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Georgia Brown to stay open, eventually switch campuses with Glen Speck 

After more than a year of uncertainty over the future of two Paso Robles elementary schools, a narrow vote finally set the fate of more than 1,000 students.

click to enlarge WIN FOR WHO? For Paso People's Action organizers, the decision not to close Georgia Brown was a big victory. But they see other parts of the board's decisions as unfair to Glen Speck. - FILE PHOTO COURTESY OF YESSENIA ECHEVARRIA
  • File Photo Courtesy Of Yessenia Echevarria
  • WIN FOR WHO? For Paso People's Action organizers, the decision not to close Georgia Brown was a big victory. But they see other parts of the board's decisions as unfair to Glen Speck.

Paso Robles Joint Unified School District's Board of Trustees voted 4-3 on Feb. 8 to move Glen Speck Elementary School to the new campus being built on 17th Street when construction is completed (estimated to be later this year) in order to get Speck students and teachers out of their temporary location as soon as possible.

The board also decided to keep the 36th Street school, what is now Georgia Brown Elementary School, and renovate it into a smaller neighborhood school—which community activists call a big win and district staff estimate will save some money.

"Our mission was to save the Georgia Brown school location, and we won that last night," said Yessenia Echevarria, founder of Paso People's Action, who has organized to keep the school open for the last 13 months.

But, in an attempt to find compromise among a divided board and community, the trustees also decided that Speck will move yet again. The school's final destination will be the 36th Street campus once it's completed in about two years, when Georgia Brown will move into the new 17th Street campus.

The board members who supported this compromise argued that it's a more efficient use of space, since Speck is projected to have a smaller enrollment than Georgia Brown in the coming years. The new 36th Street campus will have a capacity of 400 students, and the 17th Street campus will accommodate 630.

Some in the community see this as a slap in the face to Speck staff and students, who feel that they were promised the 17th Street campus in Measure M—not just for two years, but forever. They would have preferred for the 36th Street campus to receive a remodel to accommodate all of Georgia Brown's students, so that Speck could stay at the 17th Street campus. This scenario would have cost $26 million total, $2 million more than the option the board ultimately went with.

"The language of Measure M was not honored [for Glen Speck] and I have a huge problem with that," Echevarria said.

This was a sticking point for Trustee Chris Bausch, who voted no against the complicated plan to have Speck move twice in the next few years rather than giving the school the 17th Street campus for perpetuity, as was originally planned.

"The staff and students of Glen Speck have been in a temporary campus for three years. ... They were supposed to have been there one year, do the reconstruction at Glen Speck, and then move those students back," Bausch told New Times in a January interview.

When he cast his vote at the Feb. 8 meeting, Bausch added, "Just because of the horrible optics this tells our poor families at Glen Speck, absolutely not."

Other board members like Nathan Williams, who ultimately voted in support of the motion, said it was a hard decision with no perfect solution.

"There is not one site less deserving than the other. There is not one group of teachers, one group of staff, one group of students, less deserving than the other," Williams said. "As representatives up here, it's our job to not just put our feelings out there but to hear others and to represent those."

Echevarria with Paso People's Action emphasized that the decision to keep all six of the city's elementary schools open is a huge win, since not too long ago the board was considering closing Georgia Brown altogether. But with Speck receiving what many see as the short end of the stick, she wonders how the district will make it up to them.

"We're dealing again with this pattern of broken promises," Echevarria said. "So who picks up the glass?" Δ

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