New school buildings, new principals, new reading labs, new sports facilities, more money for special education: There’s a whole lot of “new” for Fresno, Clovis, Central, Visalia and Madera students, parents and staff in the new school year.

That includes a new focus on school bus safety by area school districts and law enforcement agencies, which are reminding motorists not to pass buses when red lights are flashing. Drivers also should renew their focus on school zones and remember to slow down when kids are present.

Fresno Unified School District

  • Big changes are in store at McLane High School when the new school year starts Monday. The stadium has undergone a makeover and will have new synthetic turf, infrastructure, and utility upgrades, thanks to Measure X funds. There will be new baseball and softball fields, and with the restoration of adjacent practice fields and stadium work, all the fields will have new surfaces. Swimmers also have something to look forward to: The new pool will be ready in January.
  • Design Science Middle College High School has moved to classrooms on the Fresno City College main campus in the Business Education Building. Students will have easier access to college classes and services.
  • The district will spend an extra $11.4 million for expanded services and the equivalent of 110 new jobs in support of special education. Sean Virnig is Fresno Unified’s new special education executive director.
  • Site and security improvements at Bullard TALENT K-8 include a revamped drop-off/pickup area and parking areas, new fencing, and a relocated early learning play area.
  • Slater Elementary School has a new kindergarten building and two new classroom buildings. Previous improvements included a new campus entrance and play courts, and renovated fields.
  • The Early Learning Department has designated the space formerly known as PACE as a new year-round student parent early learning center at Roosevelt High School. The new center is part of the district’s efforts to help student parents become college and career ready graduates while their children are cared for in a nurturing environment.
  • The district is adding more than 50 new and revised Career Technical Education courses, including pharmacy technician careers at Duncan Polytechnical High School and social media marketing at J.E. Young Academic Center.
  • New principals: Robyn Scroggins at Addicott Elementary; Johnny Alvarado at Bullard High; Rachael Maciel at DeWolf High; Eric  Martinez at Duncan Polytechnical; Rosalinda Torres at Ewing Elementary; Abraham Olivares at Fort Miller Middle; Andrea Alvarez at Hidalgo Elementary; Jennifer Thomas at Jefferson Elementary.
  • This year’s theme: #Building Futures.

Clovis Unified School District

  • Construction is continuing on Janet Young Elementary School, which is expected to open in the 2020-21 school year. Kacey Gibson will be the principal.
  • Clovis Unified hosted a school bus traffic safety event Thursday in conjunction with the California Highway Patrol to illustrate traffic rules around buses and to highlight the “Red Means Stop” campaign. Because an increasing number of drivers are ignoring flashing red lights on buses, area school districts are teaming with local law enforcement agencies to raise awareness of the safety campaign.
  • New principals: Donelle Kellom, Clovis Elementary; Michael Olson, Fugman Elementary; David Castro, Gettysburg Elementary; Andrew Bolls, Jefferson Elementary; Pamela Hoffhous, Reagan Elementary; and Rees Warne, Sierra Outdoor School (SOS). Gateway’s new principal has not yet been named.
  • This year’s theme: Inspiring Excellence. The first day of school is Aug. 19.

Central Unified School District

  • Hanh Phan Tilley Elementary students will start the new school year on Wednesday in a brand-new school building funded by bonds from Measures B and C. Up to now, students have been taught in portable classrooms. One portable may be retained for use by the school’s wrestlers. The celebration of the new school will be somewhat bittersweet, however, since the school’s beloved principal, Karen Davis, died in May. Her replacement is Kristen Ginger, who formerly was the school’s instructional guidance counselor.
  • The district is expanding reading labs in all elementary and middle schools after a pilot program of reading labs at four elementary schools showed a marked improvement in reading scores.
  • Construction continues on the new high school, which is expected to open in August 2021. An advisory committee will make recommendations to trustees about the school’s name, mascot, and colors to the school board.
  • The district is launching Attention 2 Attendance, a campaign to reduce chronic absenteeism. The immediate goal is for a 97% attendance rate and to reduce chronic absences from 13.5% to 12.5%. Students who are chronically absent struggle to read proficiently by the third grade and are more likely to be high school dropouts.
  • ParentSquare is the new communication platform to increase parent engagement and give them more choice on how they receive regular and emergency messages.
  • This year’s theme: Building on the Best.

Madera Unified School District

  • The district is collaborating with Fresno State on a teacher preparation program that will give aspiring educators the opportunity to have hands-on experience in dual language immersion classrooms. The goal is to reverse the bilingual teacher shortage for the district’s growing dual language immersion program.
  •  A modernization project is underway at Madera High School’s Career Technical Education building. When it’s completed, the school will be able to provide new career pathways for auto repair and medium-heavy duty truck service and repair. The school already has a residential and commercial construction pathway.
  • A groundbreaking ceremony for the new Concurrent Enrollment Middle School will be on Aug. 15 — three days after the first day of school in the district. Meanwhile, construction is continuing on the new Matilda Torres High School.
Photo of the newest Visalia Unified campus, Denton Elementary Schoole

Visalia Unified’s newest campus is Denton Elementary School. (Visalia Unified School District)

Visalia Unified School District

  • Denton Elementary School will open its doors for the first time this school year, which starts Aug. 15. Denton, which is Visalia Unified’s 27th elementary school, includes extended learning spaces outside the classroom, flexible furniture options, and new technology to enhance teaching and learning. The district held a ribbon-cutting at the school on Aug. 5.
  • Construction continues on a new campus for Sequoia High School, the district’s longest-serving alternative school, and is scheduled for completion this fall. The new 7.5-acre campus will have 16,000 square feet of classroom space and a 23,000-square-foot multipurpose/library building, and it will accommodate 500 students. It is directly west of the current campus.
  • The district is opening Creekside Community Day School to accommodate students who face challenges in a comprehensive school setting. Creekside will serve students in grades 7-12 and will provide Visalia Unified’s regular core curriculum supplemented with psychological and social support services.
  • Also new this year is a program to assist students with disabilities who need specialized support systems. Compass Program is designed for students who have an individualized education plan.

Kerman Unified School District

  • Kerman High School has a new two-story administration and academic building. The first day of school for district schools is Wednesday.

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