Del Mar school district to form facilities task force

The Del Mar Union School District is forming a Facilities Advisory Task Force, an effort to get more people engaged in the facilities process, identifying needs and putting together a timeline for district projects based on priorities and the funding that is available.

The task force’s ultimate goal will be to develop a “comprehensive, financially feasible and equitable path” to accomplish the facilities goals described in Del Mar’s strategic plan District Design 2022, the board-approved facilities master plan, and the Measure MM general obligation bond. In addition to building a new school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, rebuilding Del Mar Heights and modernizing Del Mar Hills Academy, the task force will set priorities and recommend timing for projects such as improved safety and technology infrastructure, classroom renovations and repairs district-wide.

At the Sept. 26 board meeting, the district’s consultant Eric Hall of Eric Hall and Associates spoke about the potential makeup and selection process of the proposed 36-member committee. The board is expected to make a decision on the selection process at its Oct. 24 meeting.

“This is an exciting opportunity for the school district to continue to engage its community,” said Hall, who had a 32-year career in public education, including 27 years in the San Dieguito Union High School District. “In every district we’ve been in, facilities are very much a challenge…Funding resources are almost never adequate to fund all of the needs.”

The task force can be structured in a way that meets the district’s culture, Hall said, but he recommended “significant stakeholders,” including a principal, classified staff member, certificated staff member and parent from each school site. He proposed that staff members be appointed by their representative groups (Classified Advisory Council and Del Mar Teachers Association) and the parent will be appointed by either the principal, school site council or PTA. To round out the group, the superintendent would appoint three members from the superintendent’s advisory council and one parent representing Pacific Highlands Ranch.

“It’s important that we seek membership that will do more than just come to the meeting. These are the folks that are your ambassadors,” Hall said, noting that members will have a responsibility to share ideas, provide updates and gather input at the individual school sites. “Parents (on the task force) will continue to spread the word in the school community about the process, the complexity, the fact that there’s not enough money to do everything that we need to do… and how we prioritize our precious dollars in terms of improving the teaching and learning environment.”

Trustee Stephen Cochrane said he liked the bottom-up approach of how members will be appointed, “It’s the community that’s selecting the team and not us handpicking people so I think that will result in more trust,” he said.

Clerk Erica Halpern questioned whether there should be a general community member represented but Hall said with the group, they are looking to get the perspective of people who use the district’s educational spaces on a daily basis.

Trustee Scott Wooden said if the district’s Measure MM bond passes, and bond money becomes available, he would prefer to see a lot of parent involvement in who gets selected to serve on the committee as bond proceeds are ultimately taxpayer money.

“The community needs to be involved in this,” Wooden said.

The task force will exist regardless of what happens with the Nov. 6 bond—Measure MM proposes a $186 million general obligation bond to repair and upgrade school facilities across the district, build a new school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, rebuild Del Mar Heights and modernize Del Mar Hills Academy.

The task force will be different from the Independent Citizens Oversight Committee (ICOC) that must be appointed by the district if the bond passes. The ICOC is responsible for providing oversight of the district’s use of bond funds and includes community representatives such as a taxpayer association member, senior citizen organization member and business organization member. The ICOC does not include any employee or official of the school district.

At the Sept. 26 meeting, Chris Delehanty, director of capital programs and technology, said the district is moving forward with the necessary steps to make the purchase of the 10.47-acre site on Solterra Vista Parkway for the district’s ninth school in Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The California Department of Education requires that all school districts perform an environmental site assessment prior to any land purchase.The scope of the review includes California Environmental Quality Act compliance, a geo-hazards report and Department of Toxic Substance Control compliance. At the meeting, the board awarded a $69,365 contract with Placeworks to conduct the environmental review.

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