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June 2, 2023

State Superintendent visits shuttered Pajaro Middle School

Flood-damaged school will likely remain closed through school year

PAJARO—Pajaro Middle School will remain closed for the rest of the school year after a flood on March 11 damaged half the classrooms, Pajaro Valley Unified School District Superintendent Michelle Rodriguez said Friday.

A sizable pool of water still stands in a recessed floor in the school’s library, the smell of mildew heavy in the room. Roughly half of the classrooms were impacted from the water and mud that flowed into them. Maintenance personnel have not yet peeled back the carpet to assess the damage, Rodriguez said.

The school has closed, with its 450 students relocated to Lakeview Middle School.

With the amount of time required to wrangle with insurance companies, hire a contractor and make the necessary repairs, the school will remain closed for the rest of the year, Rodriguez says.

The school is now being used as a “comfort center,” where displaced residents can access portable showers, laundry facilities and other aid.

Rodriguez was there to greet State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, who toured the school and community to get a firsthand view of the damage. He also paid a visit to Lakeview and then went to see the temporary shelter at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, where hundreds of people who fled their Pajaro homes are staying.

pajaro middle school flood
A classroom at Pajaro Middle School is blanketed in mud following recent floods. Photo: Tarmo Hannula/The Pajaronian

“The first moment that he set foot onto this campus, he immediately asked, ‘What is it that we can do to help you to ensure that we can return the students back here to Pajaro,’” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez says she also wanted Thurmond to see the work that was done to shift the 450 displaced students, the teachers and school staff to their new school after just two days of distance learning.

Thurmond says he has called the insurance company handling the damages to the school to ask them to expedite the claims process and allow the District to begin repair work.

And that pressure appears to have worked. Soon after that call, PVUSD Chief Business Officer Clint Rucker says he got a call from the adjuster.

“We are hoping he will be out by next week,” Rucker said.

While at Lakeview, Thurmond also gave out $25 Target gift cards to the students affected by the flood, in addition to 1,000 families at the Fairgrounds.

He also asked everyone who can to donate to the California Department of Education Foundation, the office’s charitable arm.

“We know that these are difficult circumstances,” he said. “This is just the beginning, but we are here to help how we can.”

Thurmond was joined at the dais by Monterey County Superintendent of Public Instruction Deneen Guss, and Santa Cruz County Superintendent of Public Instruction Faris Sabbah.

“What has happened here has been tragic, and it has also been monumental how this community has come together to support each other, this has been a labor of love,” Sabbah said. “We are doing everything we can, working together to bring the right resources together, and we are so grateful for all the support we are getting from State Superintendent Tony Thurmond.”


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