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Georgia Brown Elementary to stay open 

Georgia Brown Elementary School's future is now narrowed to two potential scenarios, both of which allow the Paso Robles school to remain open. But whether its dual-immersion program will remain at Georgia Brown is uncertain.

On Jan. 11, the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District board directed district staff to narrow the options to either rebuilding the Georgia Brown site to accommodate current enrollment, or moving the dual immersion program to Glen Speck Elementary School and rebuilding Georgia Brown as a smaller neighborhood school.

Previously, "there was one proposal to save money by closing [the Georgia Brown] site, and disposing of the property," Superintendent Curt Dubost told New Times on Jan. 19. "That's no longer under consideration."

click to enlarge UNCERTAIN FUTURE District staff will come back with its final recommendation for the future of the Georgia Brown school site and its dual immersion program by February. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF YESSENIA ECHEVARRIA
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Yessenia Echevarria
  • UNCERTAIN FUTURE District staff will come back with its final recommendation for the future of the Georgia Brown school site and its dual immersion program by February.

District Chief Business Officer Brad Pawlowski said at the Jan. 11 board meeting that the original budget set for much-needed Georgia Brown renovations was about $13 million in Measure M funds.

"The amount of renovations that are really needed for that site with the current capacity are going to exceed that budget," Pawlowski said. "So that's part of this reason why we've had some conversations around changing capacity or even eliminating the site."

But, Pawlowski continued, the district now expects to receive additional funding for its LCAP (local control and accountability plan) due to an increase in students who are English learners, foster youth or homeless, or socioeconomically disadvantaged.

"We can see an additional ongoing revenue of about $1.5 to $1.7 million," Pawlowski said. "That would be ongoing if that number stays there, and again, targeted for students that fit those three areas."

With this in mind, Pawlowski said the staff recommendation is to move the dual immersion program to the Glen Speck campus, which was designed to hold more students.

"What it would also do is, when we realign the boundaries, we would be able to create a smaller neighborhood school enrollment for the Georgia Brown campus," Pawlowski said. "What that would do is allow us to maximize our capital dollars with Measure M, and have a smaller modernization [of Georgia Brown]."

Pawlowski said early estimates would put the modernization cost at just under $13 million. With these renovations, Georgia Brown would be able to accommodate about 400, compared to its current population of about 600.

While public comment was limited—only two parents wrote in—there was support for this option.

"I feel that the Georgia Brown dual immersion program should be moved to the Speck campus currently being constructed on Vine Street, and the old Georgia Brown campus should be rebuilt as a small neighborhood school for Speck to inhabit," parent Jessica Ralls said in her written comment. "The west side of town should not be left without a school."

But board member Chris Bausch didn't agree with the staff recommendation. He supports rebuilding Georgia Brown to accommodate its current enrollment capacity and keeping the dual immersion program there.

"The staff and students of Glen Speck have been in a temporary campus for three years. If we move [the] dual immersion program to Speck, those staff and students will stay in a temporary campus for another two to three years," Bausch told New Times. "That's not fair to them."

Bausch suggested taking the $30 million in remaining Measure M funds, committing $5 million of it to the long-discussed aquatic center, and the other $25 million to rebuilding Georgia Brown.

"We keep the neighborhood school, we keep the dual immersion program right where it's at, and we remove these old buildings that I don't think are safe for children anymore," Bausch said.

Having narrowed down to two options, the board directed staff to come back with more information about the costs and other logistics associated with each.

"We're still in line with our timeline to provide a final recommendation to the board in February with implementation into the next school year," Pawlowski said.

But until that final decision is made, Paso People's Action co-founder Yessenia Echevarria said she doesn't necessarily see the recent developments as good news. Paso People's Action has consistently advocated for keeping Georgia Brown open.

"To me it's like, OK, now you're considering, but at the same time, Measure M bond money was [passed] for the renovation of that school," Echevarria said. "If they want to gain trust from the community, they need to do right by the community and listen to the community. That decision hasn't been made yet, so we're still on standby. There's nothing to get excited about just yet." Δ

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