Twin Rivers gains school hardship funds from state

Harmon Johnson Elementary School is one step closer to modernized classrooms and a new cafeteria.

The State Allocation Board agreed Wednesday that Twin Rivers Unified should get hardship funding for the school, which was relocated five years ago because its original site was too close to an underground natural-gas storage facility and high-pressure lines.

The state rejected hardship funding for the school last year because officials determined Twin Rivers Unified had enough space to move Harmon Johnson students to other schools.

“The regulation requires – when you close a school – you disperse them (students) throughout the district, wherever there is space,” said Twin Rivers Superintendent Steven Martinez. “We moved them to Las Palmas (Junior High) because it’s a better educational decision for kids and families.”

District officials appealed the decision and asked the state board for $3.55 million to modernize classrooms and update the cafeteria, which is currently unusable.

After the deadly explosion in San Bruno on Sept. 9, 2010, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. released a report that listed the 1,437 feet of pipeline near the former Harmon Johnson school among its top 100 pipeline segments in need of monitoring, replacing or upgrading because of safety concerns.

The Twin Rivers Unified board voted in November 2010 to abandon the site at 2591 Edgewater Road and to relocate to the former site of Las Palmas Junior High, less than a mile away. An adult education center operating at the site was moved to make way for the elementary school.

The original school was demolished.

District officials said closing the school was the right decision. “You aren’t going have a school along some gas lines because of what happened in San Bruno,” Martinez said.

The district has spent $3.6 million since 2011 to purchase and install air-conditioning units and paint the school, said Bill McGuire, Twin Rivers Unified deputy superintendent.

Although state officials approved the appeal Wednesday, they haven’t stated how much money the district should expect. That will be worked out over the few weeks, McGuire said.

Call The Bee’s Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert.