Upgrades of schools discussed at superintendents forum

Superintendents from four local school districts discussed modernizations of learning institutions, among other topics, at a forum at Pacific Trails Middle School in Carmel Valley on March 15.

The event, which was part of the North Coastal Council of PTAs’ bi-monthly meeting, invited Superintendents Holly McClurg of Del Mar Union School District, Timothy Baird of Encinitas Union School District, Eric Dill of San Dieguito Union High School District and Terry Decker of Solana Beach School District.

Modernization and upgrades of school facilities was a common denominator in the superintendents’ speeches.

At Del Mar Union School District, McClurg said the schools “look pretty traditional” and said the school plans to revamp its facilities so they don’t look the same as they did decades ago.

“We have to get out of that thinking of what we know schools to be,” she said.

Decker said flexible learning environments — which can be easily converted with items like moveable furniture — can be part of the answer.

In November 2016, Solana Beach voters approved Measure JJ, which replaced or upgraded aging, outdated classrooms, science labs, libraries and school buildings.

Decker said the 60-year-old Skyline Elementary School will break ground on modernization in June.

The construction will take place over the next year, when students will be displaced and many of them will go to Earl Warren Middle School across the street.

Solana Highlands Elementary School and Solana Pacific Elementary School will also undergo modernization, Decker said. Improvements include a nutrition initiative and solar panels over parking areas.

Dill said flexible learning environments have proved beneficial in the high schools.

“We’ve created a bunch of boxes when we created our new classrooms, knowing that years from now there could be something completely different that we want to utilize those rooms for,” he said. “We don’t want to be constrained by our furniture and the cabinetry.”

He also formally announced there would be no lottery selection for the high schools, at least for the next year, partially due to various bell schedules to accommodate student and parent needs.

In Encinitas, Baird said the district is currently “finishing out” the $44 million bond extension approved in Proposition P, which voters approved in 2010 to upgrade Encinitas elementary schools.

The district would continue to develop and design its Farm Lab, which is essentially the district’s version of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education, he said.

A teacher-collaboration program was also recently approved, Baird said.

“We’re in a bubble in our North Coastal area of the kinds of amazing work that’s going on,” he said. “This idea of empowering our teachers to do more and expand what they’re doing is really something you’ll find in all of our districts.”

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