Education Lab

Clovis Unified backs residents' bid to join district

In a show of support for Clovis residents who are asking to leave Fresno Unified School District, the Clovis Unified board said it would support a transfer of their neighborhood Wednesday night.

Clovis Unified has been neutral about seeking the territory since the issue was first raised three years ago. The board voted 7-0 without comment Wednesday. The city of Clovis also supports the proposed change.

But a county board rejected the residents' proposal in 2007. That decision was appealed to the state board of education, which will hear the issue in September.

Fresno Unified also opposes the change, which would remove about 1,000 students from its boundaries.

The area has been in Fresno Unified since 1960, when residents voted to become part of the district, which had just built McLane High School.

The residents making the appeal live in Clovis, but their children attend Fresno Unified schools. About 1,000 students -- living between Shaw and Ashlan avenues and Winery and Peach avenues -- could be affected.

About 500 of those students attend Viking Elementary School west of Clovis, and the remainder attend Scandinavian Middle School and McLane High School.

About 165 in the area already attend Clovis schools with transfer agreements, Clovis school officials said.

And that creates a problem for some families, said Clovis resident Jo Ridgway, a member of Clovis Include Us, the group supporting the territory transfer.

She said she knows families in which one child has a transfer into the Clovis district, but another child attends school in Fresno Unified.

"We have felt like an orphan in that area," she said.

But Fresno Unified has a lot to lose, said Karen Temple, Fresno Unified's assistant superintendent for operational services.

She told the Clovis board Wednesday that Fresno Unified would lose about $5 million in attendance money from the loss of students and an additional $27 million from building grant programs.

She said such a move would "significantly disrupt" the school district's education programs and could cause the closure of Viking Elementary.

"It would be a substantial blow to Fresno Unified," Temple said.