Next month when the new school year starts, a new building will be finished and will better serve the needs of special needs students within the Dos Palos/Oro Loma Joint Unified School District.

The new building at Bryant Middle School is a collaborative effort between the school district and the Merced County Office of Education. However, there is some confusion among district staff members as to for what the building will be used.

Superintendent Megan Grijalva cleared the air about the new building, which is located in the rear of the school next the baseball diamond and athletic field. She told the Express that MCOE is paying for the refurbished building at a cost of $1.2 million.  Therefore, it will basically be their building and MCOE will use it for special needs students, including those severely disabled.

Grijalva explained that currently, special needs students are being served at each school site.  Plus, special needs children in pre-school are currently being bussed to Los Banos for their education.

But that will all stop once the building at Bryant is finished.

“All of the students will be coming here, staying in town, and everything will be centralized,” Grijalva explained.

She added that per state law, special needs classrooms must be self-contained, and this new building will be just that.

“It will have classrooms, bathrooms, and a kitchen,” she said.

The new construction has displaced the youth football program, which had a room available for storing equipment, and that is where some of the confusion has arisen as to the building’s new priorities.

But according to Grijalva, one part of the new building will be used by not only youth football, but all of the athletic teams at Bryant.

“It will be an athletic team room for all of the teams to meet and be utilized by the athletes and coaches. It will also be a PE meeting room during the school day as well as Health classes,” Grijalva said.

There are also plans to expand the school district’s after-school program, again utilizing the new building as well as finally starting an athletic trainer’s program, which many Central Valley school districts have been offering for years.

One of the concerns expressed by district staff members about the new building is that it could be better utilized by the Bryant school nurse and the School Resource Officer, citing the need for privacy.

But Grijalva disagreed, noting the building’s location in the rear of the school.

“I want our nurse and our SRO to be in the front of the school, available and accessible, and that is at the front, not the back,” she explained.  “If they need a private room for interviewing, there are conference rooms and other rooms available.”

So Grijalva is excited about the prospects for the new building and the ability to improve the educational experience of all the students. “I want to thank MCOE for their investment in our school district.  This will be a great improvement,” she said. 

David Borboa