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Looking Back to 1940: Elementary school condemned 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of the society’s Vice President Nancy Tweedie and Research Director Jan Cannon.

Excerpts from Wednesday, August 14, 1940 Paso Robles Journal:

School condemned to protect pupils, district taxpayers

Why a new school building should be constructed in Paso Robles as soon as possible is the subject discussed in the second of a series of articles being published by the Journal covering the local school problem. These articles are prepared from data compiled by school officials and the citizens’ advisory school building committee

The Journal is happy to publish these articles as a public service. It is hoped that by careful reading of this and subsequent articles that each voter in the district will receive a better understanding of the problem under discussion.

Last week’s article covered the organization of a citizen’s advisory school building committee, the reason why it was formed, and gave a brief outline of the problems it discussed before recommending that the school board call another bond election. Subsequent articles will consider other phases of the school question.

Paso Robles history

Click here to read the full front page.

Following an inspection of the junior high school in January of this year, Frank A. Johnson, district structural engineer of the State of California, made the following report:

“On January 11, 1940, I made a visual examination of this school building. Several structural deficiencies were noted. The outstanding one being the extremely poor quality of the mortar in the brick work and the condition of the foundation.”

“In our opinion this building would be a distinct hazard to the occupants in the event of even a moderately severe earthquake. As you are undoubtedly aware, there is also a severe fire hazard due to furnace conditions in the basement in connection with exposed and dry wood framing.”

According to the state school code, members of the school board and taxpayers of the district are liable for injuries sustained in a building after it has been pronounced unsafe by a competent authority. Following is a law covering the matter, School Code, page 500, section 2:

“School districts shall be liable for injuries to persons and property resulting from the dangerous or defective condition of public streets, highways, buildings, grounds, works and property in all such cases where the governing board of such school district, or other board, officer or person having authority to remedy such condition, had knowledge or notice of the defective or dangerous condition of any street, highway, building, grounds, works or property failed or neglected, for reasonable time after acquiring such knowledge or receiving such notice to take such action as may be reasonably necessary to protect the public against such dangerous or defective condition.”

Therefore, the board ordered the school vacated as a matter of protection to life as well as a protection to the property of taxpayers in the district. Classes were transferred to Memorial  hall for the remainder of the year, but the results were very unsatisfactory as anyone visiting the classes in Memorial hall soon realized.

In order to improve upon the situation which existed at Memorial hall, the primary pupils will be housed in the social halls of various local churches during the coming term, and the sixth, seventh and eighth grades will hold classes in the grammar school building.

While this is an improvement over the Memorial hall, the primary grades, especially, will be handicapped due to lack of facilities for teaching and training and recreation. School authorities state that handicapping children for one year in their education may handicap them for life, and demonstrates the necessity of getting the pupils back into the best facilities as soon as possible.

Two reasons which affect the pocketbook of every taxpayer in the district are given as reasons why the vote on the bond issue should not be delayed: first, interest rates are on the increase; second, the possibility of bonus on sale of bonds is growing less.

If the building is to be completed by Sept. 1941, urgent action is necessary for the following reasons: first, drawing plans by architect and getting them approved by state will require two months; second, advertising for bids and getting contractors started will require six to seven months at least, if weather conditions are good.


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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.