Love-hate relationship with Gilroy Unified

Nine years ago I arrived in Gilroy and began an ongoing
love/hate relationship with the Gilroy Unified School District.
Back then, my oldest child was entering kindergarten.
Nine years ago I arrived in Gilroy and began an ongoing love/hate relationship with the Gilroy Unified School District. Back then, my oldest child was entering kindergarten. I remember my first visit to the GUSD office like it was only yesterday.

After handing in all the necessary paperwork, I awaited the word on which of my three preferred schools my child would be entering. Imagine my surprise when they placed my daughter at San Ysidro School, not one of my choices, a school that would have required over two hours a day on the bus for my daughter. I questioned the placement of my child at the school which was geographically furthest from where we lived. Then we detoured off topic when the woman at registration couldn’t guess the ethnic derivation of my last name. That was when I discovered that my ethnicity had some correlation with getting my child into our preferred school. Boy, was I naïve.

We got off to a rocky start, GUSD and I, but there were some good times, too. When I was able to get the kindergarten teacher at Rucker School to call the district office and assure them that she was willing and able to take my daughter into her class, things started looking up. Of course, she did get dropped off at the wrong bus stop once by a substitute bus driver, but that was an anomaly. My middle child started school, we purchased a second car, and all was well.

Back in the days of sibling preference, I was able to place all my children at the little country school, and we got involved in all things Rucker. Then my children got older, and there were many battles over things one shouldn’t need to battle for. Sadly, this will be my last year at Rucker. Through all the messes and battles with the district, Rucker has remained a constant source of joy for my family.

Now that two of the kids have moved on, I have begun to immerse myself in the middle and high school scene. It is such a contrast to the little elementary school. I used to complain about the paucity of parking spaces at Rucker until I had a student at Brownell. The number of parents who pick up their children increases each year. I never realized that the reason for this is that sixth graders, 11-year-old children, don’t get bus transportation unless they live more than two miles from their school.

How many parents would allow their 11-or 12-year-old child to walk or bike more than a mile to or from school? Obviously, not that many.

Instead we have hundreds of cars lined up to pick up and drop off students each day. I thought that it couldn’t possibly get worse than Rucker, but Brownell has twice as many students and it’s twice as crowded each morning and afternoon. I had convinced myself that this was as bad as the pickup line could get. And then my daughter started at Gilroy High.

Nothing can compare to the gridlock outside of Gilroy High School each afternoon. It is almost the stuff of lore. I had a few parents tell me that it was a zoo. Actually, I have been to the zoo, and the traffic is worse outside of Gilroy High. It is like having to pick someone up at the airport every single day. Until a second high school opens in Gilroy, I don’t see a solution to the problem. Each day, more than 2,000 students filter out of the school. A couple of hundred students drive away in their own cars. A few hundred walk home, which means that the intersections are crowded with students attempting to cross for a solid 20 minutes. A few hundred students who live far enough away are riding the busses. But hundreds of students are getting picked up. I am now one of those legions of parents moving slowly down Tenth Street.

All the while, my younger children are in the back seat, gazing across the sea of students, trying to catch a glimpse of their sister in the throng.

I am pleased so far with how the school year is going. I love the fact that our school staff have been so responsive to any questions or concerns that have arisen during this first week. I hate the transportation mess that we find ourselves in, one that gets worse every year. Perhaps we should offer to bus all students who live more than a mile from their school. I love the fact that my children are enthusiastic about being back in school, but I hate the fact that memories of previous bus transportation problems has turned them off on ever riding the bus again. In the past nine years, I have been to the district office many more times than I ever imagined I would be when enrolling Carly in kindergarten.

After all this time, I would love to say that GUSD is on the right track, and it mostly is on the right track. But after all these years, I am a little jaded, so I’ll instead I’ll say it’s all good at the moment.

Denise Baer Apuzzo has lived in Gilroy for seven years. She is married and the mother of three children who attend Gilroy Unified Schools. You can reach her by email at: [email protected] Her column is published each Thursday.