Visalia’s newest elementary school opens

A sea of green, the school’s official color, washed over the new Denton Elementary School on August 5 during its campus ribbon cutting.

“Building a school is a very complex and intricate project,” said interim Visalia Unified School District (VUSD) Superintendent Tamara Ravalin as she addressed the crowd. “The completion of Denton Elementary demonstrates a long-term commitment to our community.”

Every classroom is fitted with three 70-inch instructional monitors for these “next generation” rooms. Elementary schools since Shannon Ranch, including Riverway and now Denton, have flexible furniture, and a sleeker polished concrete design.

“I think this school has been a long time coming,” said Kari Vagt, a Transitional Kindergarten teacher at Denton starting her 24th year. She was impressed with the efficiency of Denton Principal Stephanie Gendron. “Stephanie has been on top of everything. From the moment I found out I was hired on, she’s been inclusive.”

To Vagt and seemingly all the staff at Denton, neurodiversity and inclusion are common themes of importance.

“We will focus on individual growth. We will teach students that mistakes are opportunities to grow. Family involvement is vital,” said Gendron in her opening speech.

Principal Gendron is not new to the position, having spent her previous 12 years at Hurley Elementary.

“I’m still pinching myself as I walk through the hallways,” she said. Gendron had a hands-on approach to designing the administrative structure. “For us, inclusion means we are bringing students with varying strengths together.”

She noted she felt very honored that a wide array of teachers with various skills and abilities would place their faith in her as a principal.

Parent Ralph Gutierrez has a child going into first grade at Denton.

“We were at Hurley and we had the same principal and we were excited that she would be here and have a hand with this school,” said Gutierrez.

Denton has 17 General Education teachers and 15 Special Education staff who will help with mainstreaming kids with special needs.

The campus is also carrying over a design first implemented at Shannon Ranch and later at Riverway. Denton is expanding upon the collaborative space. Each building has a space for students from all classes in the grade to work together on projects and assignments.

This new school will be able to host 750 students in 28 classrooms on 13 acres, said VUSD Director of Facilities Gerry Lemus. He was responsible for completing the campus on time with all “next-generation” improvements.

The first day of school for Visalia Unified was Thursday, August 15

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