Sunset High School reconstruction to begin next summer

A new permanent home for Sunset High School is on the horizon.

The San Dieguito Union High School District board approved an addendum to the master plan for the school expansion project at its April 19 meeting, moving up the timeline to bring long-awaited changes to the 3.3-acre site on Requeza Street in Encinitas.

The Sunset campus is close to 40 years old and has included all temporary buildings since its opening.Those existing portables as well as the district’s warehouse facilities on site will all be demolished and a new campus will be built in its place—a mix of two-story and single-story classroom buildings and a brand new multi-purpose room.

The reconstruction will bring several resources the school has been without, including the multi-purpose room, a “true blue” state-of-the-art science classroom, space for art and culinary classes, and outdoor gathering spaces including a learning garden four times as large as the existing one. New special education classrooms will also be built, including the new home for the district’s Adult Transition Program for special education students ages 18-22.

The district is set to begin construction in summer 2019 with the school ready for students in fall 2020. During construction, Sunset students will temporarily move down the street to the portable classrooms on the San Dieguito Academy High School campus.

SDUHSD Superintendent Eric Dill gave credit to John Addleman, the district’s executive director of planning services, for recognizing the opportunity to accelerate this project. Back when Prop AA passed in 2012, the new Sunset was toward the tail end of the district’s envisioned work.

“Not only will we get to finally build a permanent campus for Sunset, we will save Prop AA funds by using the existing portables for SDA construction rather than having to lease and relocate a new temporary campus if we did this project later,” Dill said.

The district will be engaging with the city of Encinitas in the beginning of May as it starts off the coastal development permit process. Addleman said they will also start with community outreach with the school’s neighbors, being particularly sensitive to surrounding homes, including a new 13-home development proposed for the land immediately adjacent to the project site to the east.

Addleman said neighbors will work with the district in terms of looking at the landscaping and the building exterior finishes to make sure the project ties into the community. Design schemes will be provided to the community first and they will help whittle it down to their top two—Addleman said hopefully by June the board will see what the community has selected.

“This is so overdue,” said board member Joyce Dalessandro. “It’s really satisfying to see that finally we’re getting to this.”

The high school is technically a continuation school but it is considered a school of choice, an alternative to the comprehensive high schools in the district. About 95 percent of students are there voluntarily—some to accelerate their progress to graduate early, some to recover credits and get caught up and others because they’d rather be at a small school.

Sunset students are required to attend school four hours a day, five days a week. Students generally enroll in two to four classes at a time and work at their own pace.

The Sunset reconstruction has a negative declaration, meaning that there is no substantial evidence that it will have significant impacts on the environment.

“The district has incorporated various project design features as conditions of the project that will avoid potential impacts or reduce them to a less than significant level,” the negative declaration addendum reads.

The plan includes 14 classrooms plus administrative and support facilities, increasing the school’s capacity from 189 students to 290 students. The new campus will have a new parking lot on the eastern side of the school building and an expanded student drop-off area. The lot will include 87 spaces— four spaces over the amount required by City of Encinitas’ Municipal Code.

Prior to construction, a traffic control plan will be developed in accordance with the city’s traffic control guidelines. The traffic control plan will address construction traffic at the intersection of Requeza Street and Westlake Street, and the intersection of Requeza Street and Nardo Road.

The project will be funded by the district’s fourth Prop AA bond draw. This bond series of a little over $25 million will fund projects over the next three years, including modernization of the culinary art classroom at La Costa Canyon High School, design for modernization of student support services and classrooms at San Dieguito Academy, and new classrooms at Oak Crest Middle School.

As of December 2017, the district has issued $339 million in general obligation bonds and has expended $257,559,649. The final Prop AA draw will be in 2022.

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