Brainstorming for the future of Del Mar Hills Academy

Last year many in the Del Mar Hills Academy community fought to save their neighborhood school after the idea of reconfiguration and closing the Hills was pitched by the district. This year after the passage of the Del Mar Union School District’s $186 million Measure MM, the community has given the opportunity to dream big about what they see for the school’s future.

Del Mar Hills, built in 1974, will be undergoing the largest of the MM modernization projects along with Del Mar Heights School, which will be completely rebuilt. Brainstorming sessions will be held at all district schools to gather site-specific feedback about the most needed improvements—the sessions replaced a formally organized facilities task force as a way to gather input and get the most involvement possible.

“Not every district does things the way Del Mar does,” said consultant Eric Hall, complimenting the district for their efforts to promote “trust and transparency” through its engagement process.

Participants at a Feb. 6 session at Del Mar Hills were asked for their feedback on four topics: safety (including school ingress and egress), the performing arts center (PAC), common learning areas and lunch ad play areas.

Common themes emerged in the small groups spread out throughout the PAC such as re-imagining the “pods” between classrooms, creating more outdoor learning spaces and replacing the flooring and sound system inside the PAC. Another often-heard idea: soundproofing the bathroom in the PAC.

For student safety, parents expressed concerns about fencing, visibility into the school that sits low off of Mango Drive and shared ideas for creating interior access to bathrooms and other classrooms. Regarding site access, groups spoke about the challenges of balancing the school and the community’s needs as the fields are one of the few park lands available in Del Mar.

The groups had lots of ideas for improving the field and play areas: addressing gopher holes and the field that is not level, replacing the “dilapidated” batting cages and upgrading the baseball diamonds and adding a dog-friendly zone, a running track and drinking fountains or water bottle filling stations closer to the field.

With the Interstate 5 expansion, some suggested planting more trees at the edge of the school closest to the freeway to act as a buffer for noise or pollution.

The next site brainstorming sessions will be held March 5 at Sycamore Ridge School and March 6 at Ocean Air School. Both meetings begin at 6 p.m. Anyone who is unable to attend a session but has a site-specific idea can email facilities@dmusd.org.

DMUSD seeks volunteers for oversight committee

Another step in the Del Mar Union School District’s Measure MM’s engagement process will include establishing an Independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee (ICOC) to review and report on proper expenditures of taxpayers’ money for school construction projects.

The committee will consist of at least seven members of the community and must include various represented groups to provide a diversity of viewpoints and perspectives. In order to maintain objectivity as part of the committee’s responsibilities, district employees, contractors and vendors to the district are prohibited from serving on the committee.

“We look forward to working through the committee process in a collaborative fashion as part of our community outreach efforts and financial transparency that the district committed to as part of putting Measure MM before the voters,” said Superintendent Holly McClurg in a release.

The district must establish and appoint members to the ICOC within 60 days of certification of the bond election results, which will be done at the board’s Feb. 27 board meeting. Applications for the ICOC are currently available and are due Feb. 28. Throughout March and April, district staff will screen applications and interview applicants and the board will approve ICOC members on April 24.

The ICOC members will serve for a term of two years and for no more than three consecutive terms. The ICOC must be composed of one member representing the business community within the district, one member from an active senior citizens organization, one member shall be a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the district, one member shall be both a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in the district and active in a parent-teacher organization, and one member shall be a member of a bona fide taxpayers association.

More information concerning the independent Citizens’ Oversight Committee, its membership, responsibilities and application for appointment can be found on the district’s website at dmusd.org/MeasureMM.

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