Save Our Schools v. Barstow UnifiedAnnotate this Case
Defendant-respondent Barstow Unified School District Board of Education approved closing two of its elementary schools: Thomson Elementary School and Hinkley Elementary School. Students from those schools were transferred to other District “receptor” schools. The District determined that the closures and transfers were exempt from environmental review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) because they fell within the categorical exemption for “minor additions” to schools. A citizens group, plaintiff-appellant, Save Our Schools (SOS), petitioned the trial court for a peremptory writ setting aside the District’s resolutions approving the closures and transfers and finding them exempt from CEQA. The petition was denied and SOS appealed, claiming: (1) insufficient evidence supported the District’s determinations that the closures and transfers were exempt from CEQA; and (2) if the closures were exempt, then SOS met its burden showing that two exceptions to CEQA’s categorical exemptions applied. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the administrative record contained insufficient evidence of the “original student capacity” (or total enrollment before the transfers) of any of the receptor schools. It was therefore impossible for the District to determine, based on the record before it, that the closures and transfers would not increase the total student enrollment of any of the receptor schools beyond the levels allowed under the minor additions exemption. The Court of Appeal reversed and remanded the matter with directions to the trial court to issue a peremptory writ (1) voiding the District’s resolutions approving the school closures and student transfers and (2) directing the District to reconsider its determination that the closures and transfers were exempt from CEQA review. On remand, the District may accept and consider additional evidence not before it when it made its original exemption determinations.