Ask Me

Ask Me: Beeps, recordings give warnings at some Fresno crosswalks

Q: What is the beeping sound I hear at the corner of Shaw and Valentine avenues as I wait for the traffic light to change?

Billie Jean Ferguson, Fresno

A: The beeping sound is coming from the accessible pedestrian signal device used at several locations around Fresno to give people who are visually impaired an audible alert to changes in the traffic signal.

Similar devices are on traffic signals at 26 locations in Fresno, according to Scott Mozier, city of Fresno public works director.

Whereas you hear a beeping sound at Shaw and Valentine, devices at other intersections, like the one at Tulare and P streets near City Hall, have audible messages, Mozier said. At that intersection, for example, you would hear: “Tulare: Walk sign is on to cross Tulare,” or “Wait.”

The devices “make sense in high pedestrian locations,” Mozier said.

The volume of the message is set at the same level as sounds in the area. Push buttons on signal poles also make a sound and have tactile markings.

The Shaw and Valentine signal was installed more than 15 years ago and was the second accessible pedestrian signal in Fresno, Mozier said.

Older-style accessible pedestrian signals used what city officials referred to as “cuckoo” and “chirp” sounds to designate traffic moving in north-south or east-west directions.

Accessible pedestrian signals are used in many cities, including locally in Clovis, Mozier said.

Q: I often notice that people who grew up in Fresno attended Clovis schools. It seems that school district boundaries are confusing, but have they always been so? How have they evolved?

Karen Ramsden, Fresno

A: In the late 1800s, as Fresno County grew, farming areas or “colonies” needed schools for the children of farmers who settled in this rich agricultural area.

Over time, small one-school districts combined with other small rural districts that eventually unified with, or were annexed to, larger school districts. Boundaries shifted and expanded with those additions.

Fresno Unified School District traces its roots to 1860, when there were just two schools in the Fresno County Schools system. Then-Fresno Senior High School was established in 1889.

According to a history written by Fresno Unified: “As the city of Fresno grew, the schools and districts were consolidated into” the district.

One good example is the Fig Garden area, developed by J.C. Forkner in 1920. A school was built for first to eighth grades in 1924, and the Fig Garden District was annexed to Fresno Unified in 1964.

Small Fresno-area districts, including Belmont, Kroeger, East Fresno, Kirk, Teilman and Paige, which all organized between 1888 and 1911, were annexed to Fresno City School District between 1901 and 1931.

The 1947 annexation of the school district serving Calwa – which takes its name from the California Winery Association – expanded the boundaries of the Fresno City Schools District to match those of the Fresno High School District. It was a logical next step to join Fresno Unified in 1948.

Fresno Unified continued to build new schools and annex rural districts through the mid-1900s. Today the district has 64 elementary schools, 15 middle schools, eight high schools, four alternative schools and three special education schools.

As rural districts joined urban school districts, their boundaries sometimes overflowed city limits. A good example is the Clovis Unifies School District. According to “50 Years Unified,” a history of the Clovis district, 42 percent of the district’s boundaries are within Clovis while another 42 percent are within the city of Fresno and 16 percent are in Fresno County.

“The boundary lines may give pause,” the book says, “but looking at the history of Fresno County and its development, the area that makes up Clovis Unified is comprised of what were once the outlying, rural areas of the more metropolitan town of Fresno.”

Like Fresno Unified, the Clovis district traces its roots to the late 1800s. Dry Creek Elementary was the first school opened in 1866. Other rural districts and schools followed. In 1899, seven elementary districts joined to form the Clovis Union High School District.

Through the mid-1900s, the district opened nine more schools. In 1960, Clovis Unified School District was formed when the districts unified.

In the early 1990s, the district annexed a large parcel north of the district. It was connected to the rest of the district by a narrow strip of annexed land, giving the annexation a flag shape. The Buchanan Educational Center was built on the parcel, housing Alta Sierra Intermediate School in 1991, Buchanan High in 1993 and Garfield Elementary in 1994. Since then the district has added 18 more schools.

Q: I attended Magnolia School in Fowler, beginning in 1942. I’m interested in finding out more about the history of the school.

Barbara Smith, Fresno

A: The Magnolia School District was established in 1888, according to “Public Schools of Fresno County 1860-1998.” Although the book doesn’t give the location of the first school building, it notes that Fannie Stone was the first teacher.

In 1905 Magnolia was still a one-teacher – and presumably a one-room – school. Charlotte Golden taught 37 students. The next year she taught 42 students and was paid $75 a month. In 1914, Magnolia had two teachers but their pay scale remained the same.

An undated photograph in a folder of notes for the American Association of University Women’s unpublished second volume on “Public Schools of Fresno County” shows Magnolia School as a wood-frame building with a porch.

The AAUW notes say a two-room concrete school was built in 1915 “just outside Fowler.” A survey form about Magnolia School gives the location at Leonard and Adams avenues.

Magnolia continued as a two-teacher school until the Magnolia District unified with the Fowler Union District in 1943.

In 1980, when the AAUW survey was conducted, the former Magnolia School housed classes for developmentally disabled adults. Today the building houses the Alice Manor Convalescent Hospital.

Ask Me publishes on the second and fourth Sundays of each month. Paula Lloyd is a freelance writer. Send questions to or by mail to Paula Lloyd, c/o The Fresno Bee Newsroom, 1626 E St., Fresno, CA 93786. Please include your name, city of residence and a phone number.