Group seeks funds to save ESC programs

Foundation’s deadline is Feb. 15

Once again, the Del Mar Education Foundation is faced with raising money to fill a significant gap in funding for the Del Mar Union School District’s Extended Studies Curriculum (ESC).

Foundation President Chris Stevenson and the rest of the board are looking at a hard Feb. 15 deadline to come up with funds to ensure that programs that bring specialists in the subjects of science, technology, art, music and physical education to the classroom will continue in the district.

The total cost to run ESC is $3.3 million, of which the school district is contractually obligated to pay $1.7 million. It’s up to the parents and the foundation to fill the resulting gap.

Last week, an assembly at Del Mar Hills featured fourth-grade students playing the recorder and singing a song about the California Gold Rush in front of a Japanese-inspired stage design created by first-grade art students to reflect their studies of international culture.

The assembly was just one example of how music and art are integrated into the regular school day throughout Del Mar.

“If we don’t have the funds to cover the cost, we might not be able to maintain ESC programs at their current levels,” Stevenson said.

In its first year of districtwide fundraising, the foundation has raised $500,000 so far, which is actually 10 percent better than the same time last year— going districtwide has been a successful model, she said.

“The majority of the schools have experienced a great growth rate over the last year,” Stevenson said.

Last year, the district faced making major slashes to ESC, but parents rallied and raised $1.6 million to keep special teachers on its campuses.

Stevenson said that two-thirds of the fundraising efforts last year came in March and April, but the foundation doesn’t have those two months this year with Feb. 15 looming.

The district set the earlier deadline to avoid doing what it did last year, sending tentative pink slips to 17 teachers.

The foundation is looking for about $800 per student to meet its goal of $2 million.

“That’s far cheaper than a year’s worth of private lessons in each of those disciplines,” said Stevenson of the recommended donation. Not to mention, she said, it keeps Del Mar and Carmel Valley’s public schools competitive with area private schools.

The foundation’s first-ever Challenge Week will be held Jan. 17 through 21. Each school has been challenged to host a school event to generate monies for the foundation.

For example, Carmel Del Mar, Sage Canyon and Sycamore Ridge are all hosting jog-a-thon events on Jan. 20 and Torrey Hills is doing a tile wall project.