Last month I was very upset that the 7-11 commission recommended Georgia Brown close the school for budgetary reasons. I understand the school is falling apart. It is my understanding that a complete overhaul is needed, which the 7-11 commission says would require $13.85 million. The $1.5 million that Georgia Brown currently has at her disposal will likely not be enough to complete the repairs. However, I hope that the committee will really look at the overall situation of the area around this campus and how important it is for us to have a school in this area.
Georgia Brown’s dual immersion program produces unique students who think differently and learn differently. You have to juggle two different languages, which improves cognitive skills, which in turn improve problem-solving abilities. In kindergarten, 50% of the children come exclusively from Spanish-speaking families and the other 50% from English-speaking families, so they have to express themselves differently to communicate. This allows them to use the language in the real world, and there is something to be said for what Georgia Brown has created in her last three years as valedictorian at the PRRO.
From a social point of view, GB is at the service of the wonderful community that surrounds it and brings enrichment and diversity to the world. It brings cultures together and creates unpretentious long-term relationships and friendships. In addition, there are the first 5 programs, which are the sources of GB.
Although the library is currently closed due to the pandemic, there is also an Urban Learning Library that provides a safe and supportive environment for students to do their homework. The Paso Robles Youth Art Foundation (PRYAF) is also nearby. It offers FREE art classes, so students can go there after school to take dance, art, drama and music classes. Something they might not have had access to if it wasn’t in their territory.
While I understand the fiscal reasons for the recommendation to close Georgia Brown, I am more concerned about the community around it. Is this the best solution in a world where integration is increasing, and in a world where the underprivileged need the support of the community? How do we choose to save the county money and support the community that needs our help? What will transportation look like when the school moves to the new Bauer-Speck school? Will the school district ensure that these children have transportation to PRYAF or the study library? Is repair completely out of the question? Is there another school that could be closed to make the number of schools in east and west more equal?
I raise these issues because, when I looked at the 7-11 committee report, there was no mention of how this meeting would be used to review that decision. These included the dual immersion program (which remains, but has just been moved to another location), the age of the school, the condition of the school, and the budget needed for repairs. But not once was there any discussion of how this closure would benefit those around him.
I remember the first time I set foot on this campus when I registered for my daughter’s preschool in 2006. I loved the sense of cultural influence and the sound of everyone speaking Spanish. It brought back memories from my childhood. At that moment I knew it was the right choice to raise our children in this environment. In a world where each generation loses a part of the previous generation, we have done the opposite, and I know it warmed my parents’ hearts to know that their grandchildren would perpetuate the Spanish language and Spanish influences. Georgia Brown’s location had a lot to do with it.
I hope that in making this decision, serious consideration will be given to how this closure will benefit the community around Georgia Brown. Ultimately, these changes will likely make life even more difficult for the people who live there and need a school nearby. I know that the school board focuses on the kids and makes decisions that have minimal impact on the school and the community around it. I only hope that the board will also put the interests of the students in the area first and, if closure is necessary, make arrangements to support them. As a community, we need to raise awareness of the Georgia Brown area and let it be known that it is just as important as other parts of the community.
Sandra Stratman is a freelance columnist for The and Paso Robles Press; you can email her at [email protected].
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