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Community hears details on possible school closure in Paso Robles

Paso Robles school district names interim superintendent
Posted at 12:48 PM, Nov 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-11 15:48:50-05

On Wednesday night, the Paso Robles community met to learn about a possible school closure in the area.

At the meeting, some teachers and parents expressed concerns about the possible closure of Georgia Brown Elementary School but school officials say it could be necessary.

The Paso Robles Joint Unified School District is experiencing declining enrollment, and school officials are looking at options to operate the district more efficiently.

One of those options involves changing school boundaries. Another is the potential closure of Georgia Brown Elementary.

At the community meeting on Wednesday evening, the potential options were shown to community members. Those in attendance then broke off into groups to compile feedback to be given to the school board for consideration.

Some community members are concerned about the dual immersion program being eliminated with Georgia Brown's closure. It is a 50/50 Spanish-English speaking program with a goal of students speaking both languages fluently by the time they complete grades K-5.

"It's not closing or eliminating the dual immersion program that's located at Georgia Brown, it's just closing the physical site and re-locating the dual-immersion program to another campus," said Brad Pawlowski, Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Assistant Superintendent of Business Services.

The potential for movement of students within the district has some teachers feeling concerned.

Teacher Kristin Usilton says many parents at Glen Speck Elementary are upset and feel their children are being neglected because they have been moved from site to site.

The potential school closure due to declining enrollment and lack of funds also has teachers examining the school's finances closely.

"Neither of them answer the question as to why was Measure M handled in the way that it was," said Usilton, Glen Speck Elementary ELD Intervention Teacher.

Measure M is a general obligation bond, approved by voters in November 2016, that was valued at $95 million.

It is an additional tax that homeowners within the attendance boundary have taken on, paying extra on their yearly property tax bill. That revenue goes to the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District to be used for capital facility improvements.

In early 2017, the board approved budgets for each school site within the district at that time. There was spending at every single school site that varied by need.

"There was a $95 million bond that they told the community would be used to remodel the entire Glen Speck site and the Georgia Brown site and then eventually the pool, in that order," Usilton said.

The Marie Bauer Elementary School project is complete, and the Glen Speck project is under construction. The Georgia Brown project has not yet moved forward.

"The funds have been mishandled so badly that they only have, from what they said last night at the board meeting, at the end of 2022, there's only going to be $5 million of that bond money left," Usilton said.

She says, including the unsold bonds, there is more than $30 million, but that's not enough money to complete the work that needs to be done at Georgia Brown Elementary.

Pawlowski says the money originally allocated to renovate Georgia Brown Elementary in 2017 was never enough to accommodate the full renovation that was needed based on the current enrollment.

"Measure M is sold in multiple series, so we've sold series A and series B. That's valued at $70 million," Pawlowski said.

He says they still have unsold bonds valued at $25 million.

"So of the money that we have sold, there's still a remaining $5 million that is unspent. So when you put the $5 million and the $25 million together, you get $30 million left over," Pawlowski said - not enough to fix up Georgia Brown Elementary School.

Pawlowski says they still have the Georgia Brown renovation funds and have not spent the money on anything else, but it may be reallocated to other projects.

"We would make a decision to reallocate once the board decides on attendance boundaries and a potential school closure," Pawlowski said.

A decision was not made Wednesday evening.