The Future of the Port Costa School and partnership with "The Field Semester."
From the Port Costa Conservation Society Board 2022:
The Port Costa Conservation Society (PCCS) has been tasked with maintaining the large building and grounds of a school over a century old. The financial and practical challenges of such an undertaking are daunting, and the early years of PCCS’s ownership of the Port Costa school were focused just on saving the building. The efforts of dedicated volunteer townspeople brought it back from extreme dilapidation. Damage from severe floods in 1995 & 2006 released FEMA funds which helped pay for a strong foundation, walls, and roof. Since then the school and grounds have been used for community and fund-raising events like the Car Show, Talent Show, and Arts & Crafts fair, and are rented out for weddings and events, which provide additional income.
However, the modest income from these activities, plus qualifying grants and member donations, is insufficient to keep the building operational long-term. Nationwide, financial support for nonprofits from donations and grants is in decline. It will take something more to pay the necessary maintenance, repair, and security bills to keep the school open. And the building is still rough and unfinished inside, with a minimal kitchen and no heating or A/C. The large one-time investment to finish the building remains out of reach. The dream of preserving this lovely piece of Port Costa and California history and having it available as a fully equipped community resource is in jeopardy. The Conservation Society board members have spent years struggling to find solutions, and none have proven practical or achievable. A partnership with a compatible institution with resources to solve the problem was the best possible choice.
For several years Port Costa Conservation Society has been in discussions with The Field Semester, an environmental education program for high school-age students, about a joint-use arrangement for the Port Costa School. PCCS plans to lease a portion of the space in the School long-term to the Field Semester for classrooms and facilities
for the students taking part in the program. The students would be in residence nearby for approximately eight months out of the year, using the School for classes and meals. The Field Semester is an institution that is working to address the urgent global environmental problems that face us all. We find that using the Port Costa School in a program that involves students and education is well aligned with its original purpose when it was built to serve as the town school back in 1911.
In return for leased use of a portion of the space in the School, the Field Semester will provide the much-needed improvements for the entire building. The School will continue to be owned and used by PCCS, and available as always for all town events and gatherings, but with much better facilities and features. The playground and field will remain open for community use and enjoyment.
This plan has been communicated to Port Costa town residents starting in 2016 via information packets, surveys, and several community meetings in which concerns and questions were welcomed and addressed. It was known from the beginning that the presence of the Field Semester’s 45 students plus approximately 15 staff for a good part of the year would have an impact on the town and its residents.
In 2018 PCCS worked hard to prepare an unbiased and factual survey asking for candid feedback and comments from the entire town. (That survey is available upon request.) When the survey results came in, it showed a majority of townspeople supported or were at least open to proceeding with the plan. Although most people have at least some “nimby” (not in my backyard) feelings and concerns about local change, there have also been strong interest that the town be connected to something larger that is positive and meaningful, a program that is working towards solutions to the daunting problems facing humanity.
In terms of timing, there are no immediate changes that will affect the school. The Field Semester's estimated target opening date is currently in the range of late 2024 to mid-2025.
If you are interested, please take a look at the complete proposal, which is available on the Field Semester website:
Click here to see a discussion of issues current among Port Costa townspeople regarding The Field Semester plans: