Face of Los Banos school district changing

By Corey Pride / Cpride@losbanosenterprise.comDecember 27, 2012 

Los Banos became home to Merced County's first independent Waldorf inspired public school in 2012 and parents can expect another traditional public school to open next year as educational opportunities expand in the city.

Green Valley Charter School celebrated its opening with 75 kindergarteners through third-graders, their parents, city officials and other dignitaries in August.

The school's model is based on the Waldorf education method, which emphasizes arts and crafts, music and embracing the environment.

Tisha Blackwood-Freitas, principal and CEO of the organization that oversees the school, said opening a Waldorf-inspired facility was monumental to the San Joaquin Valley.

"To be able to offer this curriculum to our community is a valuable addition. You can't get this anywhere else," she said the day classes started.

Los Banos Unified School District Superintendent Steve Teitjen welcomed Green Valley Charter School. The district rents space to the school at R.M. Miano Elementary School, but Green Valley Charter operates independently.

"We're excited to have a new option available for parents and children in our community," Tietjen said. "It was easy to support the main drivers of this charter because they brought a real option. It wasn't one of those charters that just wants to come and take money and put kids on independent study. It's a charter that's going to have students engaged in a real curriculum option in a real school."

The school will expand by a grade level each year until it serves kindergarten through eighth grade. Because of that, the school will need a new location in about three years.

Students keep the same teacher throughout their time at the school.

The school includes four teachers, two assistants and a handful of office staff and administrators.

The Los Banos Unified School District used 2012 to plan for its next elementary school. By March the Merced College Board of Trustees approved a $1 million sale of land at the Merced College Los Banos Campus's former location, 16570 S. Mercey Springs Road.

The new school scheduled to be placed on the land will house kindergarten through sixth grade and have about 450 students on-site. It will be named Mercey Springs Elementary School and is seen as vital in assisting with the district's overcrowding problem.

The district has a record 9,851 students and that number is expected to surpass 10,000 by the time Mercey Springs Elementary School opens in August.

Heading into 2013 the district is in talks with the California Department of Transportation about a traffic signal being placed on Mercey Springs Road before the school opens. Caltrans wants the district to pay for it.

The district plans on having students from the College Greens area attend the school, thus reducing traffic on Mercey Springs Road from parents taking their children to schools elsewhere in the city. A traffic light could cost the district $500,000 to $600,000 in a time when the school system is hurting financially. Alternatives such as grants and cheaper traffic control methods are slated for discussion in 2013.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Corey Pride can be reached at (209) 388-6563 or by email at cpride@losbanosenterprise.com.

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