For many years the Del Mar Union School District encompassed just two elementary schools on the west side of I-5 for about 1,000 children in grades K-6. In the 1990s the district boundaries were expanded to include Carmel Valley in the City of San Diego and now serve 5,000 students including six additional schools east of I-5. A new development on the eastern edge of the District near Poway is expected to add about 600 new students. Recently the District put forth a “reconfiguration plan” to serve the swelling K-6 population east of I-5.
Julie Maxey-Allison 10th Street
Del Mar’s two elementary schools face a “crossroads” reports Holly McClurg, Superintendent of the Del Mar United School District (DMUSD). The Del Mar Hills Academy and Del Mar Heights School facilities, 40-60 years old, are in “great need of rebuilding .” Many buildings are portables, aka trailers, “in place for 35-40 years, are falling apart” and vulnerable to rat infestations. It happened.
The community quandary: how to continue the highly regarded quality education for our Del Mar area students, west of the I-5 freeway, who number only 600 of the 5,000 served by the DMUSD. The six other schools east of the I-5 are where the student population is growing. Those schools also need renovating, and, an additional school is needed. The State cut off funding for facilities in the 1990s, shifting the responsibility to localities. The DMUSD funnels 87.3% of its monies to teacher and staff salaries leaving the remaining12.7% for operational costs.
The schools east of I-5 collect approximately 50% of their budget from Mello Roos assessment monies. Del Mar does not.
So, what to cut from schools with “exemplary” state ratings, small class sizes, excellent staff and supportive parents? Where to get funding?
“These issues are central to what education means, and how to decide what facilities need to be allocated to what school,” says McClurg.
For Del Mar, with its level student count, it may mean merging two schools into one. The concept, studied since 2014, is to close one school and consolidate the two into a new facility. Presently, the Heights location is being proposed to be the new site. The Heights is on 10 acres of land as opposed to the Hills’ 8 acres. And, the planned freeway expansion of I-5 will wind up a mere 57 feet away from the Hills. If the plan is approved, the Hills site will be rethought. If it is not designated as a school, the zoning is for residential use.
Whatever the final plan, it will need to be funded. To move forward with this plan, there most likely would have to be a general obligation bond for school construction on November’s ballot.
While complicated, McClurg sees this crossroads as an “exciting time with many important possibilities for our community, our children, our future.”