Chawanakee Unified focuses on the future

Jared Pierce
Jared Pierce

With work underway on new facilities including a brand new elementary school, as well as expanded classes and extracurricular programs, Chawanakee Unified School District (CUSD) is approaching the new school year with an eye towards the future.

From new curriculum to new faculty and buildings, there’s a lot in store for the growing foothills school district that promises top tier education and athletics.

Hillside Elementary School

Last week, Chawanakee officials made it official. The district’s new campus, part of an expansive urban development near Highway 41 and Avenue 12, will have its principal for a planned opening in August 2018.

Jared Pierce, currently principal at Coarsegold Elementary, will take over as head administrator of Hillside Elementary School, a K-8 school near the Tesoro Viejo development. Tesoro Viejo is a 5,100-home master planned community about the size of Clovis.

Minarets High School

Daniel Ching, principal of Minarets High, said it was exciting that all teaching and classified staff are returning this school year.

He said outside of what can be expected from such a consistent, high-quality group, students and parents can expect a host of new facilities and programs.

First up? The construction of the high school’s $11.2 million football stadium, as well as new weight rooms and team facilities that will further help rally the spirit of the Mustangs.

“We will also be expanding our new ag farm with the building of an additional livestock barn,” Ching said.

On the classroom side, Ching said more dual enrollment classes - where students receive both high school and college credit - are being added. To go along with that, a full live broadcasting studio will have students gain skills in the media while covering local news, school updates, and events, and there will be expansions in information technology classes so students can learn about computer programming and developing websites.

“We will also be offering opportunities for students to receive professional training in fire science and first responder courses,” Ching said, “so that they can be eligible for employment in the field of emergency services.”

Ching added 2017-18 was shaping up to be an excellent year for the Mustangs.

“In our 10th year as a school and my fourth year as principal, I have never been more excited to welcome back our students,” Ching said. “The dedication of the Minarets students, staff, and community have generated so much positive momentum for student learning that this could be our very best year.”

North Fork Elementary School

At North Fork Elementary, principal Gayle Fain said expansions are underway to the school’s art and after school programs.

An art teacher will be at the school two days a week, with an Art Club after school, Fain said. In addition, 8th graders will travel to Minarets High School three days a week for enrichment classes and after school programs.

“We’re looking forward to another successful year,” Fain said, adding the school’s garden continues to grow under leadership from Kern Family Farms. “We are excited and looking forward to seeing everyone Aug. 17.”

Among the new teachers are Melissa McPherson, a four-year teacher, and Kelly Mohler, who’s lived in the Mountain Area for more than 30 years.

“I am very blessed and excited to be part of the North Fork family,” McPherson said.

“I enjoy going on adventures with my wonderful family, and I’m a huge Disney fan,” Mohler said. “You may also find me in my garden nursing my plants and enjoying the fruits of my labor. I am very much looking forward to the upcoming school year to watch my students learn and grow, like my garden.”

Chawanakee Unified School District’s school board is comprised of Barbara Bigelow, president, Claudia Box, vice president, Seth Waltner, clerk, and James McDougald and Jessie Hutchens, trustees.

The district’s schools include: North Fork Elementary, Spring Valley Elementary, Minarets High, Minarets Charter High, Mountain Oaks High, Manzanita Community Day, Chawanakee Academy Charter, and the upcoming Hillside Elementary.