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Latest News in Dos Palos, CA

Persistence pays off in Courthouse restoration effort

A $2 million federal appropriation for the restoration of the Merced County Courthouse Museum might not have happened if it weren’t for the determination of local leaders and residents in a community-wide effort.“This could have been left out,” said County Supervisor Josh Pedrozo. “It took a while to get the bill done, and through the entire process, there were communities across the nation that applied for project funding. We kept up the pressure, and they kept it in.”Pedrozo said the funding boos...

A $2 million federal appropriation for the restoration of the Merced County Courthouse Museum might not have happened if it weren’t for the determination of local leaders and residents in a community-wide effort.

“This could have been left out,” said County Supervisor Josh Pedrozo. “It took a while to get the bill done, and through the entire process, there were communities across the nation that applied for project funding. We kept up the pressure, and they kept it in.”

Pedrozo said the funding boost — part of the 2022 Appropriations Omnibus bill signed into law on Tuesday by President Biden — will go a long way to help preserve the exterior shell of the nearly 150-year-old Courthouse which has slowly deteriorated over the years. Officials project that more than $4 million is needed for improvements to the structural integrity and long-term sustainability of the building. It’s an ongoing project and future phases include repairing the inside of the structure.

The process was kick-started about three years ago when Merced County leaders set aside $1 million for the project during budget talks after hearing about material falling off the roof of the courthouse, the spread of large bee hives in exterior crevices, and window frames that were buckling.

According to Pedrozo, that initial local investment was important to eventually vie for matching government grants.

“The more you have locally towards a project, the better your project looks,” Pedrozo said.

After Pedrozo was elected to the Board of Supervisors in 2020, Museum Director Sarah Lim asked him to keep the courthouse funding a priority. Pedrozo followed suit and was among several key local figures who put in calls to Congressman Jim Costa’s office to include the restoration effort in federal Community Project Funding.

Last June, Congress started marking up individual appropriations bills for the 2022 fiscal year. Discretionary spending levels were no longer subject to caps, as they had been for the past decade. The Biden Administration released its budget with a discretionary funding request of $1.5 trillion, 8.6 percent more than the previous year’s level.

“We told Costa’s office that we wanted the Courthouse Museum at the top of the list,” Pedrozo said. “Then we were able to secure letters of support from Assemblyman Adam Gray’s office, local business leaders, the Merced Boosters, Merced College, high school teachers, and many others.”

He added, “We created this real collaborative group that basically said, ‘Hey, this is what we are going to do.’ … And it bolstered our application. … Everybody did such a great job in making sure this funding became a reality.”

Lloyd Pareira, the chairman of the Board of Supervisors, explained why the project continues to be worth the effort.

“The Courthouse Museum is a beautiful landmark and resource for the community,” Pareira said. “Beyond this building being an icon of Merced County, it also serves as an educational hub for our community, including students. This is thanks to the hard work of the Merced County Historical Society, which operates the museum and hosts exhibits, community events, and special programs throughout the year. This is more than a building — it’s a community gathering place.”

It also should be noted that the Merced County Historical Society has also set aside $50,000 of its own money for the restoration project.

After hearing the news about increased funding, the museum director was over the moon.

“We are grateful for Congressman Costa,” Lim said. “Generation after generation of our county’s residents and visitors have climbed its granite steps, passed through its grand hall, and visited the historic courtroom — some for business, some as litigants, and, more recently, as admirers of Merced County’s rich history. This funding will ensure that our beautiful historic courthouse will continue to be a beacon of wisdom and justice and that we are able to properly maintain one of the legacies of our county’s founders.”

Built in 1875, the Merced County Courthouse Museum is one of the oldest buildings in California. It was designed by A.A. Bennett, who also worked on the California State Capitol. Bennett’s Italian palazzo masterpiece in Merced served as a courthouse for 100 years until 1975. During that timeframe, it also housed offices for several county departments, including the Board of Supervisors, Treasurer-Tax Collector, Auditor-Controller, Parks and Recreation, and several others. The Courthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Courthouse Museum was not the only local project that will benefit from Biden’s 2022 spending bill. According to Costa’s office, the City of Dos Palos will receive $279,000 to replace a water clarifier at the city’s aging water plant to ensure uninterrupted service for residents.

“We want to thank Rep. Costa for his continued efforts to ensure the people of Dos Palos have clean, reliable drinking water,” said Darrell Fonseca, the city manager of Dos Palos. “This funding will allow the city to make repairs to its existing water system while progress is made on the construction of a new water plant over the next year. This funding, along with additional state and federal dollars already committed, allows the city to make necessary infrastructure improvements so that our community can avoid critical water shortages and contamination that shut down the water flow to homes in our community in recent years. With this funding, our hope is that residents will have the assurance of clean drinking water as we deal with the fallout from the ongoing drought.”

Graduation rates for Merced County high schools outpaced the state in 2021. Here’s the data

Graduation rates for public high schools in Merced County rose slightly through the first full school year of the COVID-19 pandemic, going up to 90.3% in 2021 from 90.1% the prior year, according to numbers released by the California Department of Education.That’s 6.1% above California’s overall high school graduation rate average of 84.2% in 2021.Out of 4,659 high school seniors enrolled at public high schools in Merced County during the 2020-21 school year, 4,208 graduated in four years, the Department of Educatio...

Graduation rates for public high schools in Merced County rose slightly through the first full school year of the COVID-19 pandemic, going up to 90.3% in 2021 from 90.1% the prior year, according to numbers released by the California Department of Education.

That’s 6.1% above California’s overall high school graduation rate average of 84.2% in 2021.

Out of 4,659 high school seniors enrolled at public high schools in Merced County during the 2020-21 school year, 4,208 graduated in four years, the Department of Education data shows.

“A big component of why our graduation rates in Merced County have continued to outpace the state average is because we have teachers, counselors, administrators, along with parents, that see the importance of a high school diploma, of completing all the coursework and making sure students are prepared to either enter the workforce or enter into post-secondary school,” said Nathan Quevedo, communications director for the Merced County Office of Education.

The Delhi Unified School District had one of the highest graduation rates in the county, seeing 98% of its high school students graduate in four years. Approximately 197 students were enrolled as high school seniors at Delhi High last year, and 193 graduated.

Hilmar Unified’s four-year graduation rate was also high, at 94.6%, graduating 175 out of 185 students. Hilmar High’s graduation rate was the highest in the county, at 99.4%, or 160 of 161 students, graduating in four years.

The Merced Union High School District, the biggest high school district in the county with six high schools and four alternative schools, also saw 94.6% of its seniors graduate or 2,521 of 2,665 seniors.

Atwater High graduated 440 out of 458 students, or 96.1%, while Buhach Colony High had one of the highest graduation rates in the county, with 99.1% of its students graduating in four years, or 427 out of 431.

El Capitan High saw 96.9% of its seniors graduate or 399 out of 416 students, and Golden Valley High School graduated 429 out of 451, or 97.3% of its graduating seniors.

Livingston High saw 281 out of 288 students graduate, putting their graduation rate at 97.6%, and Merced High graduated 376 out of 401, or 93.8%, of its 2021 seniors.

The Dos Palos-Oro Loma Joint Unified School District graduated 92.6% of its seniors last year, seeing 150 out of 162 students graduate after four years. Dos Palos High, the only regular high school in that district, graduated 111 out of 117 seniors for a school graduation rate of 94.9%.

The Los Banos Unified School District saw 718 out of 786 students graduate last year, putting the district-wide graduation rate at 91.3%. Los Banos High accounted for 303 of those students, with 290 of those seniors, or 95.7%, graduating last year.

Pacheco High, the only other high school in the Los Banos Unified School District, had 94.8%, or 366 of 386 seniors, graduate in 2021.

The Le Grand Union High School District had 91.1% of its seniors graduate in four years, at 123 out of 135 students graduating in 2021, and Le Grand High’s graduation rate was slightly better at 92.7%, or 101 out of 109 students graduating.

Gustine Unified saw 127 out of 140 seniors graduate last year, putting the district graduation rate at 90.7%. Approximately 108 of those seniors were enrolled at Gustine High, the only high school in the district, and 103 Gustine High School seniors graduated last year — 95.4% of GHS’s seniors.

Statewide, the graduation rate dipped 0.6% to 84.2%, which state education officials credit to the effects of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Namely, the challenges that students and educators faced during the pandemic were multidimensional and disruptive to learning and mental health,” Tony Thurmond, the state superintendent of public instruction, said in a news release. “Our goal now is to move all students forward.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has created several challenges for local students in Merced County, although school officials stepped up efforts to ensure students and families had the resources kids needed to stay in school and be successful through another challenging school year.

“Being at home and being on the computer is much different than being in a classroom, so keeping students engaged was the toughest part,” said Alan Peterson, superintendent of the Merced Union High School District. “The commitment of our staff to provide our students with as good an education as possible under the circumstances made all the difference.”

This story was originally published February 22, 2022 1:00 PM.

Couple with deep community roots chosen as Los Banos Spring Fair grand marshals

Good things take time, it is said, and eventually everything will come together. For Rhonda and Larry Borelli, Sr., eventually is here.Both were chosen in 2020 to be the Grand Marshals of the Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, but due to Covid the fair was canceled. Now, in 2022, they will fulfill their title as this year’s Grand Marshals at the fair, which runs from April 27 through May 1.For Larry, the family roots of agriculture run deep. He was born in Dos Palos and has been a farmer most of his life as was his f...

Good things take time, it is said, and eventually everything will come together. For Rhonda and Larry Borelli, Sr., eventually is here.

Both were chosen in 2020 to be the Grand Marshals of the Merced County Spring Fair in Los Banos, but due to Covid the fair was canceled. Now, in 2022, they will fulfill their title as this year’s Grand Marshals at the fair, which runs from April 27 through May 1.

For Larry, the family roots of agriculture run deep. He was born in Dos Palos and has been a farmer most of his life as was his father before him.

Early in his life Larry also worked for the San Luis Canal Company. Currently Larry grows cotton, fresh market tomatoes, alfalfa, wheat, and white corn. He has been a member of the fair board for 12 years, from 2003 to 2015.

Rhonda was born and raised in Los Banos and has been a hospital medical coder for Memorial Hospital in Los Banos for the past 40 years.

Both Larry and Rhonda were actively involved in the Spring Fair, also known as the May Day Fair, while in high school in the mid-60s. Larry was showing animals in the FFA, while Rhonda was active in 4H with entries in cooking and sewing.

“The Merced County Spring Fair is important to Los Banos,” Larry said, “because it helps keep the community core together.

“And it helps keep the community connected to agriculture,” Larry said. “If you want to see the diversity of local farming, the fair is the place to be. Every day it’s something different. There are dairy cattle in the arena. There are sheep and goats, and some days there are rabbits and birds.”

Both Larry and Rhonda are very proud of the Little Hands agricultural exhibit at the fair. The first year that Larry was a fair director he was part of helping create the exhibit. And Rhonda continues to volunteer inside Little Hands each year by helping the children understand the importance of agriculture in the Central Valley.

Larry remembers local dairyman Phil Fanelli back in the early 2000s showing children how to milk cows by hand. Then, years later, with funding from Hilmar Cheese, the fair built what is now a 7,200 square foot agriculture exhibit called the Henry Miller Farm, with many different animals which fairgoers can pet. As the fair continues to grow, Larry said, “the main theme continues to be agriculture.”

Rhonda volunteers each year at the Merced County United For Life booth located in the O’Banion Building. She enjoys interacting with children who are inquisitive about the various stages of the unborn children and providing information for them.

Over the years Larry and his son Nathan of Turlock, have been working at the junior livestock auction, where all of the animals are sold after they have been shown by the FFA and 4H students. Nathan and his wife, Elizabeth have three children, Abrianna, Rocco and Matteo.

When reminiscing about the years of working the fair auction Larry said, “I was blessed to work with a bunch of really good people. I enjoyed it so much.”

The Borellis have two sons and a daughter. They have seven grandchildren, five boys and two girls ranging in ages from eight to 17 years old. And they are all involved in 4H or FFA.

Their daughter, Natasha Crivelli recently graduated from the California Agricultural Leadership program and is currently the President of the Merced County Spring Fair Board after being appointed in 2015 by the late Merced County Supervisor Jerry O’Banion. She and her husband, Chris, farm in Dos Palos.

Their son, Larry Borelli, Jr., is an agriculture teacher at Los Banos High School. Larry Jr. ands wife, Mindy of Los Banos have four children, Larry III, Brokton, Angelina and Luke. As an ag teacher, Larry Jr. continues to promote agriculture as his father taught him.

“Agriculture teaches life skills,” the elder Borelli said. “It can be growing a potted plant to raising a bird, rabbit or whatever. Learning the importance of responsibility may be the most important life skill.”

The Borellis will be part of the Merced County Spring Fair May Day parade in downtown Los Banos on Saturday, April 30, and they will be participating during the opening ceremonies each day of the fair.

Traditional high school graduations are back in Los Banos, Dos Palos, Gustine

Unlike last year, high school seniors in 2021 generally don’t have to worry about missing out on traditional graduation ceremonies in Merced County.Seniors in the county’s seven public high school districts will be allowed to laugh, take photos, congratulate one another and enjoy the time with family and friends.Still, with the COVID-19 pandemic on the decline — though not completely in the rear-view mirror — there will be some guidelines set in place.For example, some of those precautionary rules...

Unlike last year, high school seniors in 2021 generally don’t have to worry about missing out on traditional graduation ceremonies in Merced County.

Seniors in the county’s seven public high school districts will be allowed to laugh, take photos, congratulate one another and enjoy the time with family and friends.

Still, with the COVID-19 pandemic on the decline — though not completely in the rear-view mirror — there will be some guidelines set in place.

For example, some of those precautionary rules include limits on graduation tickets and social distancing. Plus, mask-wearing which will either be enforced or encouraged.

“I am so proud of this graduating class,” Los Banos Unified Superintendent Mark Marshall wrote in an email to the Sun-Star.

“They are very determined and resilient. With everything that was thrown their way this school year, they adapted and moved forward. The Class of 2021 will hold a special place as the story of public education in the United States is being written.”

The following is a list of what school districts in Merced County have planned celebrate local graduation ceremonies.

In total there will be approximately 724 seniors in Los Banos Unified graduating this year.

Face masks will be required to be worn by attendees and graduates. There are limits on tickets.

Los Banos High has two ceremonies scheduled for June 12. The first ceremony is at 10 a.m. and it is for graduates who have last names starting with A-L. The second ceremony is scheduled at 1 p.m. for students who last names starting with M-Z. Students will be given four tickets and the ceremony will be live streamed.

Pacheco High’s ceremony will take place at the campus June 14. The first ceremony is scheduled for 9 a.m. and the second ceremony is scheduled for noon. A limit on tickets will be announced by Principal Daniel Sutton.

San Luis High’s ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, June 3 at 7 p.m. at the campus. Graduates are limited to six tickets.

Crossroads Alternative Education Center’s ceremony will take place at 9 a.m. June 3 in front of the school. Each graduate may have two guests.

Dos Palos High will be holding an in-person graduation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday, June 4. Graduates will be given four tickets. The event will take place at the high school’s stadium.

The ceremony will also be live-streamed and students and parents can find the information via email and on Facebook on the day of graduation. Principal Holly Crivelli said there will be 100 seniors graduating.

“The last quarter of last year has been extremely trying on teachers and students and parents and staff all over across the board that work in education and it is exciting that we’re to have some modified traditional ceremonies,” Crivelli said.

“A lot of these kids have been working so hard. We’re really just proud of the determination and perseverance of all these kids.”

Seniors at the George Christian Education center will have their ceremony at 7:30 p.m. June 1 at the Dos Palos High School Stadium. Each student will receive 6 tickets along with their cap and gowns on May 28.

Gustine High and Pioneer High School graduates will graduate together at Gustine High School’s football stadium at 7:30 p.m. June 4. The Gustine Adult School graduates are given the opportunity to participate in the ceremony, but none have expressed any intentions to walk, said Adam Cano, principal of Gustine High and Gustine Adult School.

Each graduate will receive four tickets and the event will be live streamed. Social distancing will be enforced and masks are required to be worn by graduates and attendees. Graduates can pick up their diplomas at the school office starting Monday June 7. There is no alternative to the in-person ceremony.

There are 130 seniors graduating from Gustine High and Pioneer High. Like many others regarding graduation, Cano is “excited for some normalcy.”

“I think it’s really good for the kids, it’s really good for the community it’s back to a traditional setting,” Cano said. “We have our video board that will announce where the students are going (to college or their career paths). We’re back to some normalcy, but it’s just not a packed house.”

This story was originally published May 24, 2021 5:00 AM.

Central Section football playoff seeds have Buchanan atop D-I; Bullard, Dos Palos in D-II

The chase for Central Section football championships is now set after playoff pairings were released Saturday afternoon.As expected, Buchanan is the top seed in Division I and will face Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Clovis North on Nov. 12. The teams met in the TRAC finale, with the Bears rolling to a 33-14 victory.All other divisions begin play Nov. 5.Other D-I opening matchups include No. 3 Central hosting No. 6 Hanford; No. 5 Clovis traveling to face No. 4 Liberty-Bakersfield and No. 2 San Joaquin Memorial hosti...

The chase for Central Section football championships is now set after playoff pairings were released Saturday afternoon.

As expected, Buchanan is the top seed in Division I and will face Tri-River Athletic Conference rival Clovis North on Nov. 12. The teams met in the TRAC finale, with the Bears rolling to a 33-14 victory.

All other divisions begin play Nov. 5.

Other D-I opening matchups include No. 3 Central hosting No. 6 Hanford; No. 5 Clovis traveling to face No. 4 Liberty-Bakersfield and No. 2 San Joaquin Memorial hosting No. 7 Garces.

Absent from D-I are Bullard, Clovis West and Clovis East.

Seedings are set by performance and strength of schedule, with the top eight teams playing in Division I and the others added in seeding order to the remaining playoff divisions. (In other words, the top seed in D-II is the No. 9 overall seed and so on.)

That is where the Knights come in, as the top seed in Division II.

Among the other notable teams is Dos Palos.

The Broncos went 10-0 while winning the East Sierra League title and earned the 13th seed in D-II and an opener at No. 4 Kingsburg on Nov. 5. Also put in D-II were Clovis West, Clovis East and Bakersfield.

North Yosemite League champion Sunnyside is the eighth seed in D-III and will host No. 9 Firebaugh. Central Valley Christian is the top seed.

Games at 7 p.m.

Division I

Nov. 12

No. 8 Clovis North at No. 1 Buchanan

No. 5 Clovis at No. 4 Liberty-Bakersfield

No. 6 Hanford at No. 3 Central

No. 7 Garces at No. 2 San Joaquin Memorial

Division II

Nov. 5

No. 16 St. Joseph at No. 1 Bullard

No. 9 Clovis West at No. 8 Clovis East

No. 12 Redwood at No. 5 Mission Oak

No. 13 Dos Palos at No. 4 Kingsburg

No. 14 Wasco at No. 3 Centennial

No. 11 Sanger at No. 6 Frontier

No. 10 Mission Prep at No. 7 Lemoore

No. 15 Tulare Western at No. 2 Bakersfield

Division III

Nov. 4

No. 11 Paso Robles at No. 6 Tulare Union, 6 p.m.

Nov. 5

No. 16 El Diamante at No. 1 Central Valley Christian

No. 9 Firebaugh at No. 8 Sunnyside

No. 12 Kennedy at No. 5 Washington Union

No. 13 Madera at No. 4 Arroyo Grande

No. 14 Edison at No. 3 Dinuba

No. 10 Stockdale at No. 7 Bakersfield Christian

No. 15 Reedley at No. 2 Strathmore

Division IV

Nov. 5

No. 16 Mt. Whitney at No. 1 Nipomo

No 9 Porterville at No. 8 Highland

No. 12 West at No. 5 Foothill

No. 13 Mendota at No. 4 Madera South

No. 14 Monache at No. 3 Exeter

No. 11 Fowler at No. 6 Independence

No. 10 Corcoran at No. 7 Roosevelt

No. 15 Tehachapi at No. 2 Bishop

Division V

Nov. 5

No. 16 Kerman at No. 1 Immanuel

No. 9 Chavez at No. 8 Liberty-Madera Ranchos

No. 12 Riverdale at No. 5 Shafter

No. 13 Orosi at No. 4 Boron

No. 14 Atascadero at No. 3 Righetti

No. 11 McLane at No. 6 Coalinga

No. 10 North at No. 7 Templeton

No. 15 Ridgeview at No. 2 San Luis Obispo

Division VI

Nov. 5

No. 1 Taft, bye

No. 2 Morro Bay, bye

No. 3 Pioneer Valley, bye

No. 9 Kern Valley at No. 8 Lindsay

No. 12 Farmersville at No. 5 Delano

No. 13 Torres at No. 4 Woodlake

No. 11 Chowchilla at No. 6 Caruthers

No. 10 Orange Cove at No. 7 East Bakersfield

This story was originally published October 30, 2021 2:35 PM.

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