MERCED -- The Los Banos Unified School District is working on a plan to expand its junior high school by 2013 to meet the needs of more than 1,500 students on a campus built for 900.
Superintendent Steve Tietjen said construction of a second seventh- to eighth-grade campus is at least five years away. He said that by the 2013-14 school year, the district needs to place modular buildings on land it owns north of Los Banos Junior High School.
The district plans to add six buildings (made off-site) to the campus to accommodate 150 students. The plan is expected to cost $1.5 million to $1.7 million. The new section will be used to educate students with discipline problems and those who have fallen behind in their studies.
Tietjen indicated that he is not worried about children being stigmatized if they are educated away from the main campus. He said that already occurs in school.
"Kids know who's succeeding and who's not," Tietjen said.
He said junior high schools face unique challenges not only because some children create disruptions in class but also because some students aren't ready to have two to six teachers. The 150 students the district plans to educate in the new buildings will include about 30 with discipline problems and 120 who are having academic trouble.
Deo Brasil, principal of the junior high, said the plan may prevent children from having to attend continuation school.
"We do the best we can. This will give us a place to have them and keep them. Hopefully, we can keep them and have them try to be more successful," Brasil said.
School board Trustee John Mueller said he believes the plan would assist the vast majority of the school's student body.
"The way I look at this, if you remove those children away from the mass, those kids have a better opportunity than being interrupted in the classroom by the kids that aren't paying attention, aren't doing the work, aren't trying to be driven," Mueller said.
Brasil said that as of last week, Los Banos Junior High had 1,497 students enrolled. The district wants to build a second junior high but is in need of funding and land.
The plan to expand the junior high school is being paid for through a loan. Tietjen said the district does not want to use developer fees for the project in case the state defers education money and the fees are needed to cover payroll.
When the district is able to build a second junior high, Tietjen said, the buildings added to the current one will continue to be used. He said the district could use the classrooms for an adult school or charter school, or move its independent study program from the rented space where it is housed.