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May 4, 2010 > Fremont school thrives in challenging times

Fremont school thrives in challenging times

Submitted By Emily Swanson

As budget woes hamper schools across the country, one Fremont school is working to make progress despite the challenges. More than 100 volunteers gathered to plant hundreds of flowers, shrubs and groundcover at Blacow Elementary on April 24 thanks to a $5,000 landscaping grant from Lowe's.

Blacow Elementary students came with their families and worked alongside teachers, high school students earning community service hours and Lowe's employees. Volunteers worked into the afternoon turning the hard-packed dirt and putting in drought-tolerant plants along the front of the school.

The $5,000 grant was awarded in January as part of Lowe's Toolbox for Education program, which gives grants of $2,000 to $5,000 to more than 1,000 public schools each school year.

Members of the Bobcat Boosters Club, the school's parent-teacher organization, worked for months to plan the landscaping design and to order plants with help from Lowe's employee Karen Perdue. They also coordinated with the Facilities and Grounds Department of the Fremont Unified School District, who removed unsightly juniper bushes and stumps, installed sprinkler systems and spread mulch in many areas where there was previously only dirt and exposed tree roots.

The improvements were undertaken in the hopes of providing a more pleasant learning environment for the students and staff, who are under pressure to once again raise test scores in increasingly challenging circumstances. Next year Blacow's teachers will be losing the remainder of their prep time while they also will be required to take on more responsibilities. They no longer will have music or PE teachers and the classroom teachers will instead be teaching these subjects.

Class sizes are possibly going to increase to 30 in kindergarten through third grade and they are already at 32 in fourth grade through sixth grade. If the current enrollment numbers remain unchanged, there will be a kindergarten-first grade split class and a third grade-fourth grade split class next year. Having a kindergarten-first split poses more challenges for the future of the school's Spanish immersion program, since the split class would most likely have to continue through sixth grade.

Although most schools are facing similar problems, this year Blacow Elementary has been fortunate. They received a one-time grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This money was given to Blacow because more than 40 percent of the students qualified for free or reduced lunch. The money was used to purchase SMART Boards for every classroom, two new servers and to replace the computers in the computer lab. The school was in great need of new servers and a new lab, since their old equipment was deteriorating and no longer was supported by the District.

Although the money was used to purchase things that will be there in years to come, budget woes make it uncertain when money for improvements will again be available. The Fremont School Board also has yet to make a final determination on what additional cuts will be made to balance the District's budget.

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