San Dieguito district breaks ground on new Earl Warren school in Solana Beach

Earl Warren Middle School may be one of San Dieguito Union High School District’s oldest schools, but it will soon be the newest campus in the community.

More than 60 years after the school opened in Solana Beach, officials, stakeholders and community members celebrated the complete reconstruction of Earl Warren with a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 16 at the site.

“Today’s an exciting day for the San Dieguito Union High School District, Earl Warren Middle School and our community as we begin the process of rebuilding the new Earl Warren Middle School campus,” said Earl Warren principal Adam Camacho. “The entire Earl Warren Middle School community could not be more excited for what is to come. The new campus will be undoubtedly beautiful and a true reflection of the Solana Beach community.”

The project is made possible by Proposition AA. Voters approved the $449 million general obligation bond in November 2012, funding upgrades and repairs to the district’s North County campuses. Because Earl Warren opened more than six decades ago, however, district officials decided to rebuild rather than renovate the school.

“When our Prop AA projects are completed over the next three to eight years, each school will be finished, modernized and built to capacity, as our community has grown,” said Superintendent Rick Schmitt. “Our community is growing quickly.

“Communities are never more vibrant and successful than when the community invests in education and infrastructure. This is a great example of that,” he added. “Thanks to each of you for your support in our students’ education and the infrastructure that serves them, as we are planning this new campus and getting ready to build another fabulous Earl Warren Middle School that will last for generations like the old campus did.”

Board members, administrators and staff members from the San Diego County Office of Education, San Dieguito Union High School District, Del Mar Union School District and Solana Beach School District reflected on the school’s history and welcomed a new era for the site during the ceremony.

Demolition started in early October, so much of the campus had already been torn down. A few buildings, including the front office, was left standing, but a portion of the building came down at the end of the event to mark the milestone.

“I never thought tearing something down could be so beautiful,” said San Diego County Supervisor Dave Roberts. Four of his six children will go on to the new Earl Warren Middle School.

“This is a moment we have been waiting for,” he added. “It’s truly our future. We need to treasure it.”

Current and former Earl Warren principals and teachers also arrived for the occasion, including retired teacher Jay Williams, who helped open the school in 1954.

A longtime Cardiff resident, Williams taught at Earl Warren from 1954 to 1982.

“I spent a lot of time in these buildings with a lot of great teachers and a lot of wonderful students,” Williams said in an interview. “I have a lot of attachment.”

Said Schmitt, “Even though today’s ceremony happens to be about tearing down an old school and building a new one, schools are only as good as their teachers. What will carry on in our new Earl Warren Middle School is the spirit, leadership and quality of our Earl Warren teachers.”

Schmitt noted that sixth-graders in Del Mar and Solana Beach elementary schools will move into Seahawk Village next year as seventh-graders, and become the first eighth-grade class at the new campus the following year. Also located on the site, Seahawk Village is the temporary space where students will attend school until the new campus is complete in fall 2017.

Fifth-graders in Del Mar and Solana Beach will be the first class to finish two full years at the new middle school.

The site is also home to the Solana Beach Library.

The branch opened in 2001 on the campus of Earl Warren as the county’s first “shared-use” library. As a shared facility, the library serves the middle schoolers with extra hours and a specially trained library technician during the school year.

Among other community members and stakeholders, San Diego County Library Director José Aponte, staff from the Solana Beach Library and volunteers from the Friends of the Solana Beach Library attended the event.

As part of the project, the district is rebuilding Warren Hall, a multipurpose room shared by the school and library, and rebuilding some of the library’s interior space, which will be paid by a combination of Prop AA funds, county funds and contributions from the Friends of the Solana Beach Library, according to Eric Dill, the district’s associate superintendent of business services.

“These youngsters are connected to a world-class library,” said Aponte, who noted that the planned improvements include new carpet, paint, shelving, study rooms, a staff workroom and an expanded bookstore.

Lionakis, the architectural firm that designed the district’s new Pacific Trails Middle School in Pacific Highlands Ranch, also drew up plans for the new Earl Warren. The reconstructed school will be two levels, with the upper level featuring the majority of the classrooms.

The campus will be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and include air conditioning, improved Wi-Fi and a better drop-off and pickup area.

The new school, Camacho said, “will be another amazing learning facility that will serve our students well for years and years to come.”

The overall budget for the project is at almost $52 million, which includes close to $43 million for the campus reconstruction.