Last week the Imperial Unified School District board voted to “reorganize” the school even though the San Francisco-based Pattern Energy Group offered to provide long-term financial support of $50,000 in installments over the next 20 years upon completion of a wind project in Ocotillo.
However, plans to start construction of the renewable energy project won’t come until “later this year,” according to CEO Mark Garland’s March 14 letter to Tabarez.
Pattern Energy Group is also willing to make a $50,000 contribution even before completing its project in order “to buy time” for the IUSD board to re-assess the situation next year, Garland said in his letter.
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Construction of the project is expected to bring in a number of jobs that would likely have some employees live in the Ocotillo area with their families whose children would attend Westside Elementary School, Garland said.
In spite of the wind company’s efforts to involve itself with the school and the Ocotillo community, Tabarez said the overriding concern over Westside Elementary School is its dwindling enrollment, Tabarez said.
Enrollment projections for the 2012-2013 school year show that 26 students would attend the 101-year-old school, which costs about $400,000 a year to keep running, Tabarez said.
Tabarez cited $100,000 in utility, maintenance and partial transportation expenses as costing the district but said Monday that the figure did not include the salaries and benefits for two teachers who work at the school, she said.
“Even though it’s a generous offer, the decline in enrollment is a huge issue and plays a major part in the decision,” Tabarez said of the board’s vote.
Victor Lopez, president of the IUSD board, declined to comment about the issue and Trustee Abdul Mohammed could not be reached for comment.
Mohammed made a motion during Thursday’s school board meeting to postpone the decision to shut down Westside Elementary School for further review.
The K-5 school is expected to close its doors June 14 and shift whatever new and returning students to T.L. Waggoner Elementary School by August, Tabarez said.
Pattern Energy Group appears to be making an effort to establish inroads with Ocotillo and the families who live there.
Last year, the company made a $40,000 contribution to keep the school open and made another contribution to the Imperial Valley Food Bank to keep its backpack program re-instituted for Westside Elementary School students. Late last year, Pattern also contributed to the Imperial Valley Desert Museum, also in Ocotillo.
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760-337-3442 or at email@example.com