City of Visalia, VUSD discuss joint initiatives

Wide view of the Visalia Unified School District office - Photo by Rigo Moran

In a recent special public meeting, the VUSD board and COV council convene to report on their current joint projects, which they hope will help both students and members of the community

VISALIA – The city of Visalia recently held a joint meeting with the Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) to touch base and discuss the programs they have worked to implement together as well as plans for the future, including their long-range facilities master plan.

On Oct. 24, everything from active shooter training to a potential aquatic center was discussed between members of VUSD’s board as well as the city’s council members. While the goal of the meeting was to report on their current joint programs, and discuss the incoming masterplan, various other topics were covered.

During the public comments period, Greg Collins, a former public sector planner for Tulare County, shared his belief that an aquatic center would be the perfect joint project from the city and school district and would greatly benefit the community.

“We don’t have a lot of year round programs anymore,” he said. “Visalia used to be very active in terms of year round aquatics, (which) has produced olympians and all americans.”

VUSD board member Casebeer Soleno echoed Collins’ sentiments later on in the meeting, stating that she had taken it upon herself to advocate for the implementation of an aquatic center after conversing with Collins a few weeks back.

“Our high school pools are good, but you can’t access those if you’re just a member of the public,” she said. “If you grew up here and you are a water polo player or swimmer, the minute you graduate high school, you’re dealing with pools that are at most five feet deep, and you have to belong to a gym to access them.”

Casebeer Soleno went on to highlight the abundance of private pools in the area, and alluded to the necessity of teaching kids to swim by pointing out that “the nearest swim schools that are recommended to us are in Lemoore.” Board member Naylor noted that the city does offer swimming lessons in the summer.

As of publication, there are no set plans for the creation of an aquatic center; however, according to Erik Kehrer, VUSD’s chief operations officer, the long range facility master plan “will absolutely include an aquatic center, not just a pool.”

In a statement made to The Sun-Gazette, Cristina Gutierez, VUSD’s public information officer, specified that the district is “currently working on a long-range facilities master plan, and are constantly evaluating the needs of the community and students to design facilities that will have multiple uses.”

While the master plan won’t be properly discussed until December, the board and council did discuss various other projects they have worked on together, with hopes of expanding upon many of them as their relationship continues.

One such project is the Expanded Learning Opportunities Program (ELOP), which is a state initiative that aims to increase afterschool enrichment by focusing on developing the academic, social, emotional and physical needs and interests of pupils through hands-on, engaging learning experiences.

VUSD has over 6,000 students in the program, who are granted access to activities such as the district’s summer aquatics program, which has been supported by the city for the past several years.

“We are looking to collaborate with the city to continue that program,” Kehrer said. “We know that the earlier we get those kids involved in athletics, the more connected they are to school.”

VUSD also recently worked with the Visalia police and fire departments to give select staff ALICE active shooter training so they can instruct other staff and students. According to Gutierez, this training “allows our district and our local law enforcement to be connected in safety to one another’s protocol.

“Students will soon be receiving ALICE active shooter training in the form of age-specific lesson plans that were co-designed with ALICE and safety experts,” she stated. “While parents have a choice to opt their student out of the training, it is important that students receive the training and know what to do in the event of an active shooter.”

Many other projects and accomplishments were mentioned during the meeting, such as VUSD working together with the College of the Sequoias (COS) to create more trade opportunities for students. This relationship makes use of a $400,000 grant which was awarded to VUSD in June, which allows high school students access to college level courses by furthering their teacher’s education.

Members of the community who are interested in learning more about any of these topics, be it district or city specific, can do so by visiting or to find the agendas for past and future public meetings.

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