Paso proposal protested

Parents cheered as their kids, dressed in red and holding signs that spelled their school’s name, chanted “Bauer-Speck” at a Saturday rally protesting the proposed closure of part of the Bauer-Speck Elementary campus in Paso Robles.

The crowd clad in red included parents, students, teachers and the school’s mascot, a red bobcat, holding signs that stated “Save our school” and “Please don’t take our school away.”

Paso Robles Public Schools leaders are looking at a proposal to move kindergarten and first-grade students from the Bauer side of the school to the Speck campus across the street.

It’s among the proposals being considered as the school district decides how to make $7.4 million in budget cuts because of reduced state funding and declining enrollment.

A separate proposal calls for moving students of the Phillips-Freedom Community Day School from its campus 11 miles east of town to the Bauer site.

The Phillips-Freedom program educates 46 students who have been expelled from traditional schools in grades seven through 12.

Other cost-cutting proposals include class-size increases, staff furloughs and cuts to libraries, music and sports programs.

Former Bauer-Speck student Matthew Dodds, 13 — who started going to the school in kindergarten — liked how younger students were in a separate campus.

“The separation of age groups made it really easy for me to transition into a new school and make a lot of friends,” Dodds said.

Nancy Mayer, a Bauer-Speck fourth-grade teacher of 20 years, has a son who attended the school and was happy with the education he received.

“Although the buildings have peeling paint, it’s what happens inside these classrooms that gives the school its heart,” Mayer said.

School board member Robert Simola tried to reassure the parents at the rally by explaining that a preliminary study found that closing the Bauer side of the campus doesn’t make sense economically.

Mitzi Weir, parent of second- and third-grade students at the school and president of its Parent Teacher Organization, organized the rally, which drew more than 100 demonstrators.

She said the school is special because it is the oldest in Paso Robles and has unique programs.

Attendees at the rally signed a petition against closing the school, which Weir said garnered 200 signatures.

A decision on the cost-cutting proposals is expected in February or March.