–The Paso Robles Joint Unified School Board of Trustees met Saturday for three hours at the District Board Room to discuss Measure M building projects. The meeting was a study session and the board did not make any decisions or take official action on the expenditure of Measure M funds. The bond raised $95 million. About one-third of the finds have already been spent.
The meeting Saturday morning followed a walk-thru Friday at schools in the district including Virginia Peterson Elementary School, Winifred Pifer Elementary School, Daniel Lewis Middle School, Pat Butler Elementary School, Bauer Speck Elementary School, Georgia Brown Elementary School, and Kermit King Elementary School. Each walk-through visit was 30 minutes. They gave trustees, administrators, and interested citizens a quick look at issues facing each campus.
At the outset of Saturday’s meeting, a resident asked about plans to close Georgia Brown Elementary School. She said she realized no decision had been made, but the 7–11 committee had recommended the closure of the school. She wanted to know why $13,850,000 was allocated for repair work at Georgia Brown, but the committee’s decision was to close the school rather than fix it.
Trustee Chris Bausch answered her saying that bringing an older school up to code was often more expensive than razing the building and building a new edifice. Trustee Tim Gearhart said that construction advisors told the district that it would be cheaper to raze Bauer Speck and build new school buildings on the sites than to try to repair them and bring them up to building codes, which have changed a lot in twenty years.
The district’s chief business officer, Brad Pawlowski, said that during the Great Recession in the early 2000s, the state allowed districts to minimize spending “Routine Restricted Maintenance Funds.” This contributed to the problems at older schools as maintenance was sporadic, he said.
The board received a report from an Irvine-based education consultancy group, Cooperative Strategies, to develop scenarios and options or closing schools or redesigning the district. Company officials have worked with PRJUSD for over 20 years.
Pawlowski reviewed the original school board documents which created Measure M, and described the latitude of spending policies by the previous board. He said, “It’s important that the board follow that instruction, or the district will never pass another bond.”
Saturday morning’s discussion took about three and a half hours.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Trustee Nathan Williams asked for an agenda item to be added to the board’s next meeting to discuss the proposed aquatics complex and efforts by SwimPaso to move forward with plans.