Del Mar Union School District to consider Torrey Hills early childhood center in September

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District board will consider approving the $1.5 million design and construction of an early Childhood Development Center at Torrey Hills Elementary School at its Sept. 17 board meeting. Under the plan, no buildings would be constructed on the Torrey Hills campus, but existing classrooms would be repurposed.

A community information meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 8, at Del Mar Hills Academy to discuss the proposal, which includes moving the center from 10 classrooms at Sycamore Ridge School to 12 reconfigured classrooms at Torrey Hills.

The district has said the CDC must be moved out of Sycamore Ridge to make room for projected enrollment increases from the build-out of Pacific Highlands Ranch. According to Jason Romero, assistant superintendent of human resources, there will be space at Torrey Hills.

“We’re projecting empty classrooms at Torrey Hills for the next 12 years,” Romero said. “The plan is to maximize use of the campus while we’re seeing a decrease in enrollment.”

Kate Mraw, a designer with LPA Architects, presented the design and cost plans for the project at the board’s Aug. 27 meeting.

Mraw said the district will have to comply with certain requirements for child care facilities, such as having toilet and hand-washing stations for every 15 children. The rooms in two buildings at Torrey Hills will need to be reconfigured to add the restrooms, as well as some cabinetry and furnishings. In a third building, rooms will be reconfigured for needs such as a quiet room, speech therapy room, administrative offices, workroom and conference room.

Four play spaces and fixtures will also have to be modified for the younger age group they will serve.

Some other Torrey Hills improvements, identified by the Facilities Master Plan, could be attached to this project, such as relocating lunch structures, adding shade structures and bumping up the parking lot by 30 or 60 spaces. The totals of the extra work would be $687,000 with 60 spaces, or $547,000 for the 30-space alternative.

The project will be paid for by the Community Facilities District fund, which local residents pay into through their property taxes.

If approved at the September meeting, the construction document phase could begin, aiming to reach the Division of State Architect for approval by December. Construction could begin after winter break and be complete by December 2015 or January 2016.

DMUSD Superintendent Holly McClurg said they are likely to need to occupy the new space by fall 2016.

The goal would be for noisy demolition and construction work to be completed during the summer, with the rest of the construction able to be isolated during the school year.

DMUSD Board President Doug Rafner reminded the board and the architects that a big issue with the Torrey Hills community is entry and exit into the school.

Romero said while there would be twice as many staff members because of the student-teacher ratio of the Childhood Development Center, there wouldn’t be as many students in the general population. He said the district would take advantage of a staggered start time, which will help with morning and afternoon traffic patterns.

Rafner and the board requested more information about traffic solutions before any plan is approved.

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