New Visalia school means boundary changes for some neighborhoods

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- A brand-new middle school being built in the South Valley is creating some controversy with parents. The new school means Visalia Unified School District is changing school boundaries for certain neighborhoods.

Margarita Reyes' children have an easy walk to school. Living right across the street from the brand-new Shannon Ranch Elementary School, Reyes moved to this neighborhood and built her house here specifically to be a part of the new development. Reyes said, "It's really good for us. It's a good school and that's what we wanted for our children to attend new schools."

Shannon Ranch Elementary School families have the most at stake in the boundary change. The district is in the process of constructing a brand-new middle school on Akers and Riggin streets on the northwest side of town. Now, administrators are looking at which school should feed into it.

Visalia Unified Superintendent Craig Wheaton said, "It's been a variety of different kind of opinions. Of course, I think everyone given a brand-new school wants to go to the new school, so a lot of people have expressed a desire to go to the new school."

Some school officials would like to keep the new middle school small at first to accommodate for future growth. New housing developments are planned and zoned nearby. The new middle school is expected to alleviate the overcrowding at Green Acres Middle School, which currently serves the northwest side of town. One proposal the district is considering includes dividing the new middle school boundary along Demaree Street, which would leave Reyes and the rest of the Shannon Ranch residents going to Green Acres Middle School.

Reyes is upset. She invested in Shannon Ranch just so her children could attend the new middle school. Reyes said, "I think it's wrong. It affects me personally, and I'm sure a lot of the families that live here at Shannon Ranch who were promised these new schools for our children to attend and right now it's up in the air."

Superintendent Wheaton said, "People do express their concerns and their interests very assertively, and I think our board is ready to listen to everyone."

The school board is expected to vote on a final boundary change for the new middle school by the end of May. The new middle school is expected to open in August of 2016.

The public study session on the issue will be held on Tuesday, April 7, at 6 p.m. at the El Diamante High School theater.

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