Parent Group Files Suit Over BUSD School Closures

(May 24) BARSTOW—In what is at least partially an outgrowth of the contamination problem in Hinkley, a group called Save Our Schools, represented by the Temecula-based law firm of Johnson & Sedlack, on March 27 sued the Barstow Unified School District Board of Education for its February 26 decisions to close Thomson Elementary and Hinkley School, respectively, following the 2012-13 school year, citing declining enrollment and severe state budget shortfalls.
The school board took the action with regard to Hinkley School, one of the top performing schools in the state, largely on the basis of the mass departure of residents from the community in the face of spreading hexavalent chromium contamination in the area.
According to Johnson & Sedlack, the school district took action that is contrary to environmental law in closing the schools. In making the Thomson and Hinkley closure votes, which passed on separate 5-0 and 4-1 votes, the school board made a finding that the closures are exempt from provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Save Our Schools wants the board’s decision to close both schools vacated, according to the petition filed in Barstow Superior Court.
According to the suit, the closures will result in significant environmental impacts, among them ones to traffic circulation, parking, public safety, noise and air quality, which will burden the other schools in the district being called upon to take in students displaced from Thomson and Hinkley.
A number of the remaining residents in Hinkley are upset over the closure of the school and feel the district is playing into the hands of Pacific Gas & Electric, which has been deemed responsible for the hexavalent chromium contamination and is seeking to persuade residents to leave Hinkley en masse.

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