Ribbon-cutting ceremony held for new school in Carmel Valley

By Karen Billing

Solana Ranch Elementary School, Pacific Highlands Ranch’s shiny and sustainable new school, is ready to welcome students this fall. The Solana Beach School District celebrated its seventh district school with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 28.

The school will serve approximately 650 students in grades kindergarten through sixth, along with a two-classroom preschool program.

Guests included numerous community members, future students wearing the school color of red, San Diego City Councilmember Sherri Lightner, County Supervisor Dave Roberts and dozens of fluttering monarch butterflies, which were released into the sky by incoming sixth graders.

During the ceremony, Superintendent Nancy Lynch made special thanks to Caroline Brown, the district’s director of new facilities who showed so much “unrelenting dedication” and attention to detail that Lynch joked the school should be named the Brown School.

Lynch said building a school truly does take a village and she thanked Principal Jerry Jones and the staff members for their enthusiasm in building a positive culture for the school.

“This team is already planning an incredible learning experience for students…ensuring that the school is an engaging and exciting place to learn,” Lynch said.

Principal Jones, who is moving over from Solana Highlands Elementary School to lead the school, said that they plan to live up to their school’s motto of “Inspiring greatness in tomorrow’s leaders.”

“Like our mascot the hawk, students at Solana Ranch are ready to soar,” Jones said, while said hawk mascot hammed it up on stage.

Incoming students sang the school song and shared pieces of their essays on how they plan to be leaders at their new school.

Student Fiona McSherry said she plans to include others, talk out any problems and listen to her teachers.

“I want to become a leader,” stated Patrick Feng confidently. “I am going to study hard so I can help the world.”

Student Rohan Krishnan said leaders begin with the end in mind.

“Leaders aren’t just famous people,” Rohan said. “We all have the ability to be a leader.”

The 68,000-square-foot campus includes spacious, state-of-the-art classrooms, a media center, a multi-purpose room with a full stage and a piano ready to be played.

Banners with inspirational quotes hang in the hallways and as Claire Kang pointed out during the ceremony, it took 2,000 gallons of paint to coat the school. Maitryi Bhange shared the fact that animal and nature prints are found all over the school’s campus, imprinted into the concrete, stamped on the classroom floors and windows.

Kids can get school lunches from the “Hawks Hut” and eat in a covered lunch area.

Solana Ranch is a very green, sustainable campus — one of the first in Southern California to be heated and cooled through a displacement ventilation system. There’s a big emphasis on natural daylight inside the buildings and photo voltaic solar powers are expected to provide a 60 percent offset in energy usage.

As student Amy Feng shared, the solar panels can generate enough power for 57 homes a year.

“We hope that other districts will take advantage of the innovations we have developed at Solana Ranch,” said board president Richard Leib.

During the ceremony, children couldn’t resist trying out the new playground equipment as there are plenty of things to swing, slide and climb. The blacktop area seems to extend forever with brightly painted, four-square courts, basketball and wallball courts, and a map of the United States. The school’s ballfield is also ready to go with fresh green grass and the joint-use Solana Ranch Park is currently under construction next door to the school.

The 5-acre park is expected to be complete in January 2015. The park will feature a tree-lined promenade, a large community gathering space, a picnic area, comfort station, tot lots, grassy amphitheatre space, a half basketball court, playing field space and a walking loop of about a quarter mile.