In just a couple years a walnut orchard will be transformed into a new elementary school. The Visalia Unified School District is constantly growing, gaining hundreds of new students each year.
Realtor and walnut grower Sam Sciacca has just sold a 12.2 acre walnut orchard to the Visalia Unified School District. Soon it will be one of the district's brand new elementary schools, modeled to look almost exactly like the brand new Shannon Ranch Elementary School.
Sciacca says when the district first told him about the project, he knew it would help revitalize this area of north Visalia.
"It was going to bring maintenance to the area for example all the graffiti would be maintained yards would be mowed and this would a be great location for kids to go to school," explained Sciacca.
The school will be one of two brand new elementary schools built in Visalia in the near future. One will be at Ferguson and Giddings, the other on the northwest side of town at Ferguson and Shirk. Each will feature high security technology plus an outdoor amphitheater and other energy-saving technology.
Doug Bartsch with the Visalia Unified School District said, "These two campuses will feature solar energy panels that are placed over the amphitheater which provide shade space for outdoor performances so both sun and rain protection."
District Administrator Doug Bartsch says Visalia Unified is growing by hundreds of students each year, all on the north side of the city.
Bartsch added, "Unlike many districts in the state whose enrollment has been in decline, Visalia Unified continues to increase in student enrollment."
Sam Sciacca also sold another large property in north Visalia to a home builder. He says he expects the school project and nearby construction of new homes, to continue to make the area a more desirable place to live. He also thinks it will raise home prices nearby.
"They're telling me it's a $16 million school so that tells me that this is going to be a very upper-end complex," said Sciacca. "I think slowly that news is going to get out and people are going to want to buy up here."
At the same time, Visalia Unified is also moving forward with a brand new middle school. Both the middle school and the elementary school are expected to open by August of 2016.