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Posted by xaviervir on December 30, 2010

Article in today’s West County Times newspaper:

School district, city ramping up efforts to keep San Pablo school open

Posted: 12/29/2010 02:19:34 PM PST
Updated: 12/29/2010 05:52:14 PM PST

West Contra Costa district officials and San Pablo city staff are ramping up a joint effort to keep Lake Elementary School open, discussing a possible funding swap involving construction bond money and a San Pablo community center.

“The community really came together and really encouraged the city to fund the school,” said Charles Ramsey, the school board’s president. “It’s exciting. It shows a willingness to collaborate and work together. This is important for a lot of people.”

In response to after mounting pressure from parents and teachers, members of the two agencies met last week to discuss ways to keep the school open. Lake was one of eight schools chosen in 2009 by the school board for closure because of budget problems and declining enrollment in the district; it is slated to shut its doors at the end of this school year. Funding from San Pablo kept Lake open an additional two years.

School board member Antonio Medrano said an idea emerged at last week’s meeting between district and city staff members that would have the district pay to build a community center at Helms Middle School, a project previously slated to be funded by the city. In return, San Pablo would use the money set aside for the center to keep Lake open another year or two.

The district cannot use its bond money to fund Lake; the funds can only be used for construction projects. Medrano said recent bids for many of the district’s school reconstruction projects

have been lower than expected, creating a small surplus that may be available for Lake. However, he added that the district will not pull money away from other projects to come up with the $5 million Medrano estimated it would cost to build the community center.All those involved emphasized the talks between the district and city are still preliminary. District officials are checking on the legality of such a funding swap, Medrano said, and on how much funding might be available through the bond program.

For now, the school board is tabling next week’s scheduled decision on the reassignment of Lake students. The matter will be taken up at the next facilities subcommittee meeting. The San Pablo City Council also is set to discuss the partnership at its Jan. 10 meeting and direct staff whether to begin formal discussions with the district.

City officials share “the concerns the parents and students impacted by the closure have,” said Matt Rodriguez, San Pablo’s city manager. “It’s because of those concerns from residents that we want to work with the district on a long-term solution.”

He said more information about what’s possible will be available next month, after the city completes its midyear budget process.

Still, both sides are optimistic, with Medrano saying he is excited about the possibility, and San Pablo Mayor Genoveva Calloway calling the talks “promising.”

Lake parent Patricia Ponce was hopeful but cautious.

“It’s not a done deal yet, but at least it gives us a little bit of hope. I was amazed to hear that they’re even sitting down and considering doing something, because they were pretty adamant about telling us no, we’re sorry, there’s nothing we can do,” she said. “We don’t want to let our guard down. We’re going to keep protesting and pushing this forward. Hopefully, they can find a solution.”

Even if a deal is reached, what happens to Lake once this money runs out remains unclear.

“Hopefully the economy will improve,” Medrano said. “By that time, maybe we can put together some more money to keep it open.”




One Response to “LAKE SCHOOL”

  1. Shelby said

    The following are comments after the article. Start at bottom:

    Shelby Ruth Chapel R Marolna and Judy:
    Perhaps some of your concerns can be answered by my last comment you’ll find if you click on non-picture and go to it. Point:School fiscal problem will not be solved by closing schools. Problem is bloated salaries and benefits at top negotiated in more prosperous ‘bubble’ times.(search ‘public employees salaries’ CCTimes, click on WCCUSD). I’ve been on General Plan Advisory Committee for two years. Plan is to add hundreds more living units to San Pablo (against the wishes of the people) which will necessitate building more schools and increase taxes on us. Cheaper to hang on to what we’ve got. If Lake needs repairs, need to push for them. I’ve been trying to get capacity info (current and projected) from Board. They say do public records search. It’s on my list. Why won’t they just tell me? No doubt population projections re school capacities are required by the state. And no doubt it can be shown that it makes no sense to tear down schools when we’ll need more in a few years. And that will require more bond debt on us. RDA bonds (RDA can build schools) do not require notification to people. Only notice in legal section of local paper which no one reads.

    Matters are complex and interrelated with other city issues. I’m glad you are interested and concerned. Factor in: all Tax Increment Funds are taxes we pay that go into RDA,i.e. redevelopment, which is under control of city manager who does not live in San Pablo and does not pay taxes here. His lack of residence in the city is against local law. (See muni code on city site.) Nothing has been done for ‘blight’ in the neighborhoods as required by law. RDA money, under law, is supposed to go for creating jobs as well as development. In all the building that has been done (Abella, Giant Road, etc.) there has never been a stipulation for jobs for the people. That redevelopment money (TIF) is our tax money that used to go for schools and city services. It’s huge. Check city site for Budget, CAFR and RDA financial info. Better buckle up first.
    Last thought:I brought up these different issues as I see them all related to the school issue. And all issues are related to the systemic problem most cities have:Cities are dominated by city managers who do all hiring, (most not San Pablo people), city councils are made up of politicians who are very, very, very nice and don’t know squat about finance so always go along with manager, and voters are ill informed so they keep voting in the same people. And the result has been tens of millions out the door and nothing for the people but more tax and bond debt. It has to stop. Lake Elementary is the line in the sand.
    Come to city council meeting January 10th. Likely nothing will be decided, but probably good turnout.
    Take care, Shelby Email me if you have questions:

    Marolna Pettiford12:37 pm
    Lake school is not under populated. It has been neglected for years. It should have been rebuilt 10 years ago, but, it wasn’t a priority to the school district or the City of San Pablo. There are more than 400 students who attend Lake School. The class sizes are among the districts highest. LAKE SCHOOL SHOULD BE REBUILT. The facility itself looks like a third world school–poor plumbing, heating and cooling problems, scarce landscape, unpainted classrooms, an awful playground and field. Use the surplus money on rebuilding Lake School. It should have never been take off of the WCCUSD rebuilding list. And in a year or two, where will the district put 400 students?? The neighboring schools don’t have the capacity to accept more students, and the City of San Pablo can’t keep paying for the school district’s problem. Use the bond money correctly–rebuild Lake Elementary School!

    Judy PensoDec 29
    I don’t understand if the district school population is in decline, then why keep all the schools open? I don’t think it is proper to use bond money we are paying to rebuild schools, to build a community center for a city, and in turn have the city fund two more years at an under enrolled school. If there is a surplus, it should be refunded to the taxpayer. We just passed another bond a year ago. It is a bottomless pit with two parcel taxes and numerous bonds. The school board is not being fiscally prudent or respectful of the heavily tax burden each homeowner is paying. Sometimes schools need to close. The reality is the school population is in decline. The district should focus on necessary projects and pay more attention to teaching our kids.

    Shelby Ruth ChapelDec 29
    I have utmost confidence our politicians and hired professionals will come up with a solution to keep Lake Elementary open. And if they don’t we must, of course, explore our alternatives. Perhaps it should include the whole district… maybe the county. Many options are available.

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