At the Aug. 6 meeting of the Del Mar Union School District, the board voted to place a General Obligation $186 million bond measure on the November ballot to fund construction of a new school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, rebuild Del Mar Heights Elementary and renovate Carmel Del Mar School and Del Mar Hills Academy. Bond monies will also be used for safety and security upgrades, solar panel installation and other renovations deemed necessary.
After changes to the district’s master plan were announced last March, the board faced considerable pushback from concerned parents who complained that they had not been brought into the discussion(s) on the realignment process.
Although the March proposal stated that Del Mar Hills would be closed and Del Mar Heights expanded to accept those students from the shuttered school, Superintendent Holly McClurg says now that “ … there never was a proposal that would have resulted in a school being closed.” After complaints from not only parents, but also Mayor Dwight Worden who asked the board to delay any action, the board did just that and tabled a vote to approve the plan, which also called for a bond measure, at the May 23 meeting.
“We wanted to get community input on this,” McClurg said. “We felt that it was important that the community have a say in how many schools we have in Del Mar and where they’re located.” Once the new school is built, there will be nine in the district.
Explaining that this will be the first time a General Obligation measure has ever been on the ballot in Del Mar, McClurg said that the board was responding to what the community wanted. “We were getting a continuous call from the community to place the measure on the ballot.” She indicated that for that reason she believes the bond measure should pass.
McClurg said that the board had been responsive to the challenges of aging schools and the need for new ones, while understanding that “ … the school is the heart of the community.”
Nicole Forrest, a mother of three children who attend Del Mar Heights School, one of several hundred parents involved in the dozens of meetings with district personnel that began after the March announcement, said that it was the parents’ understanding that the school her children attends would be closed. “The master plan was changed, there were only going to be eight schools. The land that Del Mar Heights sits on was going to be sold to a developer.”
Forrest said although initially concerned parents were upset over the lack of transparency and communication when the board decided on the changes, she and the others involved in negotiations believe that the board began to work diligently to come up with a workable plan, particularly “once they saw that the original plan wouldn’t pass.”
She expressed some misgivings over the new school saying: “Personally I’m not really sure that we need a ninth school in the district, I think that district boundaries could be re-drawn. But hopefully the bond will go through. The process was messy but ultimately it worked out well.”