Permanent Paso Verde School Campus Opens

Principal elect Heather Gohn walks a student to their class at Paso Verde School in Natomas. / Photo

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

As the gates at Paso Verde School opened Monday welcoming students to a brand-new campus, a controversial chapter of Natomas Unified School District history also closed.

Completion of the 90,000 square foot TK-8 school site marked the end of a 15-year-long saga which started with a costly and oft criticized land purchase.

“Today is our first day welcoming scholars, families and faculty to our state-of-the-art campus and it’s beautiful,” founding Principal Tonja Jarrell said. “We are thrilled that we have this to contribute to the Natomas community.”

Founding Principal Tonja Jarrell welcomes a Paso Verde School student Monday. / Photo

In November 2006, the Natomas Unified school board approved purchasing vacant agricultural land west of Interstate 5 along Del Paso Road for a planned high school site.

Three year later, the Sacramento County Grand Jury issued a report in May 2009 which found appraisal for the land “contained false and misleading assumptions which greatly inflated the sales price paid by the Natomas Unified School District” and that the attorney hired by the school district “failed in his fiduciary responsibility to make the Natomas School District and Superintendent aware of his past dealings with West Lakeside LLC and AKT Development and the conflict of interest.”

Natomas Unified followed the report by filing a lawsuit in September 2009 which alleged that the team of experts hired to handle the purchase were negligent in their duties, causing the district to spend $10 million too much for the land — about six times the actual value. The lawsuit sought to have the $13.4 million transaction with AKT and West Lakeside, LLC rescinded and revised as well as to have the school district’s overpayment refunded.

But in January 2013 trustees unanimously voted to settle their lawsuit and pay $550,000 in attorney’s fees to developer West Lakeside LLC and end the risk of paying millions more in future lawyer fees.

In August 2017, Paso Verde School opened on an interim location and the district broke ground at the permanent campus site in November 2019. The school is located at 3883 Del Paso Road, west of Interstate 5.

Signage welcomes Paso Verde School students to campus. /

“It’s all amazing,” said Susan Rossman, a parent of both a third grader and a sixth grader at the school. “This has been a thing of dreams. I’m glad we got everything we wanted for Paso Verde School. I love this school and community and am really glad my kids get to take part in this opportunity.”

After settling the lawsuit, school district officials said they still faced some hurdles. The site was redesigned more than once to meet Sacramento International Airport flyer over zone requirements. The district also had to negotiate with Natomas Basin Conservancy as well as city and county officials for services such as water, sewer, right of way, and fire protection to the site which is located outside of the city limits. Some of land the district purchased will remain a natural preserve area.

“This has been a team effort. It could not have been done without the community and our phenomenal staff,” Natomas Unified school board member Lisa Kaplan said. “This has been a long haul and everybody working together, making it happen.”

The school district recently announced that Heather Gohn will be the next principal of Paso Verde School. Gohn was selected to replace Jarrell, who has been promoted to another position at the Natomas Unified School District Education Center.

A student works on an assignment virtually with classmates in science class. / Photo


Students learning in-person on the Paso Verde Campus are joined by classmates studying from home via Zoom. / Photo

Founding Principal Tonja Jarrell waves at parents during drop off Monday at Paso Verde School’s new campus. / Photo

Cars line the driveway to drop students off Monday at the new Paso Verde School campus. / Photo

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