Paso pursues day school change

Paso Robles Public Schools is moving forward with a plan to send expelled sixth-graders to Phillips Freedom Community Day School, as long as they are taught in separate classrooms from the older students.

Phillips Freedom normally houses students in grades seven through 12 who have been expelled from other district schools. Expelled students below the seventh grade are now put in independent study/home school programs.

The board of trustees voted on Jan. 26 to waive the state education code that requires expelled students in grades one through six to be taught in separate community day schools from students in grades seven through 12, district spokeswoman Anne Quinn said.

District officials do not intend to place students lower than sixth grade at Phillips Freedom, officials said. On average, one to two younger students are expelled each year, Quinn said.

The state is set to review the change in March, she added. It is the last step necessary before sixth-grade students can be sent to Phillips Freedom.

The district would prefer to build a separate community school for those younger students, Quinn said, but it can’t afford to do so.

For the students “who need a time-out” from the district’s traditional schools, adding them to a community day school program would best benefit their education, said Paulette Pahler, the school district’s director of student services.

Other decisions pending

In a cost-cutting move, the school district is also proposing to move the outlying Phillips Freedom to a new location across the street from Paso Robles High School on Niblick Road.

Bringing the program to town would save the district the estimated $55,000 to $65,000 annually it takes to bus students to its current campus on 10 acres off Highway 46 East at River Grove Drive.

The school board will review options for the future home of Phillips Freedom. Those options include placing the students in portable classrooms across from the high school.

The date for the meeting hasn’t been announced yet.

Other budget proposals, such as approving additional teacher layoffs, are expected to go before the school board later this month.