Groundbreaking ceremony held for high school district’s ‘Middle School 5’ in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) broke ground on its 10th school, the new “Middle School 5” in Pacific Highlands Ranch on June 6, set to open in fall 2015. Superintendent Rick Schmitt said he was “pleased and proud” to lead a celebration of all the people who helped make the groundbreaking happen on the 13.8-acre property on Carmel Valley Road, next to Canyon Crest Academy.

Schmitt said he moved his family to Carmel Valley 15 years ago for the fabulous schools and his children benefited immensely from this district.

“I’m confident that San Dieguito Union High School District’s 10th school will be just as great as the other nine,” Schmitt said.

“Thanks to the community for your trust and support, the passing of Proposition AA (in 2012) was the key element that brings us to break ground on the new middle school,” said SDUHSD Board President Joyce Dalessandro, who was there for the opening of Carmel Valley Middle School in 1999 and Canyon Crest Academy in 2004.

The groundbreaking ceremony included Congressman Scott Peters, whom Schmitt said has always been a huge supporter of schools and the greater San Diego community, and San Diego City Council member Sherri Lightner, whom Schmitt said was instrumental in the discussions about the district acquiring the property and streamlining the complex city process.

Lightner said since she has taken office, she has long heard from Pacific Highlands Ranch residents about how important it is to get their schools and community built — in the last two months she has been to groundbreakings for the Village at Pacific Highlands Ranch center and Solana Ranch Elementary School.

“This will be a great addition to the Pacific Highlands Ranch neighborhood,” Lightner said of the middle school. “Soon you will have a vibrant, walkable community.”

Schmitt said this summer will mark a unique opportunity to “start from scratch” to design culture, curriculum and support programs for the school. A key player will be Mary Anne Nuskin, recently named the first principal of Middle School 5. Nuskin is a former principal at Diegueno and Earl Warren Middle Schools.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the principal involved in building our new middle school,” said Nuskin, noting she looks forward to the coming months of developing a vision and culture for the school and strengthening relationships and collaborations with feeder elementary districts. “It’s my mission to inspire students to learn, teachers to teach and create a school community that supports positive connections with students. Thanks for the opportunity to lead a soon-to-be high-achieving school in the San Dieguito Union High School District.”

At the district’s June 5 meeting, the board approved the attendance boundaries for the new school, which will mirror the boundaries for Del Mar Union School District’s Ashley Falls, Sycamore Ridge and Solana Beach School District’s new Pacific Highlands Ranch elementary school across the street, Solana Ranch.

The district plans to open Middle School 5 initially with a class of 215 seventh graders. The following year the district would add another group of seventh graders to bring the enrollment up to about 500. With full build-out by 2018, the enrollment is expected to be 1,000 students.

With the new middle school, Schmitt said the district wants to draw student enrollment from Carmel Valley Middle School, which is an extremely full campus with over 1,500 students. By year one of the new school being open, CV Middle will shrink to about 1,250 students and by year two the campus will be down to 1,000 students.

Lionakis architecture designed the school that will incorporate natural materials, such as stone and wood, paired with open shaded courtyards.

Phase one of the school that will open in 2015 will include a two-story, 22-room classroom building, the art and music rooms and performing arts center, basketball courts, track and fields.

There will be interim portables for food service, administration and the media center—much like how CCA opened 10 years ago.

The second phase (slated to begin in 2016) will include the permanent administration building, a multi-purpose room and locker room building, the media center and food service building.

Laura Knauss, from Lionakis, said it’s an honor to work with a district that values a sustainable, technology-rich 21st century learning environment.

“I hope you love your new middle school as much as we loved working on it,” Knauss said.

Balfour Beatty Construction, which built neighboring schools Sycamore Ridge, Ashley Falls and CCA, will handle the construction of the school.