7-11’s final report presented without consensus on an option

East-west division flares at school board meeting

The 7-11 Committee presented its final report to the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees in front of a full — yet divided — house on Jan. 13 at Sage Canyon Elementary School.

Although the report detailed the committee’s findings after eight months of research and review, none of the various options considered earned the 80 percent consensus needed by committee members to make a final recommendation.

The school board is working with the 7-11 District Advisory Committee to reorganize the district’s eight schools in response to the time-sensitive need to relocate the district office and maintenance operations. One of the options under consideration is closing Del Mar Hills Academy to make room for the district office. Other proposals considered include co-locating the offices at Torrey Hills, Ashley Falls and Carmel Del Mar.

Committee member Wayne Harris said that although there was no consensus on their proposals, the ideas and information generated could serve as a starting point for board conversation.

“We’re not suggesting status quo, don’t do anything. We’re handing (our findings) over to you to make good decisions,” Harris said.

During the public input portion of the meeting, of the 15 speakers sharing their opinions on what the best next step should be, there was a strong split in opinion between people living east and west of the freeway.

The division did not go unnoticed by school board president president Comischell Rodriguez.

“That [split] is really not appropriate,” said Rodriguez. “I just don’t like the sentiment of east and west — let’s talk about us in terms of a district.”

The board was to discuss the committee’s proposals at a meeting on Jan. 20 (after presstime for this newspaper), but Rodriguez said she doubts the board would be ready to make a decision at that time.

The board recently voted to create a strategic plan financial task force to look at cost-saving measures. Board members also want information about whether a school closure would trigger costly California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reviews and whether the City of Del Mar will allow the district to extend its lease at the Shores property where the district offices are located.

In presenting the report, committee member Janet Handzell told the board that while they could find surplus space to house the district office at a school site, none of their proposals would yield any appreciable cost savings.

Other speakers said reconfiguring schools would raise issues about safety, community impact, lost green space, traffic, parking and Mello Roos agreements.

The committee shared their difficulties inworking with the information they were provided or, in some cases, not provided.

Chair Bob Shopes said they were uncomfortable using enrollment projections because they weren’t sure of their accuracy.

Handzell suggested that when the board considers enrollment projections in the future, they might want to work with local builders to get data about new housing developments within the district.

Trustee Katherine White complimented the 7-11 committee members for “an excellent job on a very thorough report.”

Ashley Falls parent Doug Rafner thanked the committee for its work, but said the board should look at the committee’s report with a grain of salt. He contended it is an unreliable report based on flawed and inaccurate demographic information on which there was no consensus.

“It will be very interesting to see what the board does with this,” Rafner said. "[The school district community] will be watching.”