Inside Oceanside: School is back in session

If you are a parent of a Kindergarten through 12th grade student in Oceanside, you know that school started earlier this year than ever before. 

Last year, the first day of school was Aug. 23. This year it was bumped up to Aug. 20. As I remember attending the now defunct North Oceanside Elementary and then South Oceanside Elementary, it seemed like school started in the middle of September. Times have changed. We also used to get Feb. 12 off for Lincoln’s birthday.

It seems cruel to make local kids attend school during August and September, which happens to have the best weather of the year, just so they can be out of school in June, which is arguably the worst month for weather.

Also new this year, on Thanksgiving week, Monday and Tuesday will be school days, and vacation starts on Wednesday. Last year they took the whole week off.

The reason for starting so early this year is so that the first semester will be wrapped up before Christmas vacation. When students and teachers return in January, it will be the first day of the new semester.

But there is a lot of other news out there in our sprawling Oceanside Unified School District.

Back in 2008 voters passed Proposition H, the $195 million bond issue that was to pay for a complete renovation of seven OUSD schools. Mission accomplished. OUSD boasts that the project was completed on time and under budget. All schools were totally rebuilt, with new plumbing, heating, technical infrastructure in the classrooms.

Libraries, playgrounds and parking lots were also upgraded.

The results are brand new campuses of Lincoln Middle School and six elementary schools (Del Rio, Libby, Santa Margarita, North Terrace, Palmquist and Mission).

A grand reopening ribbon cutting is planned for Palmquist, 10 a.m. Sept. 6.

Just as we have to adjust to the idea of starting school a month earlier than we used to, we must also divest ourselves of other long held traditions like the traditional K through 6 concept.

OUSD operates three elementary schools that are actually on Camp Pendleton. (The federal government pays OUSD for each military dependent it educates.) Those three schools, Stuart Mesa, Santa Margarita and North Terrace, used to be grades K through 5. Last year the three started hosting sixth graders. This year the trio has become K through 7 and next year, all three will host nine different grades: K through 8th grade. The idea is to keep USMC kids on base as long as possible.

But wait, there’s more!

Due to neighborhood gentrification (old people stay, young families don’t move in), Ditmar Elementary stopped operating as a full service neighborhood school five years ago.

The kids simply weren’t there.

For the last few years Ditmar has been hosting bussed-in students from some of those schools while they were getting remodeled.

But what to do with this campus now that all seven schools are remodeled?

This year, the school will house offices for the administrative staff of the Migrant Education and Adult Education wings of OUSD. No actual teaching will be happening at Ditmar this year. But next year could get interesting.

OUSD Superintendent Larry Perondi sees the future of Ditmar as a “specialty” K-8 school, where there would be an emphasis on a specialty like arts, humanities or technology.

In other words like the Guajome Park Academy in Vista.

But unlike Guajome, Ditmar will not be a charter school operated by a for-profit entity. So while the new Ditmar may walk and talk like a charter school, it will be run by OUSD.

And while Mr. Perondi would not say it, you have to wonder if OUSD is choosing to go this route to keep some outside charter school from pouncing on the Ditmar campus.

If Ditmar was sitting empty, some charter school business could demand that OUSD give them the campus so they could operate their own private school in our public facility. One charter school company tried but failed to do this at a shuttered Carlsbad campus.

Many portable classrooms were recently removed from Ditmar. But there will be some big visible changes coming soon to Ditmar’s campus.

The school takes up roughly two-thirds of the block bounded by Coast Highway and Oceanside Boulevard and Ditmar and Eucalyptus Streets.

In the northeast corner of the campus, there is a cool looking house which Oceanside historian John Daley thinks was built in the ‘30s.

OUSD owns that house, and Mr. Perondi says that the unoccupied house will soon be demolished to make way for either a garden or maybe a parking area. Mr. Perondi says needed improvements to bring the house up to code would be cost prohibitive.

According to city manager Peter Weiss, the only thing that could prohibit its demolition would be if the house were on a state or national list register of historic buildings. He says it is not.

So it looks like the quaint homestead is coming down.

Oceanside born and raised, Ken Leighton writes columns for The Coast News, the San Diego Reader and is an Oceanside business owner. He may be reached at oogumboogum@earthlink.net

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