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Critics say CCSD middle school rezone would hurt teacher training

Updated January 16, 2020 - 8:46 pm

Another new Clark County School District zoning plan is drawing the ire of staff and parents who say it spells disaster for the district’s only teacher development school.

A meeting of the Attendance Zone Advisory Commission on Thursday included an update on a proposal to temporarily transplant Fremont Middle School students next year to a new school to be built at the former site of Bishop Gorman High School on Maryland Parkway. The former Fremont site on East St. Louis Avenue would be demolished and rebuilt as a K-8 magnet school set to reopen in 2022.

But the plan would phase out the sixth and seventh grades at Fremont while the school is in its temporary location, which teacher Shawn Kelly said would mean the displacement of two-thirds of the master teachers who train student teacher candidates from UNLV.

“Having an urban school working with student teacher candidates is beneficial to everyone,” Kelly said. “We’ve found that they are super-prepared, they stay on in the district for longer than average, and they work in urban schools.”

Sixth and seventh graders previously zoned to Fremont during the transition period would attend Martin Middle School or Knudson Middle School under two boundary proposals.

Kelly said that in addition to the potential hardship for families with siblings attending two different schools, he worries displaced teachers will not return to the new Fremont magnet school when it reopens.

The meeting turned tense at times as commission Chair Albert Delgado tried to redirect the angry crowd by telling them that the zoning commission had no input on the programming of the new school. But the assembly inside the packed Rancho High theater said that the zoning changes were inexorably linked to the programming.

Fremont was scheduled to be rebuilt in 2017 as a new elementary school, with middle school students bused to other schools. The plan was changed to allow for a K-8 magnet academy after drawing criticism from the community.

The new plan amounts to a betrayal of the commitments the district made then, Kelly said.

District officials say Fremont students will be temporarily located at the Bishop Gorman site in the 2021-22 and 2022-23 school years. While the new Fremont K-8 magnet school is projected to be complete in time for the 2022-23 school year, it would be used the first year as a temporary location for Thomas Elementary School students until their school is complete.

The swing system is the district’s alternative to relying on portables during new school construction, according to Rick Baldwin, who oversees zoning issues for the district. Baldwin added that the Bishop Gorman site doesn’t have the capacity to house Fremont’s full middle school cohort, requiring the phasing out of some grades.

The rezoning plans at Fremont are some of the most complicated changes the district has attempted, Baldwin said.

The rezoning would affect nearby schools, too. Knudson parents and students also attended the meeting in force to say that their school is already at 102 percent capacity. If the school must take in displaced Fremont students, they say they fear there will be fewer magnet seats and thus fewer opportunities for students to take part in programs not offered at other schools.

Amy Symes of the Knudson School Organizational Team pointed out that students on the north side of town already have fewer accessible magnet seats than those on the south side, and that any possible reduction in the availability of those seats would further inequities in the district.

District officials say discussions are ongoing about the best use of the former Bishop Gorman site for the 2023-24 school year and beyond. In Bond Oversight Committee documents, the site is billed as a $30 million Global Community Alternative School project.

At a Nov. 14 School Board meeting, officials discussed the possibility of having Global share the new space with a proposed workforce development program. But Global principal Elena Faubunan and Trustee Danielle Ford expressed concern that school administrators had not been adequately informed that they would need to share the new space with a workforce development program.

Thursday’s zoning meeting is the last of four such meetings held this week before a zoning commission meeting on Tuesday to decide on final recommendations to the board. More information on affected schools is available at azac.ccsd.net.

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Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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