Normalcy is slowly returning to Pajaro, with traffic on Salinas Street, open restaurants and bustle on the sidewalks. For Pajaro Middle School students, however, routine won’t return for the upcoming school year.
On May 8, parents received a letter with updates on the school reopening. “To ensure the return to a healthy work and learning environment, next school year (2023-24) PMS will undergo construction and repair work that will render it unusable,” it reads.
It also shared the plans for current and upcoming Panthers – students now at Hall and Ohlone elementary schools will stay at the same campus for sixth grade, and PMS students in seventh and eighth grade will continue to attend Lakeview Middle School in Watsonville.
Two days later, on May 10, the Pajaro Valley Unified School District board voted to provide three relocation days for PMS teachers to set up their classrooms at their new location. In total, four teachers will relocate.
Previously, Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said they were hoping to reopen PMS for the 2023-2024 school year. However, once preliminary reports from Servpro (a clean-up and restoration company based in San Francisco) came in, they found out the damage was greater than initially expected, says Alicia Jimenez, PVUSD public information officer.
“The gym did not look damaged, it didn’t look like it was impacted, but when they did the internal evaluation of the site they found a lot of mold that had slipped through,” Jimenez says, adding that all floors in the school will be replaced. The district has spent $2.8 million on cleaning so far.
While restoration continues at PMS, students now attending Lakeview Middle School say they don’t feel welcome and are being bullied due to being from Pajaro. In addition, their school bus is arriving up to 30 minutes late to school. (Classes start at 8am.)
Jimenez says the district, like many others, doesn’t have enough bus drivers to transport students to school and that’s why there are delays.
Julia Santos, who lives in Las Lomas, says bullying has increased exponentially from once a month to three times a week. Her daughter Giselle Orozco, 13, gets scared when her friends get bullied.
“She comes home scared,” Santos says in Spanish. “I’ve seen videos. I haven’t reported it because my daughter hasn’t been in a fight.”
LMS and PMS students start classes and have breaks at different times. Santos says they will be on the same schedule next school year, but she worries that will not fix things. “If they take their breaks and lunch simultaneously, the problem will worsen,” she says.
Jimenez says bullying is a common issue at all school sites, adding that staff mediates these issues between students.
Once the assessments and cleaning are completed at Pajaro Middle, the district will start planning to repair, design and reconstruct the school. Jimenez says the district expects to reopen PMS for the 2024-2025 school year.
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