Solana Highlands School to become K-6 campus

Solana Highlands School in Carmel Valley will transition into a K-6 school from a K-3 school starting this fall.
(Karen Billing)

Solana Highlands School will make the conversion from a K-3 school into a K-6 school. The transition for the Carmel Valley neighborhood school will begin with adding the fourth grade in the 2021-22 school year and adding a grade level each year until 2023-24.

The Solana Beach School District board voted unanimously in favor of the change at its April 15 meeting. With the conversion, Solana Highlands will become the district’s only K-6 option in Carmel Valley.

Solana Highlands has been a K-6 and K-4 in the past and has been a K-3 school since 2014. SBSD Superintendent Jodie Brentlinger said the conversion idea was born in 2018 to deal with shifting demographics within the school district—they were seeing dips in enrollment at four of the district’s schools and an enrollment boom in Pacific Highlands Ranch.

The original plan was to make the change following the enrollment wave of housing Pacific Highlands Ranch students, around 2024-25. As Pacific Highlands Ranch students were not assigned to Solana Highlands, the timeline was moved up to 2021-22.

“It’s an idea that promotes choice,” Brentlinger said.

Siblings can stay together for K-6 or families who would like the option for children to attend grades 4-6 at Solana Pacific School to experience an intermediate level prior to middle school will be able to complete an intradistrict transfer request.

The conversion was slated to be approved by the board last April but the decision was delayed due to the pandemic. Community meetings have been held at Solana Highlands since 2019 with the most recent held on April 1, sharing teacher, parent and student views on the proposed change.

Benefits of the conversion include the increased ability to build a school community with the extra three years, better sibling bonding from kids going to the same school, increased interaction and mentoring opportunities among “littles and olders” as well as decreased vehicle traffic in the area.

Students in Lisa Salley’s third grade class also gave the idea the thumb’s up, sharing that they liked that they would be able to stay at the same school, being able to see their younger friends and siblings as well as their old teachers: “Your teachers can see you grow up,” said third grader Benjamin.

Several students said without moving to Solana Pacific, a bonus was that they could still walk to school.

“We are looking forward to growing our school and expanding our school community from a K-3 to a K-6,” said Principal Shawntanet Jara. “It’s a bit retro since we were a K-6 school in the early ‘90s so welcome the nostalgia!”

This school year, Solana Highlands also played host to K-2 grade students from Solana Vista School while it was being completely rebuilt. The new Solana Beach campus will welcome all K-3 students back this fall.