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Del Mar Heights students could be housed at Del Mar Hills, Ocean Air during 2020-21 construction

Heights relocation.JPG
Plans for the proposed re-location of Del Mar Heights students (the portable locations are not finalized).
(Courtesy)

The Del Mar Union School District is looking at student housing options for next summer’s rebuild of Del Mar Heights School, including sending Heights students to Del Mar Hills Academy and Ocean Air School during construction.

A community meeting with Heights architects Baker Nowicki Design Studio and families from the Heights, Hills and Ocean Air communities was held on June 25 to discuss the student relocation options. Trustee Doug Rafner said there was a lot of “spirited” discussion about the district imposing the housing possibilities on the schools and some concerns about the transparency of the process.

“When we were talking about Prop MM, the concept of moving kids off-site really wasn’t something that I was thinking of,” Rafner said at the board’s June 26 meeting. “I was thinking of the kids remaining on-site but it appears now that we’re in the trenches that the community, the parents of those kids, think that it doesn’t really make sense to keep them on-site for security reasons and a number of other things. That gave rise to other options.”

Keeping students at the Heights during construction would add an additional 12 months to the schedule, with interim housing costs of about $1.5 million and an additional $3.5 million for the extended construction. Rafner said that the most logical choice is to send students where there is room in the district, which leaves only a couple of likely candidates.

One option would be to house all Heights students on the Hills campus. There will be a need to relocate 23 teaching stations and only eight are available at Del Mar Hills, so the option would require bringing 15 portables to the campus.

This option would carry a price tag of $2 million and would require additional site improvements such as a fire lane, paving and a stormwater detention basin. It would also trigger a California Environmental Quality Act review.

“There is quite an impact to that campus just in getting portables on that campus,” said Chris Delehanty, executive director of capital programs.

The 15 additional portables would reduce PE and field space and there would be impacts to traffic and parking as there are only 40 parking spaces and the school would grow to around the 750-student range.

The other option would be to split Heights students between the two sites where there is the most room in the district—Del Mar Hills and Ocean Air School.

This option would only need one to two additional portables at both Del Mar Hills and Ocean Air, Delehanty said. Eleven teaching stations and about 210 students would move to Ocean Air and eight teaching stations would be needed for the 190 students that would go to Del Mar Hills.

The potential interim housing costs would be about $200,000 to $400,000 for the portables and an additional $150,000 to provide bussing for students. The school enrollment would be about 485 students at Heights and Ocean Air would be in the 750-student range, which was about its peak when Delehanty was the assistant principal in 2014-15.

According to Delehanty, discussions will continue about all of the options on the table and there will be opportunity for public input as more details and information becomes available.

“There are going to be some impacts but it appears that it’s only going to last a year so I’m thankful for that,” Rafner said.

DMUSD Trustee Scott Wooden agreed that the shortened one-year timeline does make it a lot more palatable than if the impacts were ongoing for a couple of years at different schools.

“Certainly costs come into play when you look at the various options,” Wooden said. “I think people are looking at it pragmatically and we’ll come to a good decision when it’s all said and done.”

The BakerNowicki design team created a website to share information from each Del Mar Heights design planning meetings at delmarheightsrebuild.com.