Carmel Valley: Plans proceed for a new middle school

By Marsha Sutton

Senior Education Writer

A San Dieguito Union High School District Facilities task force has recommended that the district exercise its option to purchase land in Pacific Highlands Ranch adjacent to Canyon Crest Academy, for a new middle school, the district’s fifth, to accommodate 1,000 students.

District data for the two existing middle schools in the southern half of the district show that, in October 2010, there were 1,469 students enrolled at Carmel Valley Middle School and 704 at Earl Warren Middle School. Preferred capacity is 1,000 at CVMS and 500 at EWMS. This puts the district over preferred capacity by 673 students.

Long-range projections indicate that, without a third middle school, CVMS will hit enrollment of 1,675 and EWMS will see 803 students — nearly 1,000 students over capacity.

The task force recommendation, based on housing projections showing continued development in Pacific Highlands Ranch and nearby communities, is to begin building the new middle school in four to five years. The initial opening would accommodate 500 students, and gradually increase to 1,000 students in subsequent years.

The land set aside for the middle school is adjacent to the athletic fields at Canyon Crest Academy, on the eastern side.

The school board, at its Aug. 18 meeting, is being asked to approve an amended contract for master planning services for the proposed new middle school with Lionakis, an architectural, structural, sustainability and planning firm, at an additional cost not to exceed $50,200. The funding would come from capital facilities and Mello-Roos funds. Lionakis already has a contract to provide services for Canyon Crest, Carmel Valley MS and Earl Warren MS.

“Staff would like to begin the master planning of that middle school site so that the district is positioned to act on construction of a new middle school when enrollment projections justify it,” reads the board report.

Another piece of property set aside for a future middle school in the northern part of the district, in La Costa Valley in Carlsbad, was purchased in 1999. Due to flat enrollment numbers in the north, the property has not been developed for a middle school.

To avoid paying the state an Unused Site Fee, which according to the district is over $150,000 a year, staff is proposing that the board approve the development of the La Costa Valley land on an interim basis for athletic fields, a parking lot and a building for adult education. To this end, an amended contract with MVE Institutional, which is contracted to perform master planning work for schools in the northern portion of the district, is proposed, for an additional amount not to exceed $22,000.

Upgrades for schools

The Aug. 18 agenda for the San Dieguito school board meeting includes an overview of a July 2011 Facilities Planning Workshop which itemized the work needed at each of the district’s nine schools to bring facilities into compliance with state and federal safety standards.

The report, issued by the district’s Facilities task force, also noted which campuses need upgrading for technology, labs, classrooms, athletic fields, parking, arts-related construction, and other issues related to parity and improving the learning environment.

The four schools in the southern half of the district require a total of about $146.5 million in work, according to the preliminary estimate.

Torrey Pines High School, built in 1974, requires the most attention, with about $73 million in upgrades needed in nearly every category. Canyon Crest Academy, which opened in 2004, is estimated to need about $36 million in upgrades, mostly for athletic fields and improvements for sustainable “green” design.

Earl Warren Middle School, which opened in 1955, needs upgrades and improvements in almost every category, at an estimated cost of about $32 million. Carmel Valley Middle School, built in 1999, is estimated to require about $5.2 million in improvements, mostly for learning environment standards, theater and performing arts, “green” design, and circulation and parking issues.