Defenders hopeful board OKs plan to keep middle-schoolers at Fremont

A group of parents and community members has successfully lobbied the Clark County School District to develop a plan that would allow middle-school students to stay at the Fremont Professional Development Middle School, and are hopeful the board will approve it.

Instead of rebuilding the school for elementary grades and busing Fremont students to another school as originally planned, the new blueprint would transform Fremont into a K-8 school by 2022.

And rather than permanently displacing Fremont students, they would be temporarily moved to Roy Martin Middle and the previous Bishop Gorman High School site off Maryland Parkway in 2019.

The plan to keep middle-school students at the roughly 62-year-old school is part of a $4.1 billion, 10-year capital improvement plan that will build new schools and replace or expand existing ones. That plan includes building 17 new elementary schools and replacing or closing 19 other schools by 2022, among other plans, according to a district spokesperson.

Parents, faith group mobilized

Laura Lopez, a Fremont parent who fought to keep the school open, said the proposal was more than she had even expected. Lopez and other parents worked with the faith-based organization Nevadans for the Common Good to change Fremont’s fate.

Like other parents, Lopez worried about picking up her children from a school farther away from her home — particularly when she has five children to pick up at three different schools.

Meeting with district officials, parents and local churches voiced their concern over the closure.

“Their response was to not say this was a done deal, this was going to happen, but to talk to other parents, get very clear on how this would affect families,” said Courtney Dufford, an organizer for Nevadans for the Common Good.

Rev. Jason Adams of the nearby Reformation Lutheran Church, which has been a partner of the school for years, noted the importance of the school’s training partnership with UNLV. The program provides professional development to student teachers from the university.

“They’ve got a close-knit faculty because of the professional development partnership with UNLV, training teachers that — many of whom — like to stay in this community when they finish training,” Adams said.

Evidence of Fremont’s long history is strewn throughout the building. Inside the front office hangs a portrait of John Fremont himself, drawn by a former student who staff say graduated around 1955. Fremont also boasts prominent alumni, including former U.S. Rep. Shelley Berkley.

School shows its age

But the school also shows its age through in the need for maintenance and repairs. Among other issues, the school’s AC system is in need of repair, said Principal Ann Schiller.

The original plan called for Fremont students to be bused to Roy Martin, said Chief Academic Officer Mike Barton, but there was some miscommunication indicating they would be sent to J.D. Smith.

He said the district will still need to determine how to re-zone the area around Fremont — the school may not have enough middle-school seats for the entire population, and those closer to Roy Martin may need to be zoned there instead.

The School Board will need to approve the change for Fremont. No date for that vote has been scheduled.

The new Fremont school will house students before 2022 — students from both Thomas and Ira Earl Elementary will each stay in the school for a year in 2020 and 2021 as those schools are replaced.

The new plan also calls for a new Global Community School for newcomers at the old Bishop Gorman High School site.

Contact Amelia Pak-Harvey at apak-harvey@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4630. Follow @AmeliaPakHarvey on Twitter.

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