Community calls for no closure of campus, while concerns are voiced over Spanish translations
PASO ROBLES — The fate of the Georgia Brown Elementary School Campus remains up in the air as the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees discussed an action plan for how to move forward with the campus on 36th Street.
On Monday, Aug. 7, the district held a special meeting to allow the community to voice opinions, questions, and concerns regarding the school’s future. A regularly scheduled meeting was set for Tuesday, Aug. 8, where trustees provided further direction to staff in moving forward with Georgia Brown’s future.
Thirty people were signed up to speak on Monday, all with the general consensus to not close the Georgia Brown campus. While the possibility of having to close the campus has been looming since 2021, the district has made it clear that the dual immersion program will not go away but could move to a different campus if needed.
In 2021, a 7-11 committee suggested closing the Georgia Brown campus due to the amount of funds it would take to repair the campus and declining enrollment in the district. Georgia Brown Elementary School is currently a magnet school utilizing a Spanish-English speaking program with a goal of students speaking both languages fluently by the time they complete grades K-5.
After months of discussion, trustees had finally made a decision to renovate the campus but for a smaller capacity. However, that plan was put on hold after an “anomalous feature” was found to exist directly under the campus.
There were some complaints on Tuesday’s public comment regarding the Spanish translation on Monday night. Some complained that there were many errors and fragments of statements omitted during the Spanish-to-English translation.
PRJUSD parent Stephanie Campverde requested better translation efforts for the Spanish-speaking community.
“A lot of the Spanish-speaking parents, my husband, are very nervous to speak up or to voice an opinion on something that they are afraid that later they can be possibly retaliated against or their children may be targeted,” she said. “That’s a fear that they have. Even though that’s not a true thing, its something they think about.”
In response to a later public comment, Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Erin Haley thanked the present translator for her services at the meeting.
In English and Spanish, Haley said, “It’s very important that you are here sharing your voice, and I just ask that we have grace because it is important to our interpreters as well that your voice is heard. We all have a lot of heart and soul in this.”
With less than two weeks until the new school year begins, parents and staff are concerned on whether or not their students will be returning to a safe Georgia Brown campus.
During discussion, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Brad Pawlowski and Superintendent Curt Dubost told trustees that the Division of the State Architect (DSA) is not willing to approve any modernization for the site.
“They are not going to approve any modernization or new construction plans at the site,” said Pawlowski.
While it was clarified that the DSA will not condemn the site, they also will not approve any construction that requires approval from the state.
Trustee Kenney Enney was shocked by this information, saying the DSA put it on the district to make the call on whether or not the campus is safe and essentially condemning the building anyway by declaring no approval for further modernization.
“If the site is not safe, the site is not safe,” said Enney, who later continued, “Either the building is structurally sound and it’s safe, or it’s not, and they need to say one way or the other. I don’t think it’s fair to tell the community you have to go back into the building.”
However, Dubost told trustees that he was told by DSA that “it is safe for current occupancy and that we need not evacuate it.”
After a lengthy discussion, Trustee Joel Peterson suggested some direction for staff which the rest of the trustees jumped on board for.
Peterson gave direction to staff to come back in two weeks with an action item for a capacity study for the district, a recommendation in writing from the DSA for what the district can and cannot do to the campus, and begin a study for where the dual immersion program can go should the Georgia Brown campus have to close. Trustees also asked for a parent survey asking where they would like their students to attend and for a health inspection to determine that no mold, viruses, etc exist on campus.
“This is not easy,” said Trustee Nathan Williams regarding the decision to be made on the Georgia Brown campus. “This is not easy for anybody … we have a long road ahead of us.”
Trustees are requiring staff to get in writing from the appropriate entities stating the campus is or is not safe for students and staff to return to. If the campus is deemed not safe, an emergency meeting will be held.
For more information on the Georgia Brown Elementary School campus, visit pasoschools.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=2846275&type=d&pREC_ID=2474372
The next PRJUSD meeting is scheduled for Aug. 22 at 6 p.m.