Some Sycamore parents say Carmel Valley campus too crowded

By Karen Billing

Sycamore Ridge School parents voiced concerns about the Del Mar Union School District’s preschool and child development center continuing to be located on their campus at the Feb. 29 school board meeting. Several parents expressed worry about their school becoming more crowded and the impact of having one-third of their campus devoted to the district preschool.

Some felt that a vote in favor of the option areas, as the board voted later that night, was a vote for keeping the preschool at Sycamore Ridge. The parents said they feel the school would not have an overflow issue without the preschool.

Board members did not agree that the approval of option areas was related to the preschool location.

“I don’t think a decision on option areas is a decision on the other,” said trustee Doug Rafner. “They’re mutually exclusive.”

The issues were raised during public comment and were not on the agenda so the board did not conduct a full discussion of the preschool plan. The plan will be heard at the March or April school board meeting.

The infant and toddler program is only open to parents who are employees of the district, while the preschool and pre-kindergarten programs are open to the public as space is available.

The child development center has been at Sycamore Ridge for the last two years, moving from the old Ninth Street office.

“We welcomed [the preschool] with open arms because it was the right thing to do, on a temporary basis,” said parent Maya Starling, who said Sycamore has supported the programs and included them in many of their school events.“We’ve reached the point where we can no longer support the program.”

Starling said class sizes are over the cap at Sycamore, with the fourth grade sections having 28 and 29 students each. Additionally, parking is an issue with their relatively small lot, she said.

She said the cost analysis done for the preschool did not account for the fact that their tax dollars should support their community school and not a district-wide program.

Parent Ellie Church said when she visited the school in 2010, she was told the classrooms were 60 percent full and not to worry. However, her child began kindergarten this year in a classroom not designed specifically for kindergartners (usually kindergarten rooms have a bathroom in the back).

Sycamore kindergarten classes were bumped from classrooms designed for them to accommodate the district preschool.

Church said she has a child in the preschool program even though she is not an employee of the district.

“Why am I a client of the preschool at the expense of space that can be used by students at the school?” she asked.

Parent Jill Seidenverg pointed out that it doesn’t make sense to place the preschool program at a school with increasing enrollment rather than a school whose enrollment is trending toward shrinking.

Per Decision Insight’s numbers, Sycamore Ridge will be heavily impacted by future growth, particularly with the build-out of Pacific Highlands Ranch. In 2019-20, the numbers predict Sycamore could be over capacity by 188 students and by as many as 268 students in 2020-21.

Parent Jeff Clorfeine said that the school is impacted enough now.

“We have turned away families at Sycamore Ridge, classes are above cap and the situation is rising,” Clorfeine said “And I say that with my son at the preschool. We’re at the point that elementary students are getting displaced.”

Echoed Starling: “We have no room to grow…Please consider an alternate location. We need to put the needs of our K-6 students first.”