By Jackie Ward

FREMONT (KPIX) — Fremont is moving away from the junior high model, and instead, creating middle schools.

The district is starting with what was once Walters Junior High. It’s the first of five middle schools that will be created within the Fremont Unified School District.

Until school opens on Wednesday, August 28th, construction crews will be using every possible minute to put on the finishing touches on the school. Fremont Unified School District Superintendent Kim Wallace says she can’t wait until the first day the students are here.

“It’s one thing when you’re doing the infrastructure and all of the wiring, and it’s another when you see the big, beautiful buildings and happy kids going to school,” Wallace told KPIX 5.

In 2014, Measure E was passed, which gave the district $650 million to upgrade schools to deal with population growth and modernization. At Walters, crews are converting some old buildings, while adding some new ones, all at a cost of about $50 million.

“It’s nice to see, to finally get like in the 21st century,” said Walters Middle School Principal Brian Weems.

Fremont is in a unique position; the district is increasing enrollment, while it is surrounded by declining districts.

“Certainly we have to find classrooms to put students in,” Wallace told KPIX 5. “But we would much rather be in a place where kids are coming to Fremont and wanting to be in our schools.”

As part of that shuffle, Fremont is creating a middle school model (grades 6-8) and moving away from the junior high model (grades 7 and 8). This means Fremont will finally match what the rest of the state is doing.

“Well, it gives them more space certainly, so that we don’t have to overload students to other schools, which is a great thing. People can go to their neighborhood schools,” the superintendent said.

After a decade as principal at Walters, Weems says, this school year will bring new challenges with it.

“Two-thirds of my student body are going to be new,” he said. “So it’s going to be 6th and 7th grade brand new, 8th grade is going to be the old guard. They’re going to be social and academic leaders for these new students.”

The next obstacle for the district will be monitoring demographic trends to make sure they project the right amount of space for their students, and that they’re not overbuilding or under-building.

“(It) just depends on who actually ends up moving into those spaces.,” Wallace said. “Are they people with kids? Are they not people with kids? And so that’s the big question for us.”

Over the next few years, Fremont will create four more middle schools and about 8,000 housing units. Next up is Horner Junior High. That school will have to be rebuilt entirely, because the district determined that it would save them money to start from scratch, rather than modernizing old buildings.

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