By Suzanne Hall
Torrey Hills parent
Now that the 7/11 committee has issued its final report, the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees is tasked with resolving the movement of the district offices. In addition, it has directed that a financial task force begin working on options for cutting expenses within the district. It is imperative that the board considers the financial health of the DMUSD as it makes its determination as to where to place the district offices and maintenance operations.
Superintendent Sharon McClain recommended that the board use the money from the sale of the Shores property to purchase a site for the district offices. The superintendent said that a decision needs to be made expeditiously. Dragging this process out can cost the district money, as property values of lots for sale will eventually escalate, and interim leasing of a temporary space would bleed badly needed funds from the DMUSD budget. The board is urged to make a decision soon.
One of the superintendent's alternate recommendations is to house the district offices on a school site. This is a bad idea, unless that school site was designated solely for the purpose of district offices and maintenance operations.
District offices should be housed separately from students. Joint use endangers children and degrades the atmosphere of the school, which in turn reduces the quality of the educational experience for the children at that site. Further, joint-use options at school sites provide no significant cost savings to the district. Resolving the move of district offices without an eye to the financial crisis the DMUSD is experiencing is imprudent.
Closure of a school would allow for the offices to be unified at one site, while providing cost savings needed by the district. The 7/11 committee determined that the DMUSD would save at least $450,000 annually if a school were closed. This could protect the job of one teacher at each of the remaining school sites, year after year.
Closing a school does not completely cover the projected gap in the DMUSD budget for the next two years. However, in combination with other proposed money-saving options, such as installing solar panels, school closure can provide more than an estimated $1 million per annum.
How many teachers' jobs could be saved with that figure? It is too significant to be ignored.
In summary, the board is urged to keep the district's financial situation in the forefront of their minds during deliberations regarding the move of district offices. It is a certainty that the DMUSD will need to be making cuts to the budget in the near term to make ends meet. Let's hope the board of trustees does not exacerbate the need for cuts by disregarding cost savings measures available to them in making this decision.