BRAWLEY — The Brawley Elementary School District (BESD) Board tabled a resolution to initiate a study that would have explored options to immediately begin construction on a revised version of the proposed La Paloma Middle School at its regular meeting on Tuesday, August 24.
The proposed revamp for La Paloma Middle School project was to use the finances that were authorized by California voters last November by way of bond Measure D to build a new middle school that was to include all 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in the district. The project would also require funds from the State, which have not yet come in, leading the board to the proposition of this study.
The study would have authorized Superintendent Dr. Richard Rundhaug to commence with a new study that was to explore options of constructing a downsized version of a new middle school for the district. The ultimate purpose of the study was to see if a board decision to approve immediate construction was even feasible.
The project was previously approved to alleviate the congested campuses across the City, but the resolution would have explored if they could use the newfound funding to build a smaller school right now than to wait for the State to deliver its portion of the funds.
The board was not in total agreement on exactly what to do with the resolution as the matter was ultimately tabled to accommodate board members that had various questions regarding the full extent of details in the resolution.
Board Trustee Kathy Prior expressed concern that adopting a resolution would make it seem like the board was endorsing a decision that would go against what the voters had initiated back in November.
“I have had a problem with this all along, but I say that we need to have Jimmy Sanders, our architect, to kind of go over what this means because if we redo our plans they have to be submitted to the State. We’d have to start from square one … and we promised the people of this community with that bond we were going to build a school,” said Prior.
Prior said she was contacted by members of the community that voiced opposition to this resolution because that was not the measure that was up for a vote back in November and felt the board should not alter what the voters already decided. Prior also expressed her own skepticism as to how quickly the new school could be constructed and if it was even worth it as opposed to waiting for the State funds.
Dr. Rundhaug responded directly to Prior’s concerns and stated that all of her questions would be answered in the proposed study because that’s exactly what the study is intended to do.
“It’s not really tying us to anything. Quite honestly, I think the community just wants something built … I just think we need shovels in the ground not in five years, seven years, eight years, 10 years,” said Rebollar.
Rebollar was persistent in reiterating several times throughout the discussion that the resolution was designed to explore options and gather information on whether or not to move forward with the proposal and said he was not sure what was causing so much confusion if the text was clear.
Prior responded to Rebollar’s comments and said she was not comfortable voting on initiating this resolution without gathering further information.
“That’s all this is, it’s an exploration … it is my way of trying not to act outside of the board’s authority,” said Rundhaug.
Board Trustee Esther A. Sanchez-Banda said she was not sure why a resolution would even be necessary for the board to hand the superintendent a directive.
“Do we need a resolution to give you that directive to move forward and seeking that information that we need,” said Sanchez-Banda.
Sanchez-Banda felt the consensus of the board would be enough assurance for the superintendent to do his job and expressed concern that the resolution would result in the district being potentially at risk of losing the funding promised by the State.
“If this resolution is going to bind us to something, what if it puts us in a predicament that we may have to get back in line. You know we don’t have (those) monies in our funding if we lose our spot,” said Sanchez-Banda.
Rundhaug responded to the concern and felt that the resolution being ultimately authorized would help illustrate to the State how much in need they are and could potentially supply the funds even faster.
The first motion to table the matter resulted in Sanchez-Banda and Prior voting in the affirmative, Rebollar voting in the negative, and both members Barrera and Padilla abstaining from the conflict. There was pushback from Rebollar about whether the motion was approved because of the two members abstaining.
Trustee Armando R. Padilla said that in the past a resolution was not needed for the superintendent to gather the information the board needed. Rebollar closed the discussion and tabled the resolution since the board was not in total agreement.