District will delay opening of its Double Peak campus

District will delay opening of its Double Peak campus
The San Marcos Unified School District says that it will delay the opening of the Kindergarten through 8th grade Double Peak School. Photo by Aaron Burgin

SAN MARCOS — The San Marcos Unified School District announced that it would delay the opening of a highly anticipated and somewhat controversial K-8 school at the top of San Elijo Hills, but one group in town is hoping the school will not be built at all.

Double Peak K-8, which is currently under construction at the intersection of San Elijo Road and Ledge Street, was supposed to open at the start of the 2015-2016 school year in August to alleviate overcrowding at San Elijo’s other two schools, San Elijo Elementary and San Elijo Middle School.

Planning for the $75 million project started four years ago, and originally was scheduled to be built closer to Cal State San Marcos, but school officials were forced to select the current site after they discovered that the former site contained high levels of arsenic.

To date, the district has spent $21 million on site grading and pre construction.

The district recently said that it couldn’t maintain the original timeline due to prolonged negotiations with nearby property owners as well as changes to the plans mandated by the Division of the State Architect, that must be submitted and approved by the division before the school district moves forward with the project.

Rather than spending an additional $8 million to $10 million in overtime to rush the opening, school officials said delaying would be the more prudent option.

“It was the decision of the school district that the $8 (million) to $10 million could be best used on other school projects,” district spokeswoman Anna Lucia Roybal said.

Nearly 1,000 residents attended a school district informational meeting on Feb. 11 where the district outlined three options for opening the school:

1) Cluster students at their home schools and transfer them into the school in January 2016 at the start of the spring semester

2) Move students from various grade groups to three schools- San Elijo, Discovery and Twin Oaks elementary schools.

3) Delay the opening until August 2016

School officials said that the majority of the people in attendance signaled support for delaying the opening by a year, though it wasn’t entirely unanimous.

Melanie Flaim, who said she attended the meeting, said she preferred Option 1, opening the school in January 2016.

While some expressed concerns about pulling students from a school and transplanting them into a new school mid year, Flaim said it would be no different than if they did it at the start of the new school year.

“I think it’s fine, you’re moving an entire class and their teacher and just changing the building,” Flaim said.

School officials anticipate that the school board will decide on how to proceed with the delay at a future board meeting.

Meanwhile, a group known as “Stop San Marcos K-8” has expressed concerns about the location of the project, which it says imperils the children who will attend.

Double Peak sits just below the crest of San Elijo Road, where the speed limit is 50 miles per hour and the street begins a steep 10 percent grade both eastbound and westbound. Motorists are often seen driving in excess of the 50 mph speed limit, some using the street as a shortcut to Carlsbad and Encinitas and others using it to get to nearby Cal State San Marcos.

The group, spearheaded by local resident Andy Lee, says that these conditions will endanger the lives of children who will have to cross San Elijo Road in order to make it to and from school.

Additionally, Double Peak is in an area where wildfires have charred thousands of acres, both in 2007 and most recently in 2014 in the Cocos fire. The group questions how safely would the school be able to evacuate in the event of a wildfire.

“The new K-8 school site is irresponsible, immoral, and a public danger for San Marcos students and residents in the area. This school must be stopped,” Lee wrote to The Coast News in September.

Roybal said that the school is aware of the speed and traffic issues along San Elijo Road, and have built in safety measures to the project, which include a quarter-mile drop off area inside of the property and a 25 miles per hour speed limit along the street in the immediate vicinity of the school.

The Coast News canvassed an area near the school site asking parents and residents about the school and the safety concerns. While many acknowledged the traffic and vehicle speed concerns of the group, they said they didn’t think this should stop the school from being built.

“Nobody likes more traffic, and yes, the speed is a concern, but how can anyone be opposed to a beautiful new school?” said Nancy Lee, a local homeowner. “One thing about this area is that it is a great place to raise children. Those children need a school.”

Lee’s neighbor Gloria Loop said that she was very concerned about the speeds, but it is something that families deal with already.

“I think the school district can find ways to slow down the speed, perhaps by adding a couple of more stop lights,” Loop said. “But I don’t see this as a deal breaker. This community needs the school.”

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