School district to split childcare development center between two Carmel Valley schools

By Karen Billing

The Del Mar Union School District’s childcare development center (CDC) will be split between Ashley Falls and Sycamore Ridge schools in the fall, the board decided in a unanimous vote on April 25. The board went with “option C,” a short-term solution that involves the infants, toddlers and age 2s moving to Ashley Falls, leaving the 3-year-old to preschool CDC and special education preschool program at Sycamore Ridge.

Option C was recommended by district staff as it met criteria to allow for growth, alleviate some parking and get kindergartners back into their designated classrooms at Sycamore Ridge.

The solution could cost about $49,000.

“The expenditure is warranted because we’re meeting all the three needs we were looking for to solve the problem on a temporary basis,” district superintendent Jim Peabody said.

Peabody wanted the board to direct the district to begin working with staff at Ashley Falls and CDC staff to see if there are any solutions on the Ashley Falls campus that may lower the cost.

“We are interested in working together in support of all children throughout the district, preserving the integrity of the CDC and SPED (special needs preschool), and the integrity of K-6 at Ashley Falls and throughout the district,” said Ashley Falls Principal Shelley Peterson. “ Children are our business and must remain at the core of all district decisions.”

Trustee Doug Rafner said he saw this option as the true compromise, a district-wide solution for a districtwide program.

Trustee Comischell Rodriguez appeared to reluctantly agree to the motion to approve Option C.

“I’m really hesitant to give any money toward fixing a problem when we could find a long-term solution in the next 12 months,” Rodriguez said.

Peabody assured the board that the district was very comfortable spending the funds and that they would work hard to minimize the cost. He said, hopefully, the CDC would be able to break even on incoming tuition.

The CDC has been housed at Sycamore Ridge for the last two years on a temporary basis but the school has run into problems with overcrowding and kindergartners being displaced from classrooms specifically designed for them.

The selected option impacts Ashley Falls by eight parking spaces and permanently adds three sinks to classrooms at a cost of $30,000, a higher cost because it involves new sewer lines. The district’s popular Children’s Creative Workshop summer program will have to be moved from the Ashley Falls campus due to the work.

Three kindergarten-designated classrooms are returned to Sycamore Ridge with three classrooms for growth. It also adds eight parking spaces.

“Option C is the only reasonable and viable solution for the upcoming fall,” said Sycamore Ridge parent Jennifer MacKay. ”It puts back kindergarten students…it shows you’re listening to the concerns.”

There are still some concerns about overcrowding at Sycamore among parents as no families have opted to move from Sycamore with the district’s new Option Area program and there are 62 kindergartners confirmed for this year and seven packets still out.

“Option C will get us through a year, but we’ll be in the same position in at least a year,” said Lisa House, an employee at Sycamore.

The short-term options were presented just last week at a workshop at Ocean Air School on April 19. Parents such as Jen Charat asked if the district would consider delaying their decision until parents could process the options more.

However, due to preschool licensing, the board could not wait to take action.

Parents echoed Rodriguez’s concerns about the cost.

“I have no problem with the CDC at Ashley Falls, we do have the space and it should be used,” said Ashley Falls parent Wayne Harris. “As a taxpayer, I think this is a misuse of our funds. We have fewer dollars coming our way and it’s financially irresponsible to spend any money that doesn’t need to be spent.”

Wayne specifically targeted the capital cost and ongoing $12,000 cost for extra on-site administration.

Andrea Peddycord, an Ashley Falls teacher with children in the CDC, also urged for fiscal responsibility,

“A change is not needed at this time until there’s a long-term solution,” Peddycord said. “It makes no sense to spend thousands on a solution that will last two to three years.”

Peabody said the $12,000 will come out of the enterprise fund and leftover money from the Shores sale. The Shores money can only be used toward capital improvements like the sinks. Randy Wheaton, director of maintenance and operations, said they might be able to save more money by wrapping this project with the project to add portables to Ocean Air School this summer.