Visalia educators hope to build a new school

VISALIA, Calif.

These kindergarten students are some of the 875 elementary children who attend Manuel F. Hernandez School in Northwest Visalia. The school is only two years old and was built to alleviate overcrowding at other Northwest Elementary Schools. But now, Manuel F Hernandez is finding it, too, is over capacity and enrollment continues to rise.

Principal Cheri Laverne says just four months ago enrollment was at about 750 students. "Today we're at 875 so we continue to grow we've added more teachers classroom sizes are larger and definitely need more space."

Craig Wheaton, VUSD Superintendent: "Even with the new school that opened two years ago it's about 200 students over capacity and Oak Grove School is a couple hundred students over capacity so right now if we built a new school we could probably put 400 students into it."

Visalia Unified administrators are hoping to build a brand new elementary school near the Shannon Ranch development to accommodate all the new families. The district has already purchased the property and drawn up plans.

Over the last six years, enrollment for elementary school students in Northwest Visalia has risen by more than 1,000 students. Projections for 2012 show that at minimum the district would have to make room for 2,400 students, though administrators believe the number will be well past 2,500.

"At our site out of the 875 students we have about 15 kids that ride a bus the rest are within walking distance," said Laverne.

Parent Rebecca Orchard said, "I think it's partly because this is one of the highest areas of new development and so a lot of people are moving into this part of town."

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