This summer, the Del Mar Union School District has a list of facility projects it plans to complete. In addition to the completion of the new Pacific Sky School, there will be upgrades to modern learning studios in 42 district classrooms with new carpets, paint and flexible furniture; field renovations in Del Mar Hills and Sycamore Ridge; and new play structures at Ashley Falls and Carmel Del Mar schools.
At the June 22 meeting, the board reviewed two additional facility projects that serve district staff. The board approved the $925,000 purchase of a new office suite in the Sorrento Valley to expand the maintenance, operations and technology department and also rejected a plan for a new on-campus training center from Torrey Hills School.
The request for a new vocational learning center came on the recommendation of district staff.
The district purchased the office building on El Camino Real in 2010, moving from its former home at the Shores property in Del Mar. The building’s large meeting room, however, was intended to serve as a training center, due to construction of the Torrey View complex. next door, the neighborhood has lost its parking spaces and can no longer accommodate staff for training, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Chris Delehanty.
They need a space that can accommodate up to 50 participants for professional development sessions that last three to four days.
Delehanty said they considered transportation, facility rentals, and the possibility of combining two existing classrooms to create a training center on one of their campuses. Staff’s recommendation that day was to review the conversion of two existing portable classrooms in Torrey Hills – the space had been used for the Early Childhood Development Center, which moved to the Ashley campus Falls in January 2021.
If directed by council, staff would propose an architect for council approval to begin design work. The estimated cost would be $1 million from Fund 40, the capital improvement fund which currently has a balance of $6 million.
During the board’s discussion of the proposal, trustee Katherine Fitzpatrick said she wanted to make sure there was no other use of Fund 40 funds. She was also concerned about the use of space at Torrey Hills if it could potentially be used by students.
Given the lessons learned from the pandemic, Administrator Gee Wah Mok also wondered if the training could be done virtually. While it may not have been ideal, it was still an option. Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Shelley Petersen said the district is committed to fostering face-to-face professional development: “Our professional learning needs to happen in person,” she said.
Unconvinced of the need for a permanent facility to solve what could be a temporary parking problem, President Erica Halpern suggested continuing to seek partnerships to find space to use, such as the meeting room of AMN Healthcare of Carmel Valley or contact nearby school districts. She even floated the idea of potentially selling the Torrey Hills office and finding a new building that better meets their needs, an idea that prompted a vehement shake of the head from administrator Doug Rafner.
“I think there are more alternatives to explore here before we jump into building a million-dollar training center,” Halpern said, and the board disagreed. to go forward.
The district’s maintenance, operations and technology department needs more space in its Sorrento Valley location. Work space has become restricted with at least one closet being used as a desk.
In 2019, the suite next door to the district office had been considered for a cannabis retail establishment, which the district objected to. With that proposal scrapped and the space available, Delehanty said there was an opportunity to expand with an additional 1,787 square feet right next door, including offices, a conference room, two washrooms and a workspace. open.
At the June 22 meeting, the board approved the purchase of the adjoining suite, drawing $40 from the fund. Halpern said there’s a difference between investing in the space and building the training center because it’s an asset the district can keep and, if necessary, sell.
Hills and heights
As part of its facility update, Delehanty shared that Del Mar Hills Academy’s modernization has been slowed due to the need for a seismic retrofit.
“We are now at a point where we are over budget for the whole project,” Delehanty said. “Because the school was built around 50 years ago, all the concrete walls will need to be replaced.”
According to the facilities master plan, the Hills modernization will replace the five portable classroom buildings on campus with permanent ones, improve the innovation center, reinvent classroom spaces, reconfigure the front office and make upgrades to the playground. and in the field. The original schedule called for construction to begin this summer and end in the fall of 2023.
Delehanty said the district is finding out exactly what will be needed for the renovation and working with Lionakis Architects to adjust the scope. Classrooms and buildings remain the priority with the upgrade, but they are looking to identify additional funds to meet all campus needs.
While construction of the new Pacific Sky School is on track for opening in August, construction of the new Del Mar Heights School remains on hold due to Save the Field’s lawsuit over the city’s permit approval coastal development.
The district has requested that work be allowed to continue on the nearby Torrey Pines Preserve Extension, repairing two failing stormwater outfalls in the canyon. The outlet has already created a ravine, and the repairs will protect against continued erosion, invasive species and trail issues, Delehanty said. On June 6, California State Parks wrote a letter to Procopio, the company representing Save the Field, recommending work continue, but Delehanty said there was no response.
“We are baffled that this critical environmental work is being blocked by Save the Field,” Delehanty said.
On June 23, the board approved a budget for 2022-23 with a surplus of $80,168 and maintaining a reserve of 23.8%.
The budget reflects a $1.3 million contribution from the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation and a 5% increase in property tax revenue. Budgeted expenditures include a 5% salary scale increase, increased staffing for the new Pacific Sky School, lower class sizes in upper grades, social and emotional learning supports, student transportation, students due to the reconstruction of Heights and the implementation of the Universal Meals Program, the new state law that requires all students to receive free breakfast and lunch, regardless of their revenue.
The implementation of Universal Meals, as well as the new Central District Kitchen that will open in January 2023 at Pacific Sky, will require the construction of new servers on each campus. This work should also be completed this summer.