At its Feb. 13 meeting, the Solana Beach School District board approved staff’s recommendation to utilize the available open seats districtwide to accommodate incoming Pacific Highlands Ranch students. Staff plans to return to the board in October to determine the criteria for how and when housing developments in Pacific Highlands Ranch will be assigned to Solana Ranch School in the future.
The board has not made an official decision about the option to build the district’s eighth school in Pacific Highlands Ranch or expanding Solana Ranch to accommodate students.
“We need to move forward with getting existing facilities prepared for students as they start coming in,” SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said of the enrollment wave that will accompany 515 new homes on the way between this year and 2023.
According to Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs, as of the first quarter 2019 approximately 1,373 homes are available for occupancy with approximately 560 students residing in Pacific Highlands Ranch developments. Based on enrollment projections, there are approximately 700 seats available across the district to accommodate new students being generated from the community.
Using its existing schools to accommodate growth will require site improvements such as portables and modular classroom buildings at Solana Santa Fe Elementary School and Solana Pacific respectively.
Last year the board assigned new students from the PHR community of Sendero to Solana Ranch; the communities of Terrazza, Vista Del Mar and Carmel to Carmel Creek and Solana Pacific; and students from Vista Santa Fe to Solana Santa Fe. It was staff’s recommendations to retain those attendance assignments.
During public comment, the board heard from Sandeep Singhai, an incoming resident of Vista Del Mar, who learned his three children have been assigned to Solana Pacific—he must leave the community to drive past Solana Ranch and drive about four miles to the school in Carmel Valley. Singhai said the decision to assign young children to a school so far away is contrary to the ideas of a neighborhood school and a sense of community, not to mention the “sheer wasting of time” for families spending time in their cars in traffic.
Singhai said he pays a very large amount of Mello-Roos property taxes, “If this money cannot ensure something as basic as an elementary school within a reasonable distance, then I wonder why we pay any money at all,” he said.
Homeowners in PHR that fall within the boundaries of the Solana Beach School District are part of one of two Community Facilities Districts (CFDs) or Mello-Roos Districts.
By law, all tax proceeds generated from the districts must be used for the benefit of students generated within the CFDs. The school district may use tax revenues to pay for improvements to schools within the CFD boundaries or for improvements to schools outside the CFD where students from within the CFD boundaries attend school.
At the Feb. 13 meeting, the board approved an updated policy on intradistrict transfers and board member Gaylin Allbaugh said she was optimistic that the new policy will be helpful to some of the Pacific Highlands Ranch families they have heard from.
The new policy gives intradistrict transfer priority to students residing in the two Pacific Highlands Ranch CFDs to attend Solana Ranch as well as any sibling of a student already in attendance at the school.
“I really want to appreciate the response of the board in listening to the community members regarding their desire to be in a community school and I believe that this is a step in that direction,” Brentlinger said.
Once the enrollment priorities have been applied in accordance with the policy, if there are more requests for a school than there are spaces available, a random drawing will be held. Those applying for intradistrict transfer for the 2019-20 school year must submit by March 7.