The Fresno Unified school board voted Wednesday to buy land in southeast Fresno where the district someday might build an elementary school and a high school.
The vote was 4-2 in favor of the $3.4 million purchase with funds coming from Measure Q. Trustees Brooke Ashjian and Carol Mills voted no, and trustee Christopher de la Cerda was absent.
The land is on the southwest corner of Church and Peach avenues between Edith B. Storey Elementary School and Phoenix Secondary Academy.
Ashjian questioned the wording of the written proposal about what type of school would go first on the site, which he said conflicted with the oral presentation.
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But Karin Temple, chief operations officer for Fresno Unified, said, “There is no conflict.”
Temple said the initial plan for the 34-acre site is as a site for a new elementary school but could one day expand to include a high school. The wording in the motion said that either type of schools could go there. However, Temple said, the report was only an environmental study of the land that outlined what could be allowed to go there – the board would decide later what actually is built there.
Mills asked why the school district boundaries couldn’t just be redrawn to lower the burden of schools nearing capacity. Temple pointed out that the locations of Storey and Ayer elementary schools and Sunnyside High School are a bit isolated, and redrawing boundaries wouldn’t help the area.
“It would be almost impossible to relieve this crowding due to boundary adjustments. These schools, as you know, are in the extreme corner of the district. There simply isn’t a way to free up enough seats,” Temple said.
Trustee Valerie Davis pointed out to the board that if the district does not build new southeast schools, another option would be to start busing students to less-impacted schools.
“We’re buying the property now anticipating, you know, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and hopefully our community will see fit to pass a bond and make it available for our children to go,” she said.
Wednesday’s approval was for the purchase of land only – not funding for a school itself.
As of now, there is no such funding, Temple said. The money might come later if voters approve another bond measure, she said.
“We hope that the community supports Measure X. Measure X funding could support a new school,” Temple said.
Measure X is a $225 million bond measure on the November ballot for new schools and facility upgrades. Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson and Ashjian lobbied for and against the bond measure Wednesday before the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.
For this project, however, the next step is to close escrow on the property in October, Temple said. The district hopes to break ground in mid-2018.