FUSD delays opening of new southwest middle school

FRESNO, Calif.

The new Rutherford B. Gaston middle school, located on MLK Jr. and Burns, will now open in spring 2014; 6 months later than originally planned.

That means nearly 600 students will continue to be transported from their Southwest neighborhoods to schools in other parts of the city.

"The kids don't want to go to West Fresno," said parent Elisdiee Calderon.

Calderon was planning to send her daughter, Anahi Ortiz, to Gaston Middle School when it opened its doors.

"I can just walk my daughter to school," she said.

Right now, she said, her daughter is riding the bus to other schools along with nearly 600 others.

"There's so many kids that we have, especially in this complex, and its like kids are getting hurt, pushed around. It's too much."

Those plans are now on hold because the district said it had to push back construction another six months.

"We're correcting 34 years of injustice in this community," said Asst. Superintendent of Operational Services, Karin Temple. "Southwest Fresno has been without a neighborhood middle school since 1978. We're very proud to bring this middle school to them; however the construction process can be very unpredictable."

The reason, she said, is because dozens of homes, a church and a convenience store were located on the property.

"We're working on a site that had 43 developed parcels," she said. That's in addition to a ponding basin that had to be moved to another area nearby.

Temple said it took longer than expected to relocate all of the families to suitable replacement housing.

"We actually work with each family individually," she said. "In fact we have a firm with us with translators that speak Hmong and Spanish so we make sure we're very careful and respectful the way we go through this process."

Gaston Middle school will now open in spring 2014. That means students like Anahi Ortiz will have to be transported to another campus for an additional semester or until the new campus is complete.

"I would like to walk to school," she said.

A community meeting will be held July 30th to give families an opportunity to ask questions about the project and allow Fresno Unified a chance to update them on construction. In the meantime, the Fresno Fire Dept. is looking into using the old George Washington Carver Academy as a training facility before its buildings are demolished next week.

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