March 24, 2023
State Superintendent Tony Thurmond Visits Flood Zones, Provides Support and Donations to Pajaro Students and Families
WATSONVILLE—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond visited Monterey and Santa Cruz counties on Friday, March 24 to join first responders, school district administrators, and local leaders at Pajaro Middle School. Thurmond distributed gift cards, clothing, and much-needed school supplies to affected students and families after a levee break flooded the community on March 10.
“We know that many families, students, and educators living in those areas were forced to leave their homes. We are coordinating with local, state, and federal governments to get the help we need for these families and to get students back in the classroom as soon as possible,” said Thurmond. “My staff and I are working hard to provide both immediate assistance and long-term recovery assistance to these communities. We know our students and teachers are resilient, and I am sure they will bounce back once again. But let’s make sure we provide them with the financial, academic, mental, and social–emotional support they need.”
During the visit in Watsonville, Thurmond assessed damage from the recent winter storms at both Pajaro and Lakeview middle schools and met with close to 500 students from Pajaro who have been relocated due to flooding. While Pajaro Middle School remains closed due to lingering flood damage, more than 90 percent of its students have returned to class at Lakeview Middle School. Thurmond also called the insurance adjuster who is handling the claims in order to get assistance to the Pajaro Valley Unified School District as soon as possible.
Following the school visits, Thurmond toured the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, where emergency shelters have been set up for families. The Californians Dedicated to Education Foundation donated Target gift cards for 1,000 families; Follett’s School Solutions provided 1,000 books; and staff from Capstone Publishing joined Thurmond on the visit and provided backpacks and activity bags. A GoFundMe page has been set up by a group of retired Pajaro Middle School educators; all funds collected will go toward providing clothing for affected students. Thurmond told families throughout the visit that he and the California Department of Education will continue to provide support.
President Joe Biden issued a Presidential Emergency Declaration on March 10 authorizing federal assistance to support state and local storm response efforts. Since then, 605 schools in 15 counties have been closed at some point and have been reported in the School Emergency Reporting System. Governor Gavin Newsom has proclaimed a state of emergency in 43 counties, and more storms are expected to sweep through the state this month, so more counties could be added.
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Tony Thurmond —
State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Communications Division, Room 5602, 916-319-0818, Fax 916-319-0100