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Soledad parent drives kids dozens of miles every day to Lockwood school

This story was produced through a collaboration with CatchLight Local, CalMatters and the California Salinas.

At 6 in the morning, the soft light reached a house in Soledad. Parents could be heard preparing their children for the day.

Fred Segura works at his three daughters’ school at San Antonio Elementary School in Lockwood. He is a staff member classified since November 2020, primarily as a bus driver. He travels more than 85 kilometers every day to work, where he also works as a paraprofessional educator.

The Seguras are one of many families who have chosen to enroll their children in rural school.

The San Antonio Union School District serves about 150 students from transition kindergarten (TK) through eighth grade. The rural school grounds are located about 25 miles from any service.

Although schools statewide and at the local level reported declines, the San Antonio school district experienced a jump in enrollment. Enrollment has increased by about 25 percent in San Antonio, compared to last year, the highest in about five years, Superintendent Josh Van Norman said.

“My reason for enrolling my three daughters in San Antonio is because they threw me back and I admired the little community aspect this school has to offer,” Fred said. “When I saw the students here in San Antonio interacting with each other, I remembered when I went to school.”

During the pandemic, Fred worked off-campus. Distance from school prevented her children from attending San Antonio Elementary School earlier.

Once she started working directly on campus, she enrolled her daughters.

“It was our way of preserving our children’s youth,” Fred said. “Keep them away from portable technology for most of the day and allow them to interact with multiple cultures. Their grades have gone up, and there’s a lot more attention to detail because San Antonio is a smaller school.”

Paloma Segura is Fred’s youngest daughter. She was excited to go to school after spending months learning from a computer screen.

Paloma Segura runs out of her house at dawn while her sister Almarissa Segura, 14, closes the door behind them. Both are preparing for their long commute to San Antonio Elementary School in Lockwood, California, on Thursday, March 31, 2022.
Fred Segura rolls up his daughter Paloma at dawn. She is preparing to drive more than 85 miles to work and take her daughter to school at San Antonio Elementary School in Lockwood, California, on Thursday, March 31, 2022.
The Seguras are preparing for their long trip to San Antonio Elementary School.
The Seguras are preparing for their long trip to San Antonio Elementary School.
The Seguras are preparing for their long trip to San Antonio Elementary School.
David Rodríguez Muñoz for The Californian, Catchlight and CalMatters

Paloma, 7, and Irma Segura, 8, started in San Antonio in August 2020, during distance learning. Paloma is a sophomore and shares a classroom with her sister Irma, who is in third grade. Almarissa, 14, is an eighth-grader who will soon be attending Soledad High School.

“It was easier for me to get back in person because going to school with zoom was hard,” Irma said. “I had to meet with the teachers in the morning and in the afternoon. Sometimes I was late and I couldn’t understand what was being said on the internet. It was difficult because the teachers were cutting back and sometimes I was late.”

Almarissa also spoke about the challenges she faced during distance learning.

“It’s hard for me to do that and I learned without having a teacher in front of me,” he said. “It’s easier to understand when you have someone teaching you in person rather than through a computer … I like being able to participate in the classroom.”

Irma Segura, 8, looks out the window of a school bus at the end of the school day at CEIP San Antonio.
Irma Segura, 8, looks out the window of a school bus at the end of the school day at CEIP San Antonio.
David Rodríguez Muñoz for The Californian, Catchlight and CalMatters

San Antonio Elementary School is staffed by nine teachers, with many long-distance commutes to work. Science teacher and “San Antonio Teacher of the Year,” Andrew Kim drives more than 150 miles round trip to work at the school.

Paso Robles, Morro Bay, Soledad and Marina are some of the other cities in which teachers live due to the lack of housing options in the Lockwood area.

However, the distance did not prevent parents from enrolling their children. The 25% increase represents 30 new students.

“This is exciting for us as a district. The current trend in California is a 2.6% drop in tuition, with Monterey County also showing a 2.2% drop in tuition,” Van Norman said. “Tuition should not be an upward trend simply because there are no increases in housing developments in the area.”

The district comprises farms, ranches, mobile home parks and Ft. Hunter Liggett Military Base.

The 1.8% drop in enrollment in state enrollment, in addition to the record drop of 2.6% in 2020-21, represents a combined loss of 271,000 students since the start of the pandemic. As of census day (October 6, 2021), enrollment was 5.89 million students; Five years ago, it was 6.23 million, according to EdSource.

Paloma and Irma Segura at CEIP San Antonio.
Paloma and Irma Segura at CEIP San Antonio.
Paloma and Irma Segura at CEIP San Antonio.
DAVID RODRÍGUEZ MUÑOZ FOR THE CALIFORNIAN, POLO AND CALMATTERS

The district recently won the Golden Bell Award from the California School Board Association in the Culture and School Safety category.

Although this school is in a remote area, Van Norman attributes enrollment to the school’s academic success and the individual attention each student receives.

The average number of students per class in San Antonio is about 19; however, primary courses have a larger class size than secondary classes.

“Parents choose where to send their children and we are very honored that families have entrusted our district with their children’s education,” Van Norman said. “There are many great schools and districts in Monterey County, some of which you may not know. Small school districts can have a big impact on student education.”

Published
2:01 pm UTC July 5, 2022

Updated
2:01 pm UTC July 5, 2022

Soledad parent drives kids dozens of miles every day to Lockwood school Source link Soledad parent drives kids dozens of miles every day to Lockwood school

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