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Is It Time to Tear Down and Rebuild This Fresno School?

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Fresno Unified's facilities needs far outstrip the district's resources. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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With $2.5 billion in facilities needs identified by consultants and school staffers, Fresno Unified has the seemingly insurmountable task of trying to find enough money to bring schools up to snuff.

At a recent workshop, the board reviewed those needs and also talked about putting a new $500 million bond measure on one of the two 2024 ballots. But that amount would address only one-fifth of the identified needs, and trustees said they are worried about the costs of what’s not on the list.

Want to check out earlier School Zone columns and other education news stories? You’ll find them at Nancy Price’s School Zone Facebook page.

And their calculations this time around will take equity into account. Unlike in the past with traditional facilities planning, when priorities were set according to building conditions and need, the School Board is considering equity-based facilities planning that prioritizes students and neighborhoods before looking at facility conditions.

Board President Veva Islas noted that when the trustees agree to a “reshuffling of the deck” to take advantage of matching state or federal funding, as happened when the new medical pathway building at Duncan Polytechnical High School was moved up the priority list, it can come at the expense of other projects and leave some schools further at a disadvantage.

Moving up the MASH project was “the right thing to do,” she said. “But when we do things like that, it’s why we still have campuses like Yosemite (Middle School) who still don’t have working ACs in their gym, their locker room, their coaches’ offices, the wrestling room, and the weight room. And so we do need to be conscious of how often we have pushed back projects for other schools in consciousness of trying to bring in new and innovative things to some schools.”


Also in School Zone: 

  • Free books coming soon to little kids, but the program needs local partners.
  • Reedley College team brings home the top prize in Mule Packing contest.
  • This Fresno State student was one of six chosen for Congressional Hispanic internship.
  • Watch these Fresno Unified students RISE this afternoon.

Equity Lacking for SW Fresno?

Southwest Fresno, which has had only one new school built in recent decades, struggles with antiquated facilities, even as other parts of the district are getting new schools and centers, two community representatives told the board.

New schools typically follow population growth, and some of that is happening now in the city’s southwest quadrant, said Bob Mitchell, vice chairman of the Golden West Side Planning Committee.

New homes and new apartments are either being built or in the planning stages, which should increase the area’s school-age population, he said.

He and Debbie Darden, the committee’s chair, said their top priority is one school that they say is long past the point of patchwork fixes.

Kirk Elementary School, whose roots go back to 1908 when it was annexed by Fresno Unified, needs to be torn down completely and rebuilt on a Church Avenue site that the district uses for school staff parking, Darden said.

Kirk is tiny and cramped, lacks the technology that other schools have for educating students, is termite-ridden, prone to flooding, and has poor bus pick-up and drop-off areas, she said.

“So I would hope that you would take that in mind as you discuss your budget in regard to these bonds, because the school does need to be torn down and rebuilt. Not renovated, not repainted,” Darden said.

Book-of-the-Month Club for Little Kids

Know any California kids under age 5 who like to read, or who might like to read if they got more chances to do it? California is expanding Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library to all 58 counties.

Kids who sign up for the program will receive a free book in the mail every month, including bilingual options. The state estimates that the program will serve approximately 2 million children over the next couple of years.

SB 1183, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law last year, expands the California Imagination Library statewide and in partnership with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The program will be administered by the State Librarian but will require local partners. As of right now, Fresno area residents can’t sign up on the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library website because there is no local affiliate. Click here to learn more about starting one up.

Reedley Mule Packing Team Brings Home Top Prize

Reedley College’s mule packing team dominated teams from other and bigger colleges and universities recently at the annual Mule Days Celebration in Bishop

The team credits solid preparation for their team and individual wins. In the team mule packing the Tigers came in a minute faster than the other teams, and team members claimed top prize for the diamond hitch, which was won by Harley McCorkle, the box hitch, won by Cole Hansen, and packing, won by Jessie Miles.

The team said it also helps to have cooperative (i.e. not stubborn) animals as teammates: “Having the right stock for a competition like this is critical,” first-year head coach Loni Langdon said in a Reedley College news article. “We have the best mules in the state for this. They’re seasoned, calm under pressure, and predictable. Their age and wisdom are huge assets.”

And mule packing isn’t just all fun and games and competitions and prizes. Even in the 21st century, mule packing provides job opportunities in the national forests, Langdon said. “Building a bridge between a community college and the National Forest Service is so unique. Packers and livestock who can help keep our trails open for recreation to people who visit these areas from around the world is an essential service.”

Reedley College’s championship Mule Packing Team took top prizes at Bishop Mule Days. (Reedley College)

Fresno State Student Wins Washington Internship

Fresno State student Anna Bedolla-Gutierrez is one of six students nationwide to be selected for internships this summer with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C.

Bedolla-Gutierrez is a first-generation college student who is majoring in human nutrition sciences and hails from Porterville.

She recently completed her first year at Fresno State, where she is a member of the university’s College Assistance Migrant Program, also known as CAMP. The program assists first-year students from migrant and seasonal farmworker families with access to resources to help them succeed at Fresno State and in their careers.

Over the course of her internship in Washington, D.C., Bedolla-Gutierrez will learn about the workings of the federal government and policy development and implementation. She will also participate in seminars and leadership activities, including networking with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute alumni, many of whom are now leaders on Capitol Hill as well as in Fortune 500 companies and nonprofit organizations that support Latino education and leadership development.

Other CAMP students who won internships are Marbella Hernandez, a sociology major from Mendota; Galilea Tinoco-Rodrigeuz, a biology major from Salinas; and Juan Francisco Rodriguez Hernandez, a plant science major from Michoacan, Mexico.

Fresno Unified Event Celebrates Black Students

Fresno Unified will broadcast a special event recognizing more than 400 African American students from 13 schools through the RISE program, which stands for Regardless I’m Smart & Educated.

The program began six years ago at Fort Miller Middle School to acknowledge students on that campus and has expanded to include students at Addicott, Ayer, Kirk, King, Thomas, and Vinland elementary schools; Baird, Computech, Fort Miller, Gaston, Tenaya, and Terronez middle schools; Fresno Adult School; and the Office of African American Academic Acceleration.

RISE honors students who have a 3.0 grade-point average or higher, had outstanding attendance, made great gains, or participated in an African American cultural event at their school.

The prerecorded event, which will include a vocal performance and keynote speaker, will recognize all the students. It will be shown starting at 5:30 p.m. on the district’s video website: https://video.ibm.com/channel/fusd-board-meeting.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email