By Karen Billing
San Dieguito Union High School District is close to setting the boundaries for its new middle school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, set to open in fall 2015.
In the initial proposal given at a community workshop held on April 15 at Carmel Valley Middle School, the new boundaries would include students of Ashley Falls, Sycamore Ridge and the new elementary school, Solana Ranch. The board is expected to vote on the boundaries at its May 15 board meeting.
“Our boundary mirrors the elementary school districts so kids coming out of sixth grade don’t get split between two middle schools, that’s not fun for families or for kids,” said Michael Grove, associate superintendent of educational services.
The district plans to open “Middle School 5” initially with a class of 200-220 seventh graders. The following year the district would add another group of seventh graders to bring its enrollment up to about 500. With full build-out by 2018, Grove said they expect the enrollment to be 1,000.
The boundary extends to the eastern-most part of the district — any new development in Pacific Highlands Ranch will also feed into the boundary and cause the school’s enrollment to grow over the next four or five years to 1,000 students.
Grove said he is getting a lot of calls about people buying homes in PHR’s new Watermark development — he assured people that students from that community will be able to attend the new middle school.
With the new middle school, Grove said they want to draw student enrollment from Carmel Valley Middle School, which is an extremely full campus, with over 1,500 students. He said by year one of the new school being open, Carmel Valley Middle School will shrink to about 1,250 students and by year two the campus will be down to 1,000 students.
One parent expressed concern that the new school’s boundaries don’t resolve Carmel Valley Middle School’s overcrowding problem soon enough.
“To have 200 there and 1,200 here seems so out of balance to me,” she said, requesting they consider expanding the boundary and adding Solana Pacific or Sage Canyon.
Grove said that would actually over-enroll the new middle school. He said it would work for a year or two, but they would have to redraw boundaries after the new development is built.
“We don’t want to keep redrawing boundaries, we want to make a decision that’s going to work for the long term,” Grove said.
In addition to the boundaries, the meeting also featured discussions on planning, scheduling and programming of the school.
“Middle School 5” as it’s being called currently, will be a full, comprehensive, traditional middle school, just like the district’s other middle schools.
In May, the district hopes to assemble a planning team made up of parents, staff and even students that will work on issues such as the school name, colors, mascot, program recommendations and the bell schedule. A principal is expected to be hired by fall and will work with the planning team to make recommendations to the board about “the nuts and bolts of the school,” Grove said.