By Karen Billing
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.