Oct 09

School enrollment explosion – World War II week by week

They ran out of classrooms.

"New children are coming into the Paso Robles elementary school at the rate of five per day, and our enrollment is already up 100 per cent," says Glen Speck, principal. "We have added six new teachers and we'll need more."

October 3, 1941 Telegram-Tribune

The name is familiar to Paso Robles residents from the hyphenated Bauer-Speck K-5 elementary school downtown. In 1941 teacher Miss Marie Bauer and principal Glen Speck were part of the school district staff struggling to keep up with an explosion in student population. Bauer was teaching 5th grade at the Methodist church social hall. Speck was trying to find places for incoming students. There were 780 students at Paso Robles elementary school, up from 450 a year ago.

Resources were strained throughout the region as large military bases grew at Camp Roberts, Camp San Luis Obispo, Morro Bay and Lompoc. Workmen and military staff brought families to a rural county that had never seen an influx of this magnitude.
The social halls of four churches were pressed into service in the interest of national defense, Paso Robles Christian, Lutheran, Methodist and Episcopal churches. And until the new school building opened the district could not offer Kindergarten classes. Some students had to share desks and instructional time was slashed to the minimum of 200 minutes. The day would expand to 240 minutes with the opening of the new school. The rising tide was expected to get more challenging soon, new housing opening at the north city limits.

Housing Project Opens
Aggravation to the acute school problem will begin this week when Oak Park Paso Robles federal housing project will be opened for 60 new families of civilian employees and army personnel at Camp Roberts. Later in the month 90 additional housing units at Oak Park will be ready, and a total of at least 150 new children will swell Paso Robles' school population.

Many new students came to school via bus from tourist and trailer camps. At this rate Paso Robles school district would run out of money in April having spent the $54,000 budget written based on 1940 assumptions. It was hoped federal aid would be released to cover the deficit.

An even more acute problem was enrollment at San Miguel which had gone from 46 students to 243. Carpenters renovated a shop building and divided the main school room into four classrooms.

Federal money was coming for a new medical building across the street from General Hospital and the area would be allocated some building materials to accommodate expansion of the area's limited housing. There wasn't enough time, people or materials.

The European situation was dire. The Nazi army was mounting an offensive toward Moscow and the Red army was still losing men by the hundreds of thousands as pockets of troops were enveloped. Soviet generals, often more terrified of Stalin than Hitler, were hamstrung by orders to hold ground at all costs. Fresh in their memories were the names of generals banished to Siberia or executed for political reasons in the previous decade. Stalin ruthlessly eliminated any competitor for power real or imagined.

The United States pressed Japan to withdraw troops from China and Indochina as it refused to schedule a meeting between President Roosevelt and Prince Konoye. This would cripple Konoye's standing in the government.

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