To the Goleta Union School District Board:

In May, the principal at La Patera Elementary School informed us of plans to move the library. The floor in the current library has become unstable. It is a health and safety issue and needs to be repaired over the summer. We are very grateful to the school and district for recognizing that and the quick response for the repairs to begin.

Our concern lies in the relocation of the library and the lack of reassurance regarding the library’s future plans. The library is moving out of its purpose-built space into a regular classroom, a third of the size, with, to our understanding, few opportunities for re-expansion. We are discouraged at the 7,500-plus books that have had to be discarded to make the move possible. We are disheartened that the school and district finds this an acceptable solution, and it makes us question their long-term interest and vision for the learning environment for La Patera students. We feel the “wait and see — it will be fine” message we have been given doesn’t adequately address our concerns or allow the needs of the students to be met. By the time we wait and see, it will be a permanent move with no recourse for change.

The library at La Patera is critical for the educational experience of our students. It offers a learning environment that many of our students do not get to experience out of the school campus. It also offers a safe space during recess for student’s overwhelmed by the playground. They are welcomed into a library where there is space to read, learn, draw, socialize, play games, take accelerated reading tests, use computers, etc. For parents who find classrooms and teachers intimidating, it is a point on campus where parents can visit with their children, offering them involvement in their child’s education. It is so much more than a place on campus where books are stored.

As an example of how important the library is to the students and community, two years ago the school held a “Coin Challenge” — a competition to see which team could collect the most pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. The proceeds of which were spent on library upgrades — new rugs, book baskets, games, displays. Our students and community, which is 63.3 percent socially disadvantaged, raised over $3,700 in coins in support of their library experience.

We recognize that each school has different needs and a unique personality with no two schools having the same facilities. With accepting such a downsized library, the school’s leadership seems to be underlining the larger community perception that La Patera’s diverse student body doesn’t value learning, and that education that can be better met at other Goleta school district campuses. This is the message that is being received by our community, families and students with this downgrading of the library space.

We respectfully ask that the board uses its oversight position to ensure that the plan to rehouse the library facilities at La Patera, meet the long term needs of the students, campus and community.


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