Carmel Valley: Lack of room for kindergarten population at area school a growing problem

By Karen Billing
Staff Writer

The Olesky family moved to Carmel Valley to be a part of the Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) and picked their home for its proximity to Ocean Air School, just 500 feet away. They loved the idea of walking their child to school. Now they are faced with the “nightmare” scenario that there is no room for their kindergartner at their neighborhood school.

At the July 27 DMUSD board meeting, parent Harry Dennis described the same nightmare — his wife in tears because their daughter couldn’t go to school with her friends. Of the five kindergarten girls on their street, half are headed for Sage Canyon instead.

Said Boumsellek, who lives 100 yards from Ocean Air, echoed Dennis’ concerns: “I have to explain why all her friends are going to the same school and she can’t get in,” Boumsellek said.

Ocean Air currently has 123 kindergartners, decided by a lottery system. The lottery left 39 children displaced, meaning they will attend Sage Canyon or Torrey Hills instead. An illustration of the district’s current imbalance: Ashley Falls only has 36 kindergartners this year while Ocean Air has swollen to a population of 810 students, the largest in the district.

“We’re trying to accommodate all the families we can,” district superintendent Jim Peabody said.

Right now those options include exploring class size increases, looking at any space in the school that could be used as a sixth kindergarten and talking to legal counsel to see if new priority attendance boundaries can be drawn up.

“I hear you and I understand but we’re dealing with a very complex set of situations,” said trustee Doug Rafner to the parents. “I wish we could wave a magic wand and make it better for everybody.”

Peabody said the district has a history of schools becoming impacted; it happened at Ashley Falls and will likely happen at Sycamore Ridge when Pacific Highlands Ranch is built out, he said.

Ocean Air had the same problem last year but it has been magnified this year. Unfortunately, the fact that six kindergarten classrooms were needed to accommodate children last year means that there are now six first grade classrooms—there’s simply not room at the school.

The district has looked at using the new childcare facility on campus as a potential classroom, converting a teacher workroom and the possibility of integrating technology uses into the library to free up the technology lab as a classroom.

“We’ve looked at every nook and cranny,” Peabody said.

The option of adding portables is difficult, Peabody said, as each temporary structure costs about $200,000 and the district is looking at a budget where they will be deficit spending $3.4 million.

Peabody said there is no money left in the community facilities districts (CFD) so it would have to come out of the general fund.

Ocean Air-area parent Adam Fischer came up with a possible solution by drawing up new priority attendance areas for Ocean Air, Sage Canyon and Torrey Hills.

“It’s really a matter of reducing traffic as well as improving the overall camaraderie of students on the same street going to the same school,” said Fischer. “It will enhance the sense of community.”

Due to the lottery system, there are children who live on Foxhound Way, right across the street from Sage Canyon who are going to Ocean Air; whereas children on Mustang Ridge, which runs parallel to Ocean Air’s Canter Heights Drive, did not get into Ocean Air and are having to drive to attend Sage Canyon.

If the situation were reversed, students could be walking to school instead of having parents drive them and create more traffic on area streets, Fischer said.

At last week’s meeting, even neighborhood parents whose children are younger, such as Allen Jackel who has a 3-year-old and a 3-month-old, wanted to ensure that the problem is solved before their children reach grade school age.

As parent Brian Olesky pointed out, new homes continue to be built in that area of Carmel Valley and the problem is likely to persist.

“Something needs to be done,” Olesky said.

Peabody said they are getting a legal opinion on the priority attendance boundaries.

“We’re very intrigued by it but we have to make sure we don’t violate anybody’s rights in the process,” Peabody said.

He said they have been working for three months with the Dolinka Group, which drew up the CFD to see how they could change the school boundaries and not violate the spirit of the CFD — homeowners in the area paid Mello-Roos taxes to fund local infrastructure like the schools.

“There’s still not a clear picture of what we can and can’t do,” Peabody said.

Peabody said they will look at the possibility of a new boundary study which he admitted will likely cause a lot of angst and unhappy parents but it may be what needs to be done.

Related posts:

  1. Whittington leaving Del Mar school district
  2. Kindergarten registration to open
  3. DMUSD kindergarten registration March 11
  4. Sage students brave the rain to walk to school
  5. Del Mar to tackle issue of balancing school enrollment

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Posted by Karen Billing on Aug 2, 2011. Filed under Carmel Valley, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

5 Comments for “Carmel Valley: Lack of room for kindergarten population at area school a growing problem”

  1. gonline

    This is so WRONG. I called to see if I could get my child entrolled in the school and there is a year wait. I enrolled him at a local provite school. I am so happy! The OCEAN AIR staff was really rude and the class size is 30 per class.

  2. Rick

    I am so glad you wrote this story. I live one block away from the school and I can't get my son into 1st grade because of the waiting list. The school is across the street and I can't enroll my son? I now have to drive our of the area. This is so wrong!

  3. Kathy

    Why is the district not eliminating it's grandfathering policy. When the schools south of the 56 freeway first opened, they wanted students so opened up to all DMUSD students and got lots of families north of the 56. Those families were allowed to grandfather in all siblings, so conceivable for a decade could be sending kids to the schools south of the 56 which are outside of their attendance boundary. The schools south of the 56 then became full, so the excess kids were send to schools north of the 56. You just need to sit and watch the cars on El Camino Real and Carmel Country Road around 8am and at 2:30pm and see them each crossing over to drop off and pick up their kids. One of the 7/11 Committee analyses documented how many kids this includes and how elminating this policy could change each schools census. DMUSD needs to address this first and allow kids to attend their home school so they can get to know their neighbors and to reduce the car traffic of parent taxis.

  4. earlyretirement

    Does anyone know how bad this problem is in Poway Unified? I know for Willow Grove Elementary for Pre School there was a waiting list of 20+ students trying to get in.

    The principal emailed me and told me although they had a waiting list earlier this year for Kindergarden, fortunately all families were accommodated. We bought a house in Santaluz just a few blocks away and part of the reason was to send our kids to Willow Grove. It would be horrible if they weren't able to go there, especially since the CFD (Mello Roos) is so expensive in that area and was used to help build these schools.

  5. Mark Kelley

    This happened at Ashely Falls years ago as well. At that time anybody in the district could go to any school in the district irrespective of their home location – which was rather senseless. Ideally there would be some set of concentric rings around each school with decreasing levels of priority so as to maximize the probability that children who are truly in walking distance are given the highest priority. That's the best for the environment and the best for the health of our kids. If you are getting into a car to drive your children to school what real difference does it make if it is 1.5 miles or 3.5 miles away?

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