Middle school in Southwest Fresno would be first

FRESNO, California

Friday district superintendent Michael Hansen presented a plan to create a first ever middle school in the area at Carver Academy off of Martin Luther King south of Church Street. This latest plan has controversy surrounding it.

The debate over a middle school in Southwest Fresno has been going on for 30 years now mostly because no one has agreed on where to put the school. This latest plan includes demolishing Carver Academy just down the street and expanding it. To do that the school board will buy out all the homes on the property or claim them through eminent domain.

A middle school education through Fresno Unified has never been possible in Southwest Fresno ... because the neighborhood has never been home to an F.U.S.D. middle school.

Most of these fifth and sixth grade students at Carver Academy will have to travel to Scandinavian Middle School near FYI airport or to Tioga in Northeast Fresno just like sixth grader Benny Benavides to continue their seventh and eighth grade education.

His mother Rachel Benavides said: "It's far. If he's late he has to catch a city bus."

Superintendent Michael Hansen said children are wasting valuable school time traveling.

Hansen: "And further disenfranchise them by busing them across town just absolutely feeds to the downward spiral they may be already feeling."

Friday morning Hansen presented a map that shows a new middle school built at what is presently Carver Academy. The design is conceptual but shows classes that will accommodate at least 700 students on 22-acres of land.

To accomplish this plan more than two dozen homes next to the school will have to be purchased and then demolished ... Bob Mitchell is concerned.

Mitchell: "That very same school could have been built across the street without disrupting the families using eminent domain."

Mitchell and the Golden Westside Planning Committee have been advocating a middle school for years but want to build it in this empty field across the street from Carver.

Hansen said this vacant property belongs to the West Fresno school district which is run by the state and an agreement could not be made on its use.

Hansen: "You can start to see why people didn't build a middle school because there were significant hurdles but this board has said forget the hurdles and figure out how to get over them."

Hansen hopes to have this middle school built by 2013. The plan goes to a vote on Wednesday. If it passes students currently attending Carver will eventually switch to other schools in the area. Mitchell and his group said they will be there to voice their concerns.

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