June 10, 2005

“Our children deserve better”

A group of National City Middle School mothers are demanding better school facilities. They say School District officials have mispent Proposition BB funds.

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

National City Middle School facilities need major repairs— pronto.

Humidity marks on classrooms’ and halls’ roofs, electric cables coming out of the walls, water fountains full of mold, mice droppings near desks, dead cockroaches inside classrooms, wooden windows devoured by termites, and cracks all over the floors.

NC Middle School parents with photos of school deterioration and architects drawings of a promised new school.

On a recent visit to one of the oldest school in the Sweetwater Union High School District, this reporter was able to see the terrible state the school is in—including the unsanitary conditions inside a boys’ restrooms.

A group of mothers have also noticed and want the District to make the necessary repairs as soon as possible.

The mothers demand that Proposition BB, the $187 million bond approved by voters in 2000 to modernize schools, be used to make those changes. The mothers said they feel betrayed, because while other schools in the District, such as those in eastern Chula Vista, have received new classrooms, National City Middle looks worst everyday.

“During the Proposition BB campaign, District officials made lots of promises,” said mother Judith Castillo. “They told us that if we gave our support and vote to the bond measure, they would take care of the school. They’ve done work in other newer schools, and National City Middle hasn’t seen a bit.”

The only “repair” that the school has received so far is the yellow paint used for the front part of the school, the group of mothers said.

“Doing that paint job was just a way to try to give a good impression. When one drives by the school, one can see a really nice front entrance. But once you get inside, the truth comes out,” said mother Sandra Chavez.

The district’s website states that “When South Bay voters approved the Sweetwater Union High School District’s $187 million bond in 2000 to modernize schools, the time frame to exhaust construction funding was 2018. A combination of rising home values and Sweetwater’s advanced planning is shaving 11 years off that schedule. That means that this phase of modernization for the 16 remaining schools will be completed by 2007.

“Schools across the entire district—from National City Middle to Southwest High and nearly every middle school and high school in between—will get new classrooms, bathrooms, air conditioning, science labs and computer connections,” states the district website.

Also, in an April press release, District Superintendent Ed Brand said that “Our principals, teachers and students are excited by what is happening. Sweetwater community members, including our Bond Oversight Committee, have been very supportive and pleased with our progress this past year. By this time next year, we’ll be starting a new chapter in educational facilities.”

But the mothers at National City Middle are anything but pleased with this “progress.”

“They’re putting us down,” Castillo said. “They spend the money in other schools and forget about us.”

The unsanitary conditions at the middle school, such as cockroaches, dust, and humidity, have triggered several asthma attacks in her son, Castillo said.

“The classrooms don’t have air conditioning, the air inside feels stuffy, heavy. Our children can’t concentrate in those terrible conditions,” Castillo said.

The majority of students at National City Middle are Latino, which is the reason why District officials have put the school at the end of their list, the mothers claim.

“We’re tired of so much discrimination against raza,” Chavez said. “[District officials] should do what they promise, because when they need to get to where they are, that’s when they pay attention to the Latino vote.”

National City Middle Principal Mary Urias-Islas and the District’s office didn’t return calls from La Prensa.

“Evidently their word is worthless, and lacks principles,” said Juana Cruz, a mother who graduated from National City Middle in 1973. “We are not going to take any more humiliations and discrimination. We are going to fight for our rights and human dignity to the fullest extent.”

On June 14, the mothers are going to hold a protest in front of National City Middle from 7:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.

Also, the group of mothers will speak at the June 20 School Board meeting, at 7:00 p.m.

They invite the whole community to participate.

For more information or to give your support to these mothers, you can contact Judith Castillo at (619) 434-3962.

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