High school district board to vote on bond
By Karen Billing
The San Dieguito Union School District board will be making a decision at its July 26 meeting whether to put a $449 million general obligation bond on the November ballot. The money from the bond will go to support upgrades in the district’s nine schools, including a new performing arts center and gym for Torrey Pines High School, as well as the construction of a new middle school in Carmel Valley.
The San Dieguito district last went for a bond in 1971.
“It’s been 40 years and we believe what we’re looking at getting this district in very good standing for the next approximately 40 years,” said Superintendent Ken Noah.“We’re not doing this lightly. We want to put something on the ballot that is defensible and justified…a solid, wise investment in our schools and our high school district.”
The bond represents a maximum cost for taxpayers of $24 per $100,000 of accessed property values. The median home value in the district is about $600,000, which represents about $150 a year.
The idea to go after a general obligation bond is something the district has been working toward for the last four years.
The planning was set in motion in 2008, even before Noah joined the district. In his periodic visits to the district (before he became superintendent) it became clear to him that they needed to do a comprehensive long-range facilities plan and the studies began that fall (when Noah joined the district as superintendent). A task force of over 30 community members worked for nearly a year, ending in December 2009 and coming to the board with their plan in January 2010.
“At that time the plan went on a hiatus because of the economic conditions, but by the late summer of 2010 we brought it back to life and actually took comprehensive planning to a school by school basis,” Noah said. “We went through a similar process at the local level, refining the plans for each of our nine school sites, as well as looking at a new middle school in the Carmel Valley area.”
The planning work was completed in late 2011 and the district went to work preparing all the necessary documents with architects and construction managers, getting more specific numbers on details and a cost-analysis of the plan.
“It was an exhaustive process and our reason for doing that is we know we are going to be asking for public support for a significant bond,” Noah said. “It was important we do our due diligence in that so we can take something to the voters that is defensible and fully vetted.”
Some of the things the bond will pay for mark exciting changes for Carmel Valley schools.
The first of which is a brand new middle school, on the land adjacent to Canyon Crest Academy. The middle school will cater to likely 1,000 students as Pacific Highlands Ranch is built out.
“It will also alleviate overcrowding at Carmel Valley Middle School,” said Noah of the school which is currently at 1,500 students. “The opening of the new middle school will take Carmel Valley Middle down to 1,000 students, which is a more appropriate size.”
The bond will also address Earl Warren Middle School, the second oldest facility in the district at 50-plus years old.
If the bond passes, the plan is for Earl Warren to be completely torn down and rebuilt (with the exception of the joint-use Solana Beach Library building) to the highest standards of green and energy-efficient building.
Like Earl Warren, Torrey Pines High has also seen some “wear and tear” at its campus, where the oldest structures are over 40 years old, built in 1971. The plan is for the oldest part of campus to receive upgrades to safety features, roofing, HVAC and technology support.
The plan is for Torrey Pines to also finally get a performing arts center—it is the only one of the four high schools in the district that does not have one.
Torrey Pines will also get a new gym.
“The gym currently is not sufficient for the number of programs that they have,” Noah said. “In 1971 we didn’t have the number of kids involved in athletics and certainly not the numbers of women. The programs have exploded and we don’t have enough space.”
The last major project in the Carmel Valley area is at Canyon Crest, which is planned to get an additional two-story classroom wing which will grow the enrollment capacity from 1,800 to 2,250. Additional projects are also planned for CCA.
The Del Mar Union School District is also considering putting a bond on the November ballot and was scheduled to make its decision at its July 25 board meeting (after presstime for this newspaper). As stated in a previous Del Mar meeting, there was some concern among the SDUHSD board about DMUSD having a competing bond measure.
Noah said he shares the board’s concern about the impact a second local school bond measure will have, especially noting that Mira Costa College is expected to have a bond and there will also be two state tax initiatives on the ballot.
Noah said anytime that you’re asking voters to support an increase in taxes there’s a possibility they will say “yes” to only a few or possibly “no” to everything.
“When a ballot is crowded like that, that’s the thing I’m concerned about,” Noah said. “(Del Mar’s) bond did occur fairly late and it was a bit of a surprise to us.”
He said there’s no way of knowing what the effect will be, positive or negative, of having both bonds on the ballot. He remains hopeful that the SDUHSD bond will be successful—a feasibility study showed a 64 percent support rate and 55 percent is needed to pass it.
“I’m very, very solid in the belief that this is needed, there’s no question in my mind,” Noah said. “The question is whether it is the right time and will we be able to get the support at the polls we need to pass this.”
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