Design of planned Pacific Highlands Ranch Middle School discussed at workshop


By Karen Billing

Design plans are taking shape for the San Dieguito Union High School District’s new middle school in Pacific Highlands Ranch. The school, the first phase of which is expected to open in the fall of 2015, is looking to incorporate natural materials, such as stone and wood.

In April, the district held a design workshop with Lionakis architecture group where they discussed a number of design themes. According to Tom Christian from Lionakis, the district’s preference is for transparency and visibility within the buildings, the use of wood and glass in the exteriors, open-shaded courtyards and “pleasant aesthetics.”

The mixture of textures of wood, stone and “translucent” materials means that the campus’ six buildings will feature several glass exteriors.

“I’m a little bit hesitant about that much glass,” said high school district board trustee Joyce Dalessandro, looking at the renderings. “I could live with a little less.”

Eric Dill, the district’s assistant superintendent of business services, said the driving force behind the use of glass is to bring in more natural daylight and for the school to be as energy-efficient as possible.

The district would like to build the school using standards promoted by CHPS, the Collaborative for High Performance Schools. CHPS’ goals are for schools to be built that “protect staff and student health, conserve energy, water and other natural resources and reduce waste, pollution and environmental degradation.”

The campus will include two-story classroom buildings with interior corridors. According to the master plan, there will be 32 classrooms, eight science labs, a music classroom, art classroom, multi-use room, media center and gymnasium with locker rooms.

The district prefers a look where the buildings’ geometry is layered, angled and interacts with each other, said Christian.

The landscape calls for ample trees and an open feel as people arrive at the school—they will be able to look into the campus and see beyond the front. There’s an aim for “openness” but without compromising student safety.

The central courtyard will be big enough for the estimated enrollment of 1,000 students to freely roam with “informal and cozy” gathering spaces. A large trellis near the food service area will provide a covered spot for students to eat outside.

The Quad space will have steps and planter walls as natural places for students to sit and gather. A stage at the back of the media center will provide opportunities for large gatherings for performances or promotion ceremonies.

In April, the district adopted a resolution to acquire the 13.8-acre property with Proposition AA monies being used for the purchase price of $2.7 million.

The cost of the new middle school is estimated at $71.2 million. About $4.7 million remains in the North City West JPA (which includes the Del Mar Union School District and Solana Beach School District), funding that is earmarked for the middle school’s construction.

According to the project’s master plan, efforts will be made to distinguish the middle school campus from its high school neighbor, Canyon Crest Academy. The plan calls for a dense grove of trees to be planted to create a “barrier park” between the two campuses. This park will also provide a fitness course available to both campuses and the community.

The future Pacific Highlands Ranch community park is planned right next to the middle school space on the other side and a future city library is planned across the street in the village center.