Like neighboring Del Mar Union School District, the Solana Beach School District is working on how to handle the increased enrollment growth coming from new homes in Pacific Highlands Ranch. The district is looking at a projected 896 new homes being built in the area over the next six school years which could generate 390 to 551 students. Of the new construction, 281 homes are expected to be built in 2019-20 which could bring 122 to 173 new students.
“That’s a lot of kids in one year,” said Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs at the board’s July board meeting.
The Solana Beach School District board will soon make a decision on where all of these new students will attend school, planning to hold a special workshop on the Pacific Highlands Ranch attendance boundaries on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
Students currently residing in Pacific Highlands Ranch are assigned to Solana Ranch School or Solana Santa Fe School in Rancho Santa Fe. At the July board meeting, Brown said the district’s focus is on maximizing current resources to accommodate enrollment from PHR by distributing students across all district sites including Solana Highlands and Solana Pacific, Carmel Creek and Solana Santa Fe.
Housing these incoming PHR students will require upgrades and additions to existing sites. Already the district has added four modular classrooms to accommodate growth at Solana Ranch School. For the 2019-20 school year, the board will consider a $2 million expenditure to replace eight modular classrooms at Solana Santa Fe with 10 modular classrooms and a $600,000 expenditure to expand Solana Pacific with two modular classrooms.
The district has a mitigation agreement with Pardee Homes to purchase a 10-acre property on Golden Cypress Place for the district’s potential eighth school—the agreement is expected to be triggered in the third quarter of 2019.
Bruce Cameron, a Pacific Highlands Ranch resident and Solana Ranch parent, encouraged the district to think creatively on its long- term solutions as Pardee Homes has begun building more aggressively and shifted the district’s timeline.
“As a homeowner, I think we should make a decision that’s right for the district and not right for the developer. The developer is telling us we need to buy that land, we need to build that school…they want to tell potential buyers there’s a new school,” Cameron said. “I think we have to think critically what is going to be the right decision for everyone.”
Cameron said he doesn’t want the district to face a similar situation that is occurring in Del Mar where the schools might be full during the enrollment wave but become smaller and face potential closure if homes don’t turn over and the neighborhood children age out. He requested the board carefully consider its options versus the cost of building a new school.