Tom Sohn | 26th Street, parent of two Del Mar elementary school students
On August 6, the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees voted to place a $186 million general obligation bond on the November 6, 2018 general election ballot. The road towards the ballot measure contained many unexpected turns but ultimately, ended up in the right place.
To recap, on March 28, the District Staff introduced an eight-school 2018 Facilities Master Plan during the superintendent’s first outreach meeting to the general public. The Plan, among other things, would have closed Del Mar Hills and built a mega-school at the site of Del Mar Heights. At the time, it was said Del Mar Hills had to close to make room for a school in the District’s eastern-most boundary of Pacific Highlands Ranch as a nine-school plan, keeping both the Hills open, was financially impossible. The Board was scheduled to approve the Plan on May 23.
However, after a wave of public objection leading up to the meeting, the Board elected not to vote on the eight-school plan, to delay any future bond measure to gather much needed public input. This decision was short-lived, however, as at their June 27 meeting, the Board scrapped their previous decision and revived the Plan, approving a change which simply went silent on the Hills and the Heights declaring them both “district assets” whose use, closure or otherwise would be determined at a future date.
Sensing this revised Facilities Master Plan wouldn’t have voters support when placed under a general obligation bond measure, the Board again changed direction and on July 16, held a special meeting to discuss revising the Facilities Master Plan to keep both the Hills and the Heights open, with the Hills being remodeled and the older Heights being rebuilt entirely. On July 25, the Board unanimously approved the revised nine-school Plan and on August 6, voted to place a general obligation bond on the November general election ballot in order to fund the execution of the now final Facilities Master Plan.
For those following closely, it was a frustrating path which led to high tension among the DMUSD parent community. Del Mar-area residents were pitted against residents of Pacific Highlands Ranch, fighting over who gets to have (or keep) a school. In the end though, it turned out to be manufactured and unnecessary as the nine-school option (that all sides largely supported from day 1) was apparently available and financially viable all along.
The bond will need 55 percent of the vote within the DMUSD area to pass. As Doug Rafner said at the August 6 meeting, “We [did] our part tonight but everybody else has to do their part in November.” The road was bumpy and transparency was certainly an issue, however, in the end the correct result was reached. Here is hoping the rest of the DMUSD community feels the same and votes to support the District’s general obligation bond come November.