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Solana Beach School District shares bond plans with Carmel Valley planning board

The Solana Beach School District (SBSD) is making the rounds on community outreach as it looks toward a potential $115 million general obligation bond on the November ballot. SBSD Superintendent Terry Decker’s most recent stop was the Carmel Valley Community Planning Board on June 23 and some board members who live in the district offered their support.

Carmel Valley Planning Board Chair Frisco White said he, like many others, moved to the area due to the quality of the schools. He said the bond represents an opportunity to support the community’s schools and protect property values.

“While we have high quality education across the district, we can’t say all of our facilities are exactly the same,” Decker said, noting that while schools such as Solana Ranch in Pacific Highlands Ranch are modern and brand new, there is a very different setting for learning at Skyline School in Solana Beach, which was built in 1955 and is “past its useful life.”

Skyline is the “same vintage” as Earl Warren Middle School across the street, which San Dieguito Union High School District is currently rebuilding with use of its Prop AA funds, a general obligation bond that passed in 2012.

“Schools bring value to the community,” Decker said. “They are public assets, and it is incumbent on the district to take care of them.”

General obligation bonds are required to be limited to a rate of $30 per $100,000 in assessed home value. If passed, the bond would represent an increase of $272 a year for the average homeowner in the Solana Beach district.

A statewide, $9 billion school construction bond is already on the ballot for November, in which districts will be able to qualify for matching funds for facilities projects. If it passes, SBSD will be eligible for $20 million in matching funds so its $115 million could turn into $135 million.

“We have been prudent with our finances but we are talking about a size and scale that we cannot meet,” Decker said of the district’s “significant” facilities needs.

As an example, reconstruction at Skyline is a $40 million project; Decker said their reserve wouldn’t pay for half.

There are needs at aging campuses with a lot of “wear and tear,” such as the 45-year-old Solana Vista and 30-year-old Solana Highlands schools. Modernization and upgrades are needed in order for these schools to run more efficiently, he said.

Like a similar issue at neighboring Del Mar Union School District, there is a need to replace portable classrooms with permanent buildings. Decker said 17 percent of classrooms in the district are portables — at Solana Vista 68 percent of classrooms are portables; at Carmel Creek that number is 33 percent.

The district is also looking ahead at building its eighth school — SBSD has set aside a 10-acre parcel east of Golden Cypress Place in Pacific Highlands Ranch. The district had targeted to begin planning for that school in 2021 but due to projected enrollment growth, they are now looking to move it up to 2019.The district will have to purchase the land to be able to move forward.

Should the bond pass, SBSD plans to hit the ground running with the Skyline reconstruction. They are targeting plans to be approved by spring 2017 with construction beginning in June 2017 for a new school to open in 2018.

The SBSD board’s decision on the bond is slated for its June 30 agenda although the item could get pushed to its July 14 meeting. Information for the November ballot is due to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters by Aug. 12.