Parents sent a message to the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees last week: Please do not close any schools.
Ashley Falls School parent Jackie Remnek even offered a chunk of change her daughter Ashley had raised in order to save her school, a story Remnek could barely choke out through tears.
"The bigger issue is to bring this community together," Del Mar Hills parent Amy Caterina said. "In the past nine years, we've had three principals and at least five threats of closure. Parents are put in a very difficult situation of having to defend their school, and it's resulted in a very torn community."
Caterina has even started the Save Our Schools Committee to create a united district where parents all have the same goal of no schools being shuttered. The committee's posters could be seen plastered all over campus.
"We cannot continue to fight each other," Caterina said.
The Del Mar Hills multi-use room was filled with parents, many from Ashley Falls, to hear the 7-11 committee's first report back to the board on its progress. The board said that the committee needs to have more accurate square footage on the district office and proposed preschool and will hold a special meeting to better direct the committee.
The board has also required that the remaining 7-11 meetings be held in the evening hours so more parents can attend and that all agenda materials be promptly posted online.
Each 7-11 committee member has proposed a reconfiguration or closure, and most involve Del Mar Hills, Del Mar Heights, Ashley Falls and Carmel Del Mar.
Challenges with jointly owned school property, Mello Roos fees and other community financing districts exist with all the school sites, except for Del Mar Hills and Del Mar Heights, Superintendent Sharon McClain said.
While the committee has met nine times already, it has never been given a directive on the square footage needed for the district office. Proposals have been made using a range of 48,000 square feet to the bare minimum of 15,000 square feet.
"That makes your job really hard," Trustee Doug Perkins said.
The average projection is 30,000 square feet, coming from a preliminary report given last year on Sept. 3. The report includes requests for larger offices, more training and meeting rooms, lobbies and a private restroom for the superintendent.
The existing district office is 5,700 square feet at the Shores property, not including technology that is housed at Del Mar Hills and storage spread out throughout the district. Nearly all of the staff's offices are located in portables.
Ashley Falls targeted
Two proposals from the 7-11 committee involve reconfiguring Ashley Falls as it has the greatest excess capacity and enrollment is projected to be down 41 percent in five years and 36 percent in 10 years.
Parents called into question the demographic studies used to predict those decreases. Trustee Comischell Rodriguez said that the numbers should reflect new home sales as well as births and new home construction.
Doug Rafner, an Ashley Falls parent, said that the school's excess capacity space can be attributed to a district boundary realignment that sent many students to Sycamore Ridge.
"As Pacific Highlands Ranch is developed, Sycamore Ridge will exceed capacity and students will be transferred back to Ashley Falls," Rafner said. When that happens around 2014, Rafner said, there would need to be an Ashley Falls for those students to go to.