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Clovis Unified to name new elementary school

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Clovis Unified to name new elementary school


A new school board in Clovis, California inherits major issues that could take years to resolve, including unionization efforts, teacher pay disputes. (Bee file photo)

Fresno Bee file

By March, Clovis Unified School District will name its newest elementary school based on community input.

So far, of nearly 300 people surveyed, most believe the school should be named after a local landmark or feature, such as a mountain or something related to agriculture. Many had mixed feelings about naming the school after a person.

Across the country and as close as Central Unified, school districts have changed school names because of a namesake’s views or actions.

“I have some strong feelings on how important it is to honor people who’ve done wonderful things for our school district with school names,” Trustee Steven Fogg said at a Jan. 18 meeting on the topic. “There’s also people who feel that naming schools after people — they’re imperfect.”

Along with the survey of families in the Clovis East area, CUSD will continue garnering input throughout February, district spokesperson Kelly Avants said.

Set to open in August 2024 to prevent overcrowding, the school will be the district’s 35th elementary school, located near Fowler and McKinley avenues in the southeast area of the city.

Clovis Unified School District is opening its 35th elementary school at Fowler and McKinley avenues in the southeast area of the city to prevent overcrowding. Pictured is a site drawing of the new school. Courtesy of Clovis Unified School District

Options for names: Person, place or thing

The parent/student committee formed to recommend school name options have been examining the family survey results and previous suggestions for school names.

Laura Reynolds, the new school’s principal, conducted the informal survey of Clovis East families, those from Boris, Reagan, Freedom, Miramonte, Temperance-Kutner, Fancher Creek and Young elementary schools.

From the survey, 52{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} of 273 people said the school should be named after a local feature; 22.4{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} chose a person of historical significance, either in the Central Valley or the nation; 13.2{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} prefer a person of “great character” that either works or previously worked in Clovis Unified; and 5.5{e4f787673fbda589a16c4acddca5ba6fa1cbf0bc0eb53f36e5f8309f6ee846cf} said an important historical moment.

If the school is named after a local feature, common themes include agriculture, foothills or mountains, blossoms, orchards or the rodeo.

Students at schools with similar names such as Mountain View Elementary and Valley Oak Elementary don’t know the significance of their school name, Fogg said.

“I still feel strongly that we should look at those who have served our community and consider their names though it may be safer to name it after an object,” he said in January.

If the school is named after a person, important characteristics to survey respondents included diversity, veterans, commitment to service in the Valley, honesty or integrity.

If the district were to name the school after an important historical event, survey takers said it should be something related to equality or be meaningful to diversity, shows patriotism, be historically important to CUSD or be related to independence or the revolution.

School names that have been suggested in the past, according to Clovis Unified, are:

  • Carol Putnam, a former principal and district-level administrator

  • Carlo Prandini, a former deputy superintendent

  • Earl and Muriel Smittcamp, longtime Clovis residents and district supporters

  • Einer Cook, a Clovis High graduate and founding board member

  • Gary Prentice, a former Clovis High counselor

  • Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play major league baseball

  • Wanda Rogers, a longtime Clovis resident and district supporter

  • Walt Buster, former superintendent

  • Ralph Lynn, a longtime board member who helped found the Foundation for Clovis Schools

  • Stan King, a former mayor

  • Dan Kaiser, a former deputy superintendent

  • Lloyd Harline, former principal

  • May Case, who established Clovis Independent in 1919 and was the oldest-working journalist who worked until her death at age 93

  • Peg Bos, the first female city council member and former Clovis mayor

  • Jerry Cook, of Cook Land Company, who is still active in the community

Using that information as well as feedback the district continues to gather, the committee will recommend either a person, place or theme, which is outlined in board policy.

What’s next?

The board is expected to vote on the school name at its March 1 meeting as well as the school attendance boundary at its Feb. 15 meeting, the board agenda details. Avants on Friday said the board decided during a subcommittee meeting to name the school in March.

Parents can still access information on the new school, including the boundary study, school location, school site drawings, frequently asked questions and a form to submit feedback online.

A study of school enrollment showed that elementary schools will be overcrowded with over 1,000 students at the Clovis East area elementary schools within 10 years.

Most of the Clovis East area schools’ capacity are at either 750 or 800 students.

The study examined student enrollment for the last 15 years, including student transfers to the district, and accounted for the number of students who’d most likely transfer to Clovis Unified over the next decade.

After the school naming, the principal will lead the effort to pick school mascot and colors.

The Education Lab is a local journalism initiative that highlights education issues critical to the advancement of the San Joaquin Valley. It is funded by donors. Learn about The Bee’s Education Lab at its website.

This story was originally published February 3, 2023 5:30 AM.

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Lasherica Thornton is the Engagement Reporter for The Fresno Bee’s Education Lab in Fresno. She was previously the Education Reporter at The Jackson Sun, a Gannett and USA Today Network paper in Jackson, TN for more than three years.

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