Covid kids

In 2020 the math test scores of 4.4 million students between third and eight grade scored five to ten percentile points less than students who took the test before the pandemic. Children between the ages of five and eleven have had a twenty-four percent increase in hospital visits for mental health reasons while older kids experienced a thirty-one percent jump.

The shutdowns and COVID-19 took a toll on every aspect of our lives, and this is no less true for the students of the Patterson Joint Unified School District.

As our community begins to slowly return to normalcy it is important that parents take on a bigger role in the education and adjustment of students in their schools and society. I urge parents to talk to their kids about anything even if they are never responsive or are just on their phones.

Parents and guardians should also participate in any possible school activities. I encourage any guardian to participate in the PTA, ELAC, or School Board meetings and apply for committees or School Site Council if there are positions available. It is important that parents take a little time out of their busy schedules to work with their kids because the district and wonderful teachers of PJUSD can only do so much for their students, and parents ought to be there for their kids at home and even at school if need be.

As it so happens, this week parents of high schoolers have the chance to show they care and participate in a Virtual Open House on February 17 and I ask that parents attend. You should show your kids you care, after all they are the ones that decide whether you go to the nursing home or not.

Adolfo Virgen, PHS Student

Patterson, CA

Letter to the community

I was born and raised in Patterson. I attended the local schools and after college returned home to the area and raised my own family. Although I am no longer a resident of the city of Patterson, I do reside in the Patterson school district and consider myself a member of the community. Twenty five years ago, I made the decision to become a part of the solution to a problem, when I ran for the local school board. My children were young and just getting started in the local schools. I was concerned about the future for my children and the children of our community. Residential growth was happening in Patterson, schools were crowded, there was a loss of vocational programs at the High School, and the district had just passed a bond to help fund modernization and housing of new students. The feeling in the school district was one of open mistrust of the city government. There were several new housing developments, (the largest being Heartland Ranch) that had been given the green light by the city with little regard for the effect these new homes would have on school population. There were contractual agreements for money to be put aside for schools with each house that was built, but the money came after the house was finished, only partially covering the cost of new construction and impacting the aging infrastructure of the district. The result was lots of portables and eventually year-round education at the elementary level. It was hard on families, hard on staff and hard on the school facilities. It took the recession in 2008, another school bond that same year and some real planning on the part of the school district to finally get our district on more balanced footing. Though not perfect, we now have schools to be proud of in our community.

Why did I write all of that? Because I have an ominous feeling that we are heading back to the past and our city leaders are disregarding the needs of the school district. We, the school board and the city council, are all part of the community and should have one fundamental question in the forefront of our thoughts when we make critical decisions, “How will this affect our children; our future generations?”

Currently, there are some major residential developments in the works that have sailed past the Planning Commission and the City Council with no ear to the concerns raised by the school district. The funding for the housing of these added students should fall on the developers, not you the citizenry of Patterson. There should be concrete input from the school district regarding location of new school sites and where new students will be housed before schools are built. The latest development at Baldwin and Sperry, according to the developer, plans to house their new elementary students at Apricot Valley. A school site that is already at capacity and has traffic flow issues that every parent complains about. The “communications” with the district by the developer consisted of “an” email. The school district deserves more respect and attention by developers, but that seemed to be adequate for the city planners.

I am not against growth but it needs to be smart and it should not come at a cost to our current population. If another School Bond needs to be passed to build facilities, you will be paying for that growth. Schools take a minimum of three years to get through all the planning and government oversight before they can be built and by that time the current facilities will be severely overcrowded. Schools are the last to get facility money out of developers unless contractual agreements are made beforehand. This is where city leaders need to be strong and work with the school district as collaborators instead of as adversaries. I ask each member of our community to talk to city leadership and voice your concerns. Planning and funding for our schools is critical to the success of the community. It shouldn’t come after “the deals” are signed.

Thank you for your attention,

Michele Bays

Patterson, CA

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