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Poor condition of local schools considered one high-priority item during joint Holtville meeting

October 03, 2001

in Holtville

By DORA DEPAOLI, Staff Writer

HOLTVILLE — The Holtville Unified School District and the Holtville City Council met to discuss items of mutual concern Tuesday afternoon, with poor school conditions topping the list.

The combined boards sat at tables on the stage of Finley Elementary auditorium with a sheet-sized American flag as a backdrop. The unique flag, with 50 white handprints in place of stars, was the creation of Finley second-graders under the direction of teachers Randi Stilwell and Brenda Villegas.

The poor condition of local schools was a major concern during the meeting. According to David Osterman, the school district's chief business official, the state approved the district's application for funding for a new science building at the high school. It was considered a "hardship case" because the building has been condemned.

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The next project in line for the district would be the remodeling of Pine School.

Both projects have been approved by the state but not funded. The high school's modernization also is on the unfunded list.

Osterman said any funds the district might receive for the modernization would be "structural" rather than cosmetic, "to drop the ceilings, put in new lighting, new air conditioners and air conditioning ducts, new flooring, new windows and new doors, and painting."

School Board Chairman Bill Thornburg Jr. urged teachers and parents to contact state Sen. Jim Battin and Assemblyman Dave Kelley to encourage their support during the funding process.

In response to City Manager John Jordan's statement that 40 new housing units were scheduled to be built in the city, schools Superintendent Pat Maruca assured the audience that number would not "unfavorably" impact the schools.

Maruca said the district has declining enrollment. Fifty of the district students are attending school in other districts. The district receives $4,400 a year per student and that works out to $220,000.

"That really impacts how we are running our district," Maruca said.

Absenteeism last year cost the district another $50,000. Maruca said truancy is the responsibility of the school site principal.

"The district has a student attendance review board," Maruca said.

Mike Goodsell, a coach and teacher at Holtville High, said he has a student who has missed 11 days since the start of the school year.

"He needs this class to graduate. We have SARB in thought and in principle, but we need to put it in action," Goodsell said.

Police Chief Charlie Simpson told the group the Police Department now has a community service officer who will "wear a lot of hats." Some of the things the department is involved in include an Explorer program for students age 14 and older and a graffiti abatement program in conjunction with Turning Point Ministry.

"If we catch the kids we try to get the parents involved," Simpson said.

Holtville Middle School has received a three-year grant for $123,000 for an after-school program, which includes tutoring, crafts, trips and refreshments. It is hoped half the school will participate. According to studies, the majority of student crime occurs between 3:30 and 5:30 p.m.

Maruca said the district needs to look at parenting classes to make parents take responsibility.

"The kids who need the program the most often aren't there," Maruca said.

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