Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

BUSD communicates high school options

BUSD schools

Bonsall High - ninth through 12th grades

Sullivan Middle School - sixth through eighth

Bonsall Elementary - transitional kindergarten through fifth grade

Bonsall West – transitional kindergarten through sixth

Vivian Banks Charter School – kindergarten through fifth grade

Bonsall Unified School District’s superintendent David Jones held a community collaborative discussion March 1 “to share facts and information about the current reality of our district and the need to come together and talk.”

At least 60 area residents showed up at the Bonsall Community Center that night. Participants included at least four students, eight staff members and a handful of residents without children. The remainder of the crowd consisted of parents of current students.

Jones said that he realized everyone has a lot going on so, “Thank you for coming” he told them. Since he started in his position seven months ago, Jones said he has developed a collaborative approach in dealing with staff, students and parents.

According to Jones, the meeting was also “an opportunity to listen to one another's thoughts and ideas about the future...coming together in the interest of educating our children.”

Jones encouraged everyone to listen to each other in a courteous and respectful manner, to participate, share, and remain engaged in discussion, as well as to “do our best to think about problems in the best interest of children.” He said his goal is to improve communication and create a climate of transparency.

Jones detailed his current methods of communication – regular meetings with staff members at each school in the district; a monthly newsletter, Bonsall Bridge, including news from each school; a monthly video called Super Live which features Bonsall Star individuals and groups; Super Chat, a visit to each school once a month, sharing with parents.

Jones said that they have talked about controversial topics and “not one parent has communicated that they do not support the next steps” although they said there has not been enough communication. Jones just started a community flyer that was mailed out to residents the week of Feb. 26, as well as holding the first community collaborative discussion March 1.

Jones also explained that the school district board has five locally elected members, but only four right now so the board will be appointing a new member at the March 8 board meeting.

Jones reviewed the recent history of the district. In 2012 the community voted to become a unified school district, going from kindergarten through eighth grade to a kindergarten through 12th grade district. There are now approximately 2,550 students in the district. In the next four years, he said, that number is projected to grow by at least 400 students.

Jones outlined the three housing developments that are being built in this area. San Luis Rey Residences (on the former San Luis Rey Golf Club property) will contain 93 homes with a projected 81 new students in 2019-20.

Pala Mesa Highlands (on Old Highway 395 just north of SR 76) with 124 homes and 109 new students is to be completed in 2020-21. Meadowood (east of I-15, just north of SR 76) will have 492 homes bringing in 340 more students in 2021-22. This development also includes a plan for an elementary school.

Jones added that given current market conditions, demand for new housing is strong. The district used the same model of student generation from new development for elementary, middle and high schools that Poway Unified School District uses. A parent asked if there are any plans to reconfigure access points to the schools. Jones said they are looking into possible solutions.

Jones had Bonsall High School principal Lee Fleming speak about the school’s WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) accreditation results. She said the report included the school’s strengths of having a committed staff and a collaborative culture. Areas needing improvement included the high school being on a shared campus with the district lacking a long-term plan for facilities that will accommodate students.

Jones further explained that the district board members picked the applicants who make up the Superintendent’s Advisory Committee which evaluated possible sites for a new high school. The California Department of Education’s formula, process and rating scale were used. The committee did its due diligence in rating the sites, he said. The Gird Road site was ranked the highest.

Critical points were facilities needs and planning; what options are available? It takes two to three years to build a high school and “we do not have room now [to grow],” Jones said.

One option, keeping the current middle school/high school site, would require portable classrooms installed on the lower baseball field which would be a short term solution lasting maybe four years he said.

A second option would be to put portable classrooms on the Gird Road site. “The reality is that would not be a good option,” Jones said.

Another option is to build a new high school with a $31 million bond measure. While there is nothing legally blocking the district from putting portables on the Gird Road site, there would be requirements to be met. When the draft EIR is approved, he said, “we can make improvements [there].” He added that an extensive traffic study is included in the draft EIR and would add a few extra intersections.

To parents with concerns about traffic problems on West Lilac Road, Jones said, “come and speak to the board about what you think is best for our kids.” When asked how many students are driving, Fleming said there are 33 drivers right now, which is about 10 percent. She added that the high school’s staggered schedule of activities and a late bus make less traffic than the middle school.

A mother pointed out that the high school has gotten crowded now that there are four grades there. Jones replied that present location at the middle school was supposed to be temporary for high school students while they waited for a high school to be built. He said that the intent of the high school is to be an intimate, smaller setting to go with its project-based methodology, some sports (no football team), with 1,500 students at most.

Another mother said that Bonsall does not have the infrastructure right now to support more students, so it is “time to start moving forward.”

Jones said the board will be surveying the community about a bond measure and “will then decide on whether to move forward with a bond measure.”

A mother who lives in Fallbrook and has two children at BHS let Jones know that Fallbrook parents did not know about the meeting and would have wanted to be there if they had known about it. While they cannot vote on a bond measure (since they don’t live in the Bonsall school district), there are “a ton of us who want our kids in BHS but can’t right now because there is not enough room.”

Bonsall resident Joe Byrnes (a senior citizen) complimented Jones on his article in the Village News that day and for holding the meeting that night. Byrnes thought planning the next collaborative meeting for April 18, the day after income taxes are due, was fitting.

Gird Valley resident Teresa Platt said she has attended every board meeting for the last year and was attending this meeting even though it was her birthday and she was missing a jazz concert at Pala Mesa. As part of the group Save Gird Valley, she has done an enormous amount of research on the Gird Road site. She said the last “bond measure came out of nowhere” and “transparency was a huge problem.”

Even now, she continued, “we are all working in the dark; we don’t know what we own, property or buildings.” She said she would “work to pass the bond if it’s where we all want it.”

Ana Iturralde, mother of a Bonsall High student, wanted to know where everyone stood with a new high school going on Gird Road; she asked to take a poll. Five people were against it, two undecided and the rest for it.

Citing a lack of information, a parent asked Jones for how much the bond measure would ask for. He said the plan was for a $41 million bond; “it takes $31 million to build a high school and $10 million would be for the other schools [in the district].” The last bond measure was for $58 million.

Asked what the assessed value of the Gird Road site is, Jones said it is worth $3.5 million. Of the other sites rated by the advisory committee, the Ocean Breeze site would cost $4 million. None of the others are for sale and the owners did not respond to requests for information.

Platt said there are buyers out there for the Gird Road site, for development or for a mitigation site. Jones responded that “the board knows and understands we own the property; no other property is viable, so there is no serious discussion on selling the property.”

In response to a reminder that the last bond measure failed, Jones said that a bond measure requires 55 percent vote in favor. The bond measure got 50.9 percent of the vote, only missing by 200 votes.

There was a general agreement that the district needs to be particular about where the money is going, to have a lot more transparency and a lot more communication.

“Trust is an issue,” Jones said. “To change that, we’ll tell the reality [of the situation].”


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