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School Daze

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.

Right-Sizing Schools

Rosanne Holliday | Crest Road

As a result of a grass-root effort by the Del Mar community, including the Del Mar City Council, at the May 23rd Board of Trustees meeting of the Del Mar Union School District, the Superintendent of Schools recommended to the Board to reject it’s own Master Facilities Plan which would ultimately have been tied to a General Obligation School bond on the November ballot. The Master Facilities Plan included closing both our beloved Heights School and Hills School and building one new school on the Heights property. That site would have a capacity of 650 students. Current enrollments are 308 at the Hills and 514 at the Heights.

Written material passed out by the District stated: “it is fiscally responsible and educationally sound to operate only one school west of the I-5”.

I have reviewed numerous research studies from Harvard School of Education and Stanford School of Education and find no evidence that it is educationally sound to have an elementary school of 650. Clearly the research shows the ideal school size for elementary age children is around 300-350.

Not only does the research demonstrate that small schools enhance academic performance but they also reported that teachers in schools of less than 400 students felt they had more influence in school decisions.

Paid demographer consultants hired by the district predict the school population on the West side to be up to 624 by 2024. Perfect for two ideal sized schools.
A school board member told me that it was cheaper to tear down the schools than to refurbish them. Thus the rationale for building one new large school.
I suggest the School Board explore how best to keep our beloved neighborhood schools, the Heights and the Hills. It has been well demonstrated that smaller schools are better for both the child and the teacher.

I commend the superintendent and the Board for taking the time revisit the facilities plan and come up with one that can be supported by the residents and can be the basis of a successful new school bond.


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