The Palo Verde Unified School District (PVUSD) is in early discussions with a neighboring school district to potentially expand its boundaries in order to absorb the community of Palo Verde, reported PVUSD Superintendent Dr. Charles Bush at the district’s Nov. 6 governing board meeting.
Bush explained that the San Pasqual Valley Unified School District (SPVUSD), which is immediately south of PVUSD in Imperial County, has queried PVUSD about the possibility of taking official responsibility for Palo Verde from them because of the community’s remote location from SPVUSD’s base in Winterhaven, Calif., about 65 miles away.
“What San Pasqual is suggesting we begin to look at is realigning and taking from them the community of Palo Verde because it’s too far away and they can’t serve (the students properly),” Bush said.
A school bus trip between Palo Verde and Winterhaven takes about 90 minutes, Bush noted, which means that extra-curricular activities would not be an option for most Palo Verde students unless they had private transportation. In addition, for students with special needs, being much closer to necessary services is critical for education and care.
In fact, because of the busing inconvenience to Winterhaven, Bush reported, Palo Verde students have already been attending school in Blythe for some time because of a transportation agreement between PVUSD and SPVUSD for which PVUSD receives $1,000 per student. A school bus ride from Palo Verde to Blythe is about an hour shorter than it is to Winterhaven.
According to Bush, PVUSD has one school bus serving Palo Verde already. The Palo Verde students are participating in PVUSD extra-curricular activities, and the district receives state ADA (average daily attendance) funding for these students.
A big consideration for SPVUSD in approaching PVUSD about formally taking responsibility for Palo Verde, Bush said, “is that we already serve those kids, and honestly they really are a part of our community. They are a part of the Palo Verde Valley. They are on athletic teams with kids from Blythe and Ripley and everywhere else.”
Official transfer of Palo Verde into PVUSD would mean that not only would all kids from the outlying town receive general and special education services in Blythe, the district would also benefit from an enlarged tax-funding base from the acquisition due to its enlarged district boundaries.
On the surface, formally adding Palo Verde to the family of communities that PVUSD serves could seem like a natural development, but complications exist due to the fact that enlargement of the district would require crossing into Imperial County, affecting two county offices of education at once and adding numerous layers of logistics.
Bush explained that a multi-county school district is not necessarily an unusual arrangement, but that transacting the details of set-up are especially time-consuming and complicated because so many more governing entities and their requirements are involved.
In addition, Bush said, a name change would be required of PVUSD.
“When a school district crosses county lines and is in more than one county, you become a ‘joint’ district,” he explained. PVUSD “would become the Palo Verde Joint Unified School District because it would be in two counties.”
Still, the idea is in very preliminary stages, Bush explained, adding that there isn’t even enough information to go on yet for much of a school board discussion at this point. He speculated that about a year of logistics may be involved before the board could even take action on whether such a proposed revision to the current district would be feasible or desirable.
PVUSD board member Norm Guith questioned whether a simpler means of reinforcing Palo Verde’s connection to the school district might be to establish a formal interdistrict transfer, since only the bus transportation agreement with SPVUSD exists right now. Guith’s query was added into the considerations to be explored.
Bush said he will consult with the Riverside County Office of Education on any requirements or restrictions for a redistricting, while SPVUSD approaches the Imperial County Office of Education for its own feedback and guidance, and that he will continue to update the school board on developments as they proceed.
“Ultimately, I think everyone’s intention is to make sure that we’re doing the best we can to serve kids,” Bush noted of the special focus on Palo Verde, “so I feel like it’s all coming with good intentions to serve the kids who are down there.”