FUSD approves site for new southeast school

Fresno Unified school trustees on Wednesday approved a site for a new elementary school that will help alleviate classroom overcrowding in the southeast part of the district.

The school will cost about $20 million and will be built on 8.43 acres bounded by Heaton Avenue, Hamilton Avenue, Cedar Avenue and Tenth Street, just north of Sequoia Middle School. Construction will be paid for with Measure K bond money.

While board members agreed on the location, some members worried that the school could house up to 850 students. Trustee Carol Mills said she understood that the district's desired enrollment for elementary schools is 750 students.

Lisa LeBlanc, district director of facilities management and planning, said about 700 students live in the attendance area. If more arrive, she said, the school can accommodate portable classrooms.

The district still must acquire the site and relocate existing residents and property owners. Two churches, three houses, 22 apartment units, and six four-plexes and duplexes are at the location.

"The board's decision tonight allows us to go out and purchase the property," said LeBlanc.

Construction is scheduled to begin in April and be completed when school opens in August 2012.

Building a new school in the southeast area has been part of the district's master plan. Although overall district enrollment has declined in recent years, the southeast area is in need of additional classrooms at the elementary level.

In other action ...

Retired teacher Cathy Franzell asked trustees to allow former employees who retired after April 17, 2006, to be repaid benefit premiums as allowed under a class-action lawsuit. Earlier this year, a judge ruled Fresno Unified had to repay about 3,500 retirees' premiums after the district reneged on a promise to provide free health benefits for life. Franzell said teachers who retired in June 2006 missed the April cutoff. Trustees did not respond to her request.

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