A special joint meeting of the Firebaugh City Council and School Board was held on Nov. 20. That evening, Police Chief Sal Raygoza presented the School Resource Officer report.

The report included statistics concerning the impact of officer presence on school campuses.

Since Aug. 7. there have been 173 times officers have put themselves at school sites, and 11 incidents where a report was generated have been investigated that could have been a crime.

Some investigations resulted in confiscating drugs and/or weapons.

In addition, officers have investigated the harassment of other students and have made their presence known at games.

Chief Raygoza also presented goals for 2024.

One of the first goals will be to work with both staff and students in active shooter training and preparing for emergency situations. Officers will work with administrators to establish these trainings.

Cannabis is a concern at schools, so the police officers hope to begin doing presentations on its dangers at schools soon. Officer Kevin Gilliam will teach elementary school students.

Students from fifth- through eighth-grade will have workbooks that cover topics of cannabis dangers and gangs, among other topics. The book is planned to be a fill-in-the-blank style.

Discipline, drug use and social media are among the topics that will be covered in the workbook since these have been issues at secondary sites.

Additionally, every senior that graduates will have first aid/CPR certification from Red Cross.

Council members and Superintendent Roy Mendiola alike are supportive of these measures.

Raygoza mentioned that the budget does not allow for a K-9 on the secondary campus, while board member Campa argues that Firebaugh High School should consider training and buying a dog that is solely focused on cannabis in the future if they decide a K-9 is important.

School board member Fernando Campa comments that as a former K-9 handler officer, he definitely would like to see a dog trained in both cannabis and over-the-counter medicine.

Aside from the topic mentioned above, a project was discussed involving the addition of 14 new classrooms on the Hazel M. Bailey School campus. A financial hardship grant of $5 million made this project possible.

Preschool classrooms will need to be bigger and include restrooms to be compliant and prepared to facilitate the needs of the district’s youngest learners since the site has the highest summer school attendance rates.

This project is anticipated to take roughly one year to complete. The plan is to move the portables located on the far end of campus for the classrooms to be built.

Some potential concepts of what the project will look like have been shared with the staff and some parents. The biggest goal is to stay within the budget and the allotted time frame. The launch is set to happen soon. Bush Construction will be doing the work on Bailey.

Additionally, Superintendent Mendiola would like to see a dirt parking lot in front of Dunkle Park since it would benefit both the community and the school district.

There is also a need for parking on Helm Canal Road to ensure the safety of sporting event attendees. The irrigation district is willing to work with the school district on this matter.

CalTrans is also expected to do work on Highway 33, so Dr. Mendiola hopes that the city is willing to work together to accomplish this goal.

Chief Raygoza asserts that a 30-car parking lot wouldn’t help relieve the congestion from home football games and more spots would be needed.

Another topic discussed was staff housing, as Dr. Mendiola is concerned for young teachers whose families are growing.

A toddler program has already been started and the superintendent is willing to open a second toddler program, with hopes that teachers are eager to stay.

Mendiola is investing in classified employees by supporting their academic goals by paying for their schooling in return for 5 years of service.

“We are invested in our people. This community is safer than Fresno, and we can hope that all the efforts will result in creating housing for professionals in education and police department.”

Benjamin Gallegos says that there’s a 30-acre development that is being negotiated, which would result in another 140- $400,000-$500,000 homes. K. Hovnanian would be the builder for this construction project.

The district owns a piece of property directly across from A.E. Mills School and the superintendent is interested in considering having apartments made there that would be like the Rio Villas, the new senior living found at the corner of 13th and P street.

On another note, when discussing the item on the American Heart Association, Superintendent Mendiola is willing to expand CPR certification for Falcon football and cheer, among some youth serving partners, along with AED device training. Parents of special needs students can also be trained. Chief Raygoza added that his officers can certify high school coaches, since the athletic director, Kacey Jones, is requesting this service.

Samantha Rangel