New Solana Vista School design continues to take shape

Construction on the new Solana Vista Elementary School is expected to begin in 2020.
Karen Billing

The Solana Beach School District board provided feedback on conceptual site plans for the new Solana Vista Elementary School at its Oct. 11 meeting, encouraging the development of a one-story campus rather than a partial or full two-story campus on the Santa Victoria site. Despite the board’s preference to preserve as much green space as possible at the school, it did not believe the community would support the construction of a two-story school in exchange.

“There are competing concerns as there is not enough park space in that area and a second story is very controversial,” said board member Richard Leib, noting that one of the concerns he has heard about the new Skyline School is that it is much bigger than the old campus. “I think the community would love to see a new school but they don’t want to see a bigger, larger school.”

In addition to the impact on the surrounding community, a second story could also be a challenge for an elementary school as per California Building Code, kindergarten through second grade students can not occupy a second floor and Solana Vista is a K-3 school. The district might be able to apply for an exception if special exit accommodations are made but most board members, like Leib, were leaning toward a one-story school as the more appropriate option.

SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said that the district will continue to work with AlphaStudio Design Group on the schematic plan, as well as continue to gather community input—a 41-member design team has been meeting since May 2017 and the group’s next meeting will be held on Oct. 23.

Brentlinger said the board is expected to approve the schematic designs in January 2019. Construction is set to begin in 2020 and during the one-year construction timeline, the district plans to house students off-site at Skyline and Solana Highlands Elementary Schools.

According to Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs and technology, the district opted for a full reconstruction of Solana Vista rather than a modernization due to the condition and age of the 38-year-old school. Solana Vista only has nine permanent classrooms, 66 percent of the campus is portable classrooms. In an effort to provide equity in facilities across the district, the new design will include adequately-sized STREAM lab, multi-purpose room, media center, food service and student dining. The new design will also seek to provide access to outdoor learning spaces, enhance campus security and improve the parking and drop-off configuration—the preliminary concept includes adding a new entry driveway on Santa Cecelia, in an attempt to prevent back-ups from occurring on Santa Victoria and Santa Helena. The district will have to conduct a traffic study as well as receive City of Solana Beach approval for that option.

All of the conceptual designs for the school remain within the existing campus footprint after the district heard feedback from neighbors on San Patricio who were against a configuration that would move classroom buildings closer to residences and move the ballfields to a new area, affecting views and property values. With those residents in mind, the board gave direction to keep the hard court play area away from that part of campus and keep it toward the front of the campus where it can expand into the covered lunch area and multi-use room.

All of the conceptual options presented on Oct. 11 called for 16 standard classrooms and eight specialty classrooms, smaller than the current 31 classroom spaces on the campus, 26 of which are being used as classrooms. Board member Vicki King said she was concerned about building a new school with fewer classrooms than they have now.

Brown said that the projections show a decrease in enrollment at the school but the board members were not so sure—SBSD President Debra Schade said that the neighborhood is aging and many residents are the original homeowners.

“Solana Beach is one of the oldest cities demographically in San Diego County, I know the community is going to turn over so I have very serious concerns about downsizing a school in that community,” said Schade, prompting the board to request that the design team pursue an option with three additional classrooms.

With the new school design, the district also still must conduct geotechnical studies and work through California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the Coastal Commission. To stay updated on the progress, visit under the Measure JJ tab.