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Will FUSD's Newest Elementary Be Ready by 2021? Maybe Not.



Portrait of former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera
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The first day of classes at a new elementary school in southeast Fresno might have to be pushed back to August 2022 unless Fresno Unified School District soon advertises for bids on the $44 million project, a district administrator warns.

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Fresno Unified chief operating officer Karin Temple

The advertisements were put on hold after some trustees requested information about developing a project labor agreement for the construction of Juan Felipe Herrera Elementary School, chief operating officer Karin Temple told the board in a communication Friday.
Such an agreement would guarantee that the project would use union labor and give bargaining rights to all involved unions for setting wage rates and benefits. The district would need to negotiate the agreement before the project is put out to bid.
Proponents of PLAs say such agreements help ensure that projects finish on time, while opponents say they result in higher costs.

Timeline Scheduled August 2021 Opening

“This schedule is tight but achievable, if it stays on track.” Fresno Unified chief operating officer Karin Temple

According to the original timeline, the project was supposed to be advertised Sept. 11, with a bid opening Oct. 2 and project award Nov. 6, Temple said.
“The schedule plans for substantial project completion in late May 2021 to provide adequate time to furnish and stock the new school for a smooth August 2021 opening to staff and students,” Temple wrote. “This schedule is tight but achievable, if it stays on track.”

The project schedule was timed to take advantage of off-peak market conditions and allow the contractor sufficient time to order materials such as structural steel, she said.
If the advertisement is delayed by even four weeks from Sept. 11, the school’s opening would have to be pushed back to August 2022, and the project costs could grow because of rising costs in the construction industry, Temple warned.
The item is not on Wednesday’s School Board agenda.

Former U.S. Poet Laureate Is School’s Namesake

The school, named for former U.S. poet laureate and Fowler native Juan Felipe Herrera, will be built on a site now occupied by Phoenix Secondary Academy on East Church Avenue between Willow and Peach avenues. Phoenix Secondary is moving to a new site further east on Church Avenue at Orangewood Avenue.
The district plans for the school to have a science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) theme. District staff in charge of developing the school are scheduled this month to visit elementary schools identified by the California Department of Education as having effective STEAM programs.
The school is the only new elementary on Fresno Unified’s Measure X priority projects list.

Measure X is a $225 million ballot measure approved by voters in November 2016.

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email