One-story design for new Solana Vista School approved

The Solana Beach School District board Feb. 13 approved the schematic design for the new Solana Vista School, set to begin construction next summer.

The new one-story design calls for replacing the 38-year-old campus of mostly portables with 24 total permanent classrooms (eight specialty classrooms), a larger multi-use room, a media center centralized within the campus, an academic court and garden adjacent to the STREAM lab, and lunch and food service areas adjacent to the multi-purpose room and play fields. While the green space will be slightly reduced, there will be no impact on the existing sports fields utilized by local youth baseball and soccer leagues.

The new driveway entrance for Solana Vista will be a right-turn only in between Santa Bartola and Santa Cecelia—currently traffic enters further up on Santa Victoria. The new driveway configuration aims to get cars off Santa Victoria and stacking internally in the parking lot and exiting back on Santa Victoria close to Santa Carina. A traffic study is currently being conducted.

Last July, the board first heard design concepts with the schematic design approval set to happen in the fall. SBSD Vice President Rich Leib and other board members were concerned the process was rushed without adequate community input and they encouraged the design team to hold community input sessions.

“I feel like the extra time we spent, seven months or so, has been valuable and important,” Leib said.

With the schematic design approved, the design team will move on to further design details, exterior finishes and work out construction logistics. Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs, said they will return to the board in April with an update of the developing design.

As part of the school site design process, the plans will go through the California Department of Education, the California Coastal Commission, and the City of Solana Beach for further approvals. There will also be continued public outreach as the design is refined.

During the design meetings, Brown said the district heard concerns about traffic flow, water cultivation and management and one suggestion to convert the multi-use room to a gym. Bike Walk Solana was also involved to encourage safe routes to school. Clerk Debra Schade, whose three sons attended Solana Vista, shared her idea to retain the beautiful wood in the ceiling of the school’s kiva and have a piece of the school’s history incorporated into the new design.

At the board meeting, Jill Cooper, a former teacher and member of the Solana Vista design committee, encouraged the board to “think big” with the new school.

“I believe that our actions speak louder than words and that our actions today can make a positive impact on the lives of our children who are the adults of tomorrow,” Cooper said. “Our children are growing up in a world that is struggling with the effects of climate change, so let’s do our part and show our children that we are actively looking out for their futures.”

Cooper said the new school could help decrease greenhouse gases by using renewable energy, generating its own electricity from solar panels installed on classroom rooftops. She also suggested a large reservoir tank to capture rainwater to irrigate landscaping and the school garden, saving money on water bills.

“These infrastructure upgrades would benefit all of us by working to slow down climate change and by saving the district money on electric and water bills,” Cooper said.

Leib said he was struck by Cooper’s comments about the environment and the things they can do to make the school unique and innovative.

“I do support thinking big,” board member Vicki King agreed, encouraging the district to explore grant opportunities to take on projects like solar and the rainwater reservoir.

Board members said they would like to stay involved in the design process for this “showcase school.”