7/11 gets direction on district office plan

Last week, the Del Mar Union School District nailed down the square footage it needs for the new district office, setting it at 15,000 to 25,000 square feet.

The numbers give direction to the 7/11 committee as it figures out how best to use surplus space, but they also give Trustee Comischell Rodriguez something to work with as she set out last week reviewing potential commercial real estate sites that could be purchased.

“I urge you to please go buy a building before you lose this viable financial opportunity,” Ashley Falls parent Heidi Niehart said.

She said she was more convinced after the board saw a “beautiful” district office floor plan by architect Frisco White.

White, who has long been involved with the district and most recently designed Ocean Air School presented office plans in both one- and two-story configurations. He showed how all the district needs, including childcare facilities, could be fit into 25,000 square feet.

White said it would cost around $5.5 million for the district to build a new office, excluding purchasing land. He estimates it would take about a year to build.

White said making improvements to an existing building would cost $2 million to $3 million and take about four months.

The district has $8.5 million from the sale of the Shores property and has a deadline of May 15, 2011, to be out of the property. Superintendent Sharon McClain said that the business services department would need to be out even earlier, by January of 2011, in order to be able to do their jobs.

“We do not have the luxury to wait much longer to find a suitable space,” said former board member Linda Crawford. “Time is of the essence.”

Martha Cox, a former district employee, wondered why they didn’t consider allowing space in their new district office for a meeting room. Currently the board meets at Del Mar Hills in the multiple use room and they have to set it up and take down and have a nighttime custodian stay to lock up.

She said a new meeting room could also have a digital timekeeper, instead of having someone keep time on public comment with a watch and slips of paper to alert how much time is remaining.

“Has this district lost its collective marbles?” Cox asked.

The superintendent said that some uses could be shifted in the floor plan to free up 2,000 square feet for a meeting room if the board desired.

White said he walked the Del Mar Hills campus with maintenance supervisor Randy Wheaton to see if the school could feasibly be reconfigured to house a district office, prompting grumbles and gasps from Del Mar Hills parents in the audience.

“I am shocked, disappointed and outraged,” said Del Mar Hills parent Melanie Carmosino. “It is irresponsible and dangerous and many Del Mar Hills parents are wondering why the hell we just heard that.”

Board President Katherine White clarified that the board did not direct White to walk any campus.

Frisco White said Wheaton asked him to.