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Prop BB poses question of Bonsall unification

The Fallbrook Union High School District (FUHSD) and Bonsall Unified School District (BUSD) are preparing for the changes that would result if Proposition BB were approved by voters on Nov. 6.

Proposition BB, the proposition for unification of the BUSD, was put into motion when the school district petitioned the State Board of Education (SBE) to change the current government structure from separate elementary and high school districts to one unified district to serve grades K-12. In July 2011, the SBE voted to allow the unification petition to proceed pending the completion of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process at BUSD’s expense.

Upon successful completion of this process, in July 2012, the SBE decided to adopt a resolution approving the petition to form the Bonsall Unified School District. This put into motion the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) arranging for the unification to be brought before the voters on Nov. 6.

If the voters pass Proposition BB, BUSD would negotiate with FUHSD to gain the resources allotted to Bonsall students that used to attend Fallbrook. Also, within two years, an election would be held to form a Bonsall Unified School District Board of Trustees. If Proposition BB is approved by the voters, the first classes for the high school in Bonsall would begin in 2014.

If voters approve the unification, the plan for a high school in Bonsall is for an academy, rather than a comprehensive high school. There would be limited athletics and extracurricular activities, depending on the size of the student enrollment. Students preferring a comprehensive high school experience would be eligible to apply for an inter-district transfer to attend a comprehensive high school in the area.

Justin Cunningham, BUSD superintendent, stated that the Bonsall district would have a lot to offer.

“Once the proposition does pass, the number of kids coming to the school will dictate what will be offered,” said Cunningham. “Since we will have more of an academy focus, we will be preparing students for requirements for the UC system. Since we have a focus on academics, athletics at the school would be limited to smaller sports, like golf and tennis.”

Jennifer Leung, the chair for the Yes on Prop BB group, stated that families from Bonsall began contacting members of the community to obtain signatures from 25 percent of registered voters on a petition for their own high school over six-and-a-half years ago.

“We loved the education our children were receiving at the Bonsall school district, and we wanted to continue that,” said Leung, who currently has a seventh grader, third grader and preschooler in the Bonsall district. “We love our school district; the teachers are excellent, and they work hard to have a strong policy and reach for academic excellence.”

Though this would be a potential detriment to FUHSD, Leung believes this decision would be the best for Bonsall students.

“I know Fallbrook High is worried about the funds, but obviously, funds follow students, as they should,” said Leung. “I believe in our school and community, the students, parents, teachers and school administrators. When we all pull together, we can make anything possible and make it happen for the best interest for our kids.”

“While Bonsall makes new strides, this could be a new beginning for Fallbrook too,” she continued. “They can begin to address issues of program improvement and possible over-enrollment.”

Dale Mitchell, FUHSD superintendent, sent out a memo detailing the impacts of Bonsall’s potential unification.

“Based upon the projected enrollment in Bonsall and actual enrollment in our district, on the surface we should conclude that no Bonsall students will be attending our schools,” said Mitchell. “However, because Bonsall does not currently plan to offer curricular offerings such as wood shop, metal shop, restaurant operations; co-curricular offerings such as band, choir, film, drama; or athletics, it is likely that some Bonsall students would choose to attend our schools. It is also unlikely that Bonsall will meet its enrollment expectations unless many of the current inter-district transfer students choose to return to Bonsall as an option instead.”

“Bonsall unification will mean [FUHSD] will have to determine what student-related programs and services it can continue to offer and which ones it cannot,” continued Mitchell. “This will have an adverse impact not just to Fallbrook students, but also Bonsall students who would like to attend our schools.”

Mitchell stated that at a student-teacher ratio of 25:1, a reduction of 150 students, results in six full time teacher positions being reduced, commencing with the 2013-2014 school year.

“This equates to 30 teaching sections, distributed among content areas such as English, math, science, social studies, health/computer skills and applications, physical education and electives,” explained Mitchell. “The actual impact to the elective program is unknown without knowing which students might actually request an inter-district transfer.”

After four years, a reduction of 513 students would equate roughly to 20 teaching positions being eliminated, he continued.

“The district can assume that specialized programs such as honors courses, advanced placement courses, and elective course offerings will be reduced,” said Mitchell. “An area in which the district would likely experience some benefit, however, is a reduction in special education services and costs. This is because our per pupil education costs are greater than the revenue the district receives.”

“If unification were to ultimately occur [for Bonsall,] the following financial impacts are anticipated:

• Loss of ADA due to students leaving our district – about $3,058,000 (513 x $5,961)

• Reduction or loss of Federal Impact Aid Section 8003 funding – about $350,000

• Potential sale of district property located within the Bonsall attendance area sooner than intended, or transfer of title to the Bonsall USD

• Potential loss of other material assets

• Savings from reduction of 20 teaching FTE is about $1,800,000 for salaries and benefits

• Savings from transportation route elimination is about $100,000 per route

• Cost savings from discontinued use of many portable classrooms (utilities, upkeep and cleaning).

Mitchell reminded individuals in his memo that the district has notable awards and stances, including being the winner of the 2011-12 California State School Boards Association (CSBA) Golden Bell Award for its after School Safety & Enrichment for Teens (ASSETs) program, having a memorandum of understanding with California State University, San Marcos for guaranteed admission for qualified FHS graduates.

“Regarding Bonsall students who want to go to FUHS, our district’s first priority will be to serve our students,” said Mitchell. “If we can accommodate Bonsall students without it having an adverse impact to our district, then I am sure that we would accept transfers from Bonsall. Fundamentally, more details would have to be determined later. I, and others, do consider it problematic that a district that wants to unify also expects neighboring schools and school districts to provide programs and services to its students because it does not have the resources to provide a comprehensive educational program to all of its students.”

The San Diego County Registrar of Voters sent out the voter information pamphlets on Sept. 27, as Prop BB information had not been included in the voter’s handbook.

Within the pamphlets, it is reiterated that Prop. BB is not for a bond to build a new high school. According to the registrar’s pamphlet, “It is up to the Bonsall community if such a bond is needed in the future.”

Leung stated a Bonsall high school would be an alternative for parents to pick from.

“We would have an academy style school that focuses on academics, personal responsibility and concurrent enrollment,” she said. “Juniors and seniors could also choose to attend the future Palomar satellite to get credits for both high school and college. It offers an alternative for all of us.”

BUSD studied its existing facilities and determined that Sullivan Middle School can adequately house the small high school that is envisioned. The school would house approximately 500 to 600 students.

BUSD plans are based on the demographics and character of the Bonsall community and on projected growth. Grade levels at Sullivan Middle School would be reconfigured over time, one grade at a time. This phased approach would help to reduce transition issues and effects on BUSD students and on the existing Fallbrook High School campus. Grade levels at the existing elementary schools – Bonsall West, Bonsall, and possibly Vivian Banks Charter School – would also

be reconfigured.

If students did not necessarily like the academy-style school, and wanted to attend a more comprehensive high school, they would have to apply for an inter-district transfer.

“The other school would have to approve for them to attend, and the student needs the approval of the host school to attend our school,” said Cunningham. “We are very excited that the decision is out of the hands of the bureau, and the decision is now made by the people.”


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