Parents opposed to the new boundaries for Visalia Unified School District’s latest middle school are demanding a redo before the school opens next year, but school board president Juan Guerrero said the board’s decision is final.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” Guerrero said. “We knew some schools and some families would not be happy.”
Several Fairview Elementary School parents held a protest outside the district office Tuesday evening and said they are considering going to court on grounds that parents were not properly notified.
“We’re mad. We’re frustrated, mainly because it wasn’t communicated to any of us. That’s what upsets us the most,” Teresa Duran, a mother of a Fairview second-grader, told the school board in Spanish.
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Maria Flores, who has a sixth-grader at the north Visalia school, said in an interview before the meeting that many Fairview parents speak only Spanish and never received information about boundary proposals being considered by decision makers.
“We feel the school district discriminated,” Flores said.
Guerrero said it appears in retrospect that Spanish-speaking parents at Fairview “could have been involved earlier.” It may be time that an interpreter is present at each school board meeting, he said.
Assistant superintendent of administrative services Robert Groeber said a letter in English and Spanish was sent home with students at the beginning of the process, and information was available in Spanish on the district website via a “translate” function, and a recorded message to home phones was sent in the language preference indicated in school records.
As well, social media and a smartphone app were used to relay information, he said.
Flores responded that many Fairview parents simply don’t own computers or have Internet access.
We knew some schools and some families would not be happy.
Juan Guerrero, school board president
Fairview parent Elsa Lopez said the complaints involve more than the process.
A major problem for most Fairview parents is that the new boundaries send Fairview students entering seventh grade to the new middle school near Riggin Avenue and Akers Street, she said.
That’s much farther away than Green Acres Middle School where students go now, she said. Maddeningly, students at Shannon Ranch Elementary, which is closer to the new middle school than Fairview, will continue going to Green Acres, Lopez said.
Guerrero said the final map was the result of a process of elimination that considered ethnic breakdown and other factors.
Because of the distance from the Fairview school area to the new middle school, which has yet to be named, the district will provide bus transportation. But Fairview parents said there would be times when students would be walking a long distance home or to school.
“It’s not safe,” said Lopez. “There’s homeless and two very busy streets to cross.”
High school boundaries were also changed.
Instead of going to Redwood High as is now the case, Fairview-area students will feed into Golden West High, which is also farther away.
School officials said there’s a “soft landing” option during the first years of the changeover in which parents can choose which middle school and high school – the old one or the new one – their children attend.