Del Mar school district considering ‘option areas’ to deal with growing enrollment

By Karen Billing

In an effort to avoid boundary changes to deal with an ever-growing enrollment, Del Mar Union School District is looking at creating “option areas” for families. Families that live within the option areas will have the choice between two schools designated for their area.

The plan for the proposed option areas came out of a committee formed in October last year and they will present the plan to the school board for approval on Wednesday, Feb. 29. An open house was held on Monday, Feb. 13, where parents could get a look at the data and options and submit a written comment.

School board President Scott Wooden said that he is in favor of giving people a choice rather than forcing them into a school, but is taking the approach that he wants to do whatever is best for families.

“I’m waiting to hear what the community thinks,” said Wooden on Monday, circulating the open house to listen to what parents were saying.

The proposed option areas are Ocean Air-Sage Canyon; Sage Canyon-Ashley Falls; Ocean Air-Torrey Hills; Del Mar Hills-Carmel Del Mar; and Sycamore Ridge-Ashley Falls.

Within the option areas, once a student picks a school they will have resident status at that school. The district will make every effort to attempt to place the student in the school of their choice. If there is no room at either school, a family may select any other school where there is space available.

“I think it’s much better than what they said two years ago, they’re being a lot more flexible,” said a parent who lives in the Palacio community off Carmel Country Road that has dealt with many shifts. Families residing there have seen their home school go from Carmel Del Mar to Ashley Falls, and then half of the community was also Sage Canyon.

“The key is that the district keeps their word,” said the parent, noting that if the option plan is selected, it should stick and not be changed in another two years.

One of the driving forces of the options is the enrollment statistics, provided by Decision Insight. The enrollment projections look ahead to the future out to 2021.

Of all the schools, the one with numbers consistently overflowing is Ocean Air, the school that over the last few years has had the most issues with space and students. Extra classrooms are coming this summer to help the situation, but the predictions show that the school will continue to be impacted. By 2014-15, Ocean Air is expected to be 97 students over capacity.

Another school that will be heavily impacted by future growth is Sycamore Ridge, with the build-out of Pacific Highlands Ranch. In 2019-20, the numbers predict Sycamore could be over capacity by 188 students and in 2020-21 as many as 268.

“I think it’s a great idea to offer options,” said a Sage Canyon parent. “It’s best to keep students that live in the same areas going to the same schools. It builds a sense of community and I think that’s what everyone wants. All the schools around here are good.”

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