the proposed school consolidation. We believe that the DEIR has not adequately addressed the impacts to traffic and circulation, especially the increased traffic at school sites. Specifically, the DEIR failed to address increased dangers due to traffic stacking at peak times, particularly at the Highway 49/Argonaut Drive intersection and to a lesser extent Old Hwy 49 and Spanish Street near current Amador High School and consolidated Junior High entrance. These impacts are clearly foreseeable as we know how many new students will be going to each school site, from which direction, and at what time.

While state law has removed level of service from CEQA analysis, it does remain in the General Plan Circulation Elements of Amador County, Jackson, Sutter Creek, and Ione and therefore needs to be addressed. The Conservancy requests that reasonable alternatives be considered, such as coordinating a staggered schedule for the beginning and the ending of the school day to lessen stacking impacts, and explore mitigating traffic impacts through the extension of Wicklow Way in consultation with planners working on the Wicklow Way specific plan and the Amador County
Transportation Commission.

The project description of the disposition of the Sutter Creek Primary and Ione Elementary campuses once they are closed is inadequate. There are no details of what is intended to be done with these properties and their existing buildings and thus, no way to evaluate what potential environmental impacts may result. For instance, what is planned for the historic Elementary School building at Sutter Creek Primary, currently being developed as a museum and event center?

The High School campus consolidation is but one of many projects impacting traffic and circulation in the North Jackson-Martell area. We urge the School District to work collaboratively with Amador County, the City of Jackson, and the Amador County Transportation Commission to address comprehensively the circulation issues at the consolidated high school campus and surrounding area, including the extension of Wicklow Way to Stoney Creek Road, the Wicklow Way Specific Plan, the extension of Sutter Street in Jackson, as well as the school consolidation. Addressing these cumulative impacts and appropriate mitigation measures will require cooperation among these involved jurisdictions rather than each part of our local government trying to go at the problem alone.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Craig Baracco
Executive Director
Foothill Conservancy

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Leslie Smith, Sutter Creek, CA: Raised in Washington State, Leslie is a happy California transplant having moved to Sunny Sutter Creek full time in 2020. As a nascent fly fisher and lifelong skier, she is committed to the natural environment and brings extensive organizational and finance experience to the board from a nearly 40 year career in banking.