DMUSD's facilities task force evolves to allow for more participation

As the Del Mar Union School District gears up to develop a plan to meet its pressing facilities needs, it has opted to move away from establishing a set facilities advisory task force and instead create a more open process that includes as many people as possible.

According to DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg, the district received significant input about the task force proposed in September with more people wanting to be involved in setting priorities and recommending timing for district projects such as improved safety and technology infrastructure, classroom renovations and repairs district-wide, as well as new construction at Del Mar Heights and the ninth school in East Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Based on the input received and the desire for more direct involvement, McClurg said the district believes they have come up with a better way to get more people engaged.

“It is truly a compliment to our community and to the engagement that we have with our community that there is a great deal of interest in being involved,” McClurg said. “As always, the board of trustees and district staff continuously seek robust public engagement on a wide variety of topics.”

Instead of a task force there will be nine school site teams with open meetings at each site and a cross district priorities meeting, all facilitated by the district’s consultant Eric Hall of Eric Hall and Associates. The school site teams will meet in November and December, the cross district meeting will be held in January or February, resulting in a draft capital improvement plan. In March/April the board would hold a workshop and more school site meetings would be held as needed with the aim of approving the plan in June.

“We’re excited about the ability to involve a wide cross-section of our community in this process,” said Chris Delehanty, executive director of capital programs and technology at the board’s Oct. 24 meeting. “While it looks different than the facilities advisory task force the goals are exactly the same.”

The process will exist regardless of what happens with the Nov. 6 vote on Measure MM, the district’s $186 million general obligation bond.

In September, the board heard a proposal for a 36-member facilities task force composed of a principal, classified staff member, certificated staff member and parent from each school site. Additionally, the superintendent would appoint three members from the superintendent’s advisory council and one parent representing Pacific Highlands Ranch.

Following the meeting, the district conducted a survey asking parents about the makeup of the task force as well as the selection process for members. The district received 130 responses and 68 wrote in their own additional comments at the end of the survey.

“It was noteworthy that 33 people requested having more representation from Pacific Highlands Ranch,” Delehanty said.

In the comments, 11 people asked for special education staff representation and there were five statements about the need for another parent or community member. Other comments were that no member from the superintendent’s advisory task force members should be included as well as asking for more than just one parent member, keeping participation open and providing multiple forms for engagement.

“I do love the idea of allowing as many people who want to be in that room to be in that room so I appreciate this being as inclusionary as it can be,” DMUSD President Kristin Gibson said.

DMUSD Clerk Erica Halpern said she appreciated that the district solicited input on the task force and quickly collected feedback that has already impacted the district’s direction with the facilities process.

“I think it’s moving in the right direction,” Halpern said. “It seems that this structure will allow more people to be involved…it’s an open process and anybody who wants to be engaged can plug in where it makes the most sense for them.”

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