Fresno Unified prepares to open Vang Pao Elementary

FRESNO, Calif.

Among those waiting for the doors to open at Vang Pao Elementary at Heaton and Cedar, is the Hmong community, who until now has not had a school named after a Hmong leader.

As teachers move into their new classrooms at Vang Pao Elementary School every once in awhile they'll stop to soak in their new surroundings.

"I think having an actual name, Vang Pao, and what he stood for as far as education being the key to success, that's going to be new and something that's going to be resonating through the halls of this school," teacher Steven Lombardi said.

That's because many of them are coming from Southeast Elementary School, a campus suited to serve as a temporary location until this new school was built.

"I was originally with southeast and all of our children were bussed in every day and for them to truly have a neighborhood school is just wonderful," teacher Diana Coakley said. "it's like moving into a new house. It's got the new house smell and just high end technology."

Among the key features of the two-story 60-thousand square foot campus are four kindergarten classrooms with their own restrooms and a shared workroom for teachers, an outdoor and indoor stage with a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting and a washroom where students can practice good hygiene before they even reach the cafeteria.

But probably the most important feature of all is the school's name.

"Education was such an important aspect of his life and how he felt education was something he thought everyone should have," Vang Pao Elementary Principal Teresa Calderon said.

General Vang Pao was the beloved leader of the Hmong community who once led Hmong troops in support of the United States during the Vietnam War.

Now his legacy is a permanent part of the Southeast Fresno community and one children carry on.

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