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Klopfenstein challenging Merchat in Bonsall school board race

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

When Roger Merchat was first elected to the Bonsall Unified School District board in 2018, the board seats were at large. In 2019, the school district changed its elections to by territorial unit, although the incumbents were allowed to remain as at-large trustees until the end of their terms. Merchat lives in Trustee Area 4, which is mostly north of West Lilac Road and extends east of Interstate 15. Merchat is running for reelection, and Beth Klopfenstein is also seeking that board seat this year.

Mark Jones is also running for the seat, but a lack of contact information disqualifies him from coverage.

Merchat’s involvement with the school district administration began when neighbors asked him to attend board meetings. “I ended up going for about two years,” he said.

Spending on facilities caused Merchat to take further action as a candidate. “You kind of become appalled that these things were happening,” he said.

Merchat has no opposition to spending money on facilities if those expenditures are optimized. “We’ve put together a facilities master plan,” he said. “You need to come up with a plan on how you use your facilities in the best manner.”

Klopfenstein, who currently has a child in middle school and a child in elementary school, is also running due to dissatisfaction with the district. “Over the last two year,s the things that I’ve experienced having to fight for my children, I’ve felt very frustrated,” she said.

“Sometimes I feel like I am not heard,” Klopfenstein said. “For me, this is an opportunity to flip the seats, be on the other side.”

In August 2003, the Merchat family moved to Gird Valley. Merchat was raised in San Pedro, but his grandmother lived in the Kensington area of the City of San Diego. “We would go down and visit her,” he said. “My dad would never take the same route home.”

The U.S. Highway 395 route also allowed Merchat’s father to play golf in Fallbrook, so Merchat became acquainted with the community. “In 2003, we made an offer, got a home,” he said.

Merchat’s son graduated from Fallbrook High School in 2011 (Bonsall High School did not open until 2014) and is currently a special education paraprofessional for the Bonsall Unified School District.

Ironically, one of the board vacancies which allowed Merchat to obtain a seat in 2018 was from the retirement of Klopfenstein’s father, Dick Olson. Klopfenstein was born in 1978 and grew up in Gird Valley. She attended Bonsall Elementary School and Fallbrook High School. After living in Greater Fallbrook for the first 26 years of her life Klopfenstein and her husband lived in Temecula for 15 years before returning to Gird Valley three years ago. “We wanted to move our family back down south,” she said.

Bonsall High School joined the CIF in 2015. It is the only public high school in San Diego County (not including charter schools or continuation schools) without either eight-man or 11-man football. The Legionnaires fielded eight sports during 2021-22.

“We have added programs,” Merchat said. “We’re using the fields at Pala.”

Since Bonsall High School has approximately 250 students, translating to approximately 125 boys and 125 girls, the school cannot currently offer all of the 26 CIF sports Fallbrook High School has. “We can’t do every sport with that many kids,” Merchat said.

“We want to add what we can add based on what input we get from the parents,” Merchat said. “We have to look at what we can afford and what the students want, what the parents want.”

Klopfenstein notes that the future Bonsall Community Park may allow for the expansion of Bonsall High School athletics. “That’s going to be a great project with a lot of athletic opportunities,” she said. “We can get some good athletic programs going.”

Part of the reason for Bonsall High School’s relatively low enrollment is the lack of extracurricular activities offered by other high schools. Expanding vocational and performing arts programs would also benefit Sullivan Middle School students.

“What we now have is grants which allow us to put music and art teachers in every school,” Merchat said. “One of the things is go get more money, grant money.”

“That’s something where we can pull our community members in,” Klopfenstein said.


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