A 3D rendering of what Janet Young Elementary School in Clovis may look like upon its completion.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
New schools are going up around the Central Valley, with new housing and a growing population facilitating the need to accommodate new students in the region.
While significant collegiate building projects have been underway, there’s also been significant work in raising walls and roofs on K-12 schools. This includes new schools being constructed in Madera, Fresno Kings and Tulare counties. With these new schools, districts and municipalities alike are not only relieving overcrowding, but also providing education to up-and-coming communities such as Tesoro Viejo in Madera County.
The creation of the new Tesoro Viejo community on Highway 41 in Madera County means a lot of new families in the area, and in preparation, the Chawanakee Unified School District built a new elementary school and is building a new high school. The latter of these two projects — Rio Mesa High School — comes in at a cost of $92 million, making it the second-most expensive construction project in the entire Central Valley, second only to the ongoing expansion of Clovis Community Hospital, according to a recent Business Journal list of top construction projects.
Madera Unified School District is also expecting to open a new campus next year with the ongoing construction of Matilda Torres High School. Ground was broken last year on the project, and it is expected to open in 2020. According to Rosalind Cox, director of facilities planning and construction management for MUSD, construction for the school is expected to come in at $180 million, the entire school itself costing $210 million.
Matilda Torres High is being built on 57 acres of land on the southeast corner of Road 26 and Martin Street, by a team consisting of Darden Architects, Kitchell CEM and Harris Construction.
“Once Matilda Torres High School’s doors open in August 2020, it will bring much relief to Madera Unified’s existing high schools’ expanding student population, which is already exceeding capacity,” Cox said.
Cox added that the new high school will initially accommodate 2,200 students, but they are planning for future growth of an additional 300 students. Additionally, MUSD is working on a new Concurrent Enrollment Middle School for 8th graders, which will introduce them to Career Technical Education pathways in agriculture, manufacturing, engineering, public safety, digital and performing arts, and entrepreneurship. Construction will start this summer, and should be completed by August 2020.
In Southeast Fresno, the former Fresno County Juvenile Hall on 10th Street and Ventura Avenue will be knocked down, with the 12.58 acres of land finding new life as a modern-designed high school. Fresno Unified School District purchased the land last year for $1.2 million from Fresno County.
The new school will focus primarily on alternative education, including the possibility of career technical education and “credit recovery” for students who missed and/or failed classes.
Amy Idsvoog, Fresno Unified communications analyst, told The Business Journal in October 2018 that the district plans to keep the other buildings on the site previously used by the county, which will serve such functions as office space and staff training after they’ve been renovated.
In Clovis, construction is well underway for Janet Young Elementary School under the Clovis Unified School District. Named after the long-serving CUSD employee and superintendent, the school will be located at Locan Avenue north of Shields Avenue, and has been made necessary by population growth within Clovis, according to Denver Stair, assistant superintendent of facility services, Janet Young Elementary is being built on 25 acres, at a construction cost of $29 million. Mark Wilson Construction, Inc. has been contracted to manage the project.
“We’re really excited about this project,” Stairs said. “And we’re excited to get it open for the community.”
Janet Young Elementary is expected to open in August 2020 to 750 children.
In Kings County, Lemoore Unified Elementary School District got the green light in November to fund construction of a new school with the passing of Measure D, $26-million bond for local school projects.
According to a November report by The Hanford Sentinel, the project should be completed and ready to greet students by the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
Visalia Unified School District broke ground in March on Sequoia High School, an alternative high school that’s been discussed for more than a decade.
Currently, students for Sequoia High are meeting in a set of portable buildings, according to ABC 30 news coverage of the groundbreaking. The new site will be west of this spot, and is being built on 7.5 acres of land. Upon the school’s expected completion in 2023, it will sport such features as its own soccer and football fields, a library, computer lab and daycare center to help students pursuing accelerated credits to graduate on time.
“I’m really excited to see this project moving forward the high schools in Visalia have definitely been impacted by the growth down here,” said Jeff Ramsay, director of general services for the Tulare County Office of Education. “And a fifth campus is needed and will be a great addition to the community.”
Ramsay added that in the last several years, there’s been significant growth at VUSD, with one new school — Denton Elementary — slated for completion this year, and more elementary schools master planned for the future.