By Karen Billing
A recently formed group, Parents for Sycamore Ridge, is appealing to the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees that the Sycamore Ridge School campus no longer has the capacity to house the district’s special needs preschool and child care center.
Parents say the K-6 population is feeling the burden of having the two programs at their school, taking up one-third of the school’s classrooms.
“We value these programs and there’s no question they should exist and have adequate facilities,” said parent Sandi Adam. “We want to find a solution that’s right for all of the programs…Having childcare at a school with the highest projected growth rates doesn’t make sense.”
The group, which gave the board a petition signed by 226 parents, held a special town hall meeting on March 21 and had 18 speakers during public comment at the March 28 meeting. While speakers spoke, others held up yellow signs that read “The time is now.”
The issue was not on the agenda so the board members could not discuss it, but they acknowledged the parents’ message has been received.
“We hear you,” said board president Scott Wooden, stressing the board wants to find both a short-term and long-term solution for childcare that makes sense and doesn’t impact students.
The item is on the agenda for the April 25 meeting and last week the board approved a contract for architect Charles Forte to do a Child Care Center feasibility study.
The special needs preschool has been on the campus since the school opened in 2005. The CDC moved to Sycamore from the old Ninth Street district office two years ago on a temporary basis. Both take up an entire wing of the campus.
Parents say the “significant impact” of the CDC was felt right away; classrooms became overcrowded and as many as 11 students were turned away from their home school last year.
“It’s actually impacted the school’s ability to accommodate students within our boundary,” said parent Josh Clorfeine. “We wouldn’t have an overcrowding issue if this had been resolved.”
While Clorfeine said the parents’ goal is not to burden the district with litigation fees, he said there are legal issues with Mello Roos, residents’ monies paying for a facility to be used as a for-profit, pre-school that people residing outside of the boundary can attend.
One of the impacts of the CDC and SPED housing is that kindergartners were displaced from classrooms designed specifically for them as required by law—with an attached restroom.
“It negatively affects their day,” said parent Carol Chang, describing how the kindergarten students must walk in a pair across campus to the restroom, cutting into the four hours of instruction time and becoming a safety issue.
Parents say more accidents have happened due to the bathroom not being attached to their classroom; one mother said her kindergartner comes home wet a few times a week. The mother’s other child feels the impact too—she has a fourth grade son who is on an IEP (Individualized Education Program) and is in a class with 29 kids. She said the teacher is great but can only do so much.
The CDC and SPED programs have also impacted the school’s relatively small parking lot, with parents calling the situation a “nightmare” at drop off and pick up. They also said the lack of available spaces affects volunteerism.
The problem is made worse by the fact that there is no on-street parking by the school because of bike lanes.
Last week, the board approved architect Forte’s contract, which included not just the feasability study but also design services for Sycamore Ridge’s parking lot project.
Expanding the parking lot at Sycamore will mean paving over field space – which parent Ian Allen equated to “paving paradise.”
“Please don’t spend money to address the symptom, not the problem,” Clorfeine urged the board at the meeting. “Take a step back. Don’t make incremental decisions that have the appearance of leaning a certain way or taking money away from options that might be more viable.”
“Parking is the least of our issues,” echoed Adam. “We want to ensure that students who should be served can be served here.”
To learn more or sign up for updates, visit ParentsforSycamoreRidge.wordpress.com.