Cockroaches. Flea bites. Leaky classroom ceilings.
Parents at Georgia Brown Elementary School say these are the conditions their kids have dealt with for years at the worn-down site on 36th Street in Paso Robles.
A compromise reached in February would move these students to portable classrooms while a new campus is renovated. But some parents say their kids deserve a brand new school now—specifically, the 17th Street campus that Glen Speck Elementary School students, who currently use the portable classrooms, were promised.
- Photo Courtesy Of Courtney Perales
- LEAKY CEILINGS A Georgia Brown Elementary School teacher conducts class while trash cans collect water from the leaking roof.
Georgia Brown parents started a petition and got the issue agendized at the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District (PRJUSD) board of trustees March 22 meeting. Following multiple hours of board discussion and public comment over the fate of the two schools, the board voted to stick with the same decision they already made on Feb. 8: A complicated scenario where both schools will move campuses twice.
Glen Speck Elementary School will head to the new campus being built on 17th Street when construction is completed, getting them out of the temporary classrooms. Georgia Brown students will then move from their 36th Street campus, which is in dire need of renovations, to the temporary site.
The 36th Street site will be renovated into a smaller neighborhood school. Speck students will make their second move to that campus once it's complete—allowing Georgia Brown and its dual-immersion language program to make a second move to the 17th Street campus.
Parents garnered more than 300 signatures on their online petition to skip the temporary campus move and get Georgia Brown students straight to the 17th Street campus. Courtney Perales, parent of a Georgia Brown second grader, spearheaded the petition. She believes the temporary site doesn't have enough space to accommodate Georgia Brown's larger student population.
"Georgia Brown is the only dual immersion program in North County," Perales told New Times. "[Moving] us to this temporary site, they acknowledged that that will diminish our program and make it smaller."
But some board members felt that keeping Glen Speck at the temporary site would be unfair to those students, who have already spent years learning in portable classrooms.
"What would have happened if Georgia Brown had gone to the temporary site first?" Trustee Chris Bausch said during the March 22 meeting. "[It's] very possible it would have reduced almost as significantly as Glen Speck's population. So the argument that 'we have more students' is a very hollow argument to me."
Yessenia Echevarria, co-founder Paso People's Action, a community group that's organized for the past year around keeping both schools open, supported upholding the board's February compromise.
"Was I happy with the decision that they made [in February]? No. But I felt it was a compromise," Echevarria said. "Do I believe Georgia Brown deserves to stay at their original location with a brand new, amazing school? Absolutely. ... And I understand that making multiple moves is not an ideal situation, but there has to be compromise, or else you're showing favoritism to a school site."
But parents like Perales emphasized the poor conditions that Georgia Brown students have faced for years at their current 36th Street campus.
"We're talking about cockroaches in the classrooms," Perales said. "Just this year, my son had flea bites covering his legs as well as other students. The roofs are leaking, we're talking buckets and buckets of water during raining times. That makes me wonder, is there mold growing?"
Perales acknowledged the sacrifices that Glen Speck students have made by being at the temporary campus.
"But when the argument of equity is made, I just don't see it as equitable," Perales said of the board's decision. "Georgia Brown has made more sacrifices for longer. That's not to diminish what Glen Speck has done. ... In no way, shape, or form does Georgia Brown feel like this is Georgia Brown against Glen Speck, because we don't want that division. We just want what's best for all students."
Ultimately, the board wasn't swayed by the petitioners' pleas: The trustees voted 5-2 to uphold their February decision and allow Glen Speck students to leave the portable classrooms behind for good.
"Two moves was not in spite of anybody, or trying to favor anybody," trustee Nathan Williams said. "It was about equity. It was about trying to compromise. It was about trying to recognize the sacrifices that everybody has made. It's not easy." Δ