OCEANSIDE – After hearing concerns from parents over a proposed merger of two elementary schools in recent weeks, the Oceanside Unified School District Board of Directors unanimously voted against the proposal, deciding instead to moving forward with the reconstruction of Reynolds Elementary School and the modernization of Surfside Academy.
Board chair Stacy Begin immediately brought forward a motion against school mergers at the start of a special meeting on November 2, during which the board was ready to decide on two different potential merger plans.
If the board had decided to merge the schools, it would have chosen between two options.
The first option would have moved students from Del Rio Elementary to Libby Elementary, which are currently the smallest schools in the district. This option would then move the entire Surfside student body to the Del Rio campus and bring the current Surfside campus into asset management. This also included a rebuild of Reynolds Elementary.
The second option would also have modernized Surfside but would also have taken all of Reynolds’ traditional school programming and merged it with Del Rio and then merged its two-way bilingual immersion program with Libby. The district reportedly shut down Reynolds and incorporated it into asset management.
Both of these options were presented to the board for consideration last night after previous meetings discussed what such a merger would look like, while also collecting feedback from the community. The overwhelming response was no: Parents did not want their community schools to disappear.
The subject of school amalgamation arose after the district completed its long-term facilities master plan, which reviewed all facilities and determined their needs. Two challenges identified in this plan were that the neighborhood has a number of facilities with fewer students than they were supposed to accommodate and that several buildings are in need of major repairs and upgrades, including Reynolds and Surfside.
The board then asked staff to present information on the potential consolidation of schools to address these two issues, which is how the two previously mentioned options were formed.
But rather than amalgamating schools, Begin proposed to rebuild Reynolds and modernize Surfside.
The district has received over 30 public comments in past meetings and over 100 pages of comments and numerous emails, the vast majority of which opposed the consolidation. Begin said the consolidation of the aforementioned schools would be “detrimental” to students based on all contributions from the community.
âI heard you loud and clear,â Begin said at Tuesday’s meeting.
Vice-chairman Eric Joyce and council clerk Raquel Alvarez had concerns about the more than $ 50 million the school would need to spend to rebuild Reynolds, which will take between four and five years.
Both were particularly concerned about this cost that could grow to $ 70 million over the next few years, and what spending that much money on one school would mean for all of the other identified needs at district facilities.
Associate Superintendent Andrea Norman assured them that the district would not spend the $ 50 million immediately to rebuild Reynolds and that he would be paid overtime, in the meantime the district would set aside other funds to meet its other needs. in installations.
Joyce supported the motion not to consolidate and rebuild Reynolds, but added that the board needs to focus on restoring its budget going forward.
âWe should be intentional in our next steps,â Joyce said.
Alvarez noted that she was opposed to school consolidation from the start and was thrilled to see that Surfside will receive the attention she needs instead of being an afterthought in the district. Modernizing Surfside won’t take as long as rebuilding the Reynolds.
Administrator Eleanor Evans said Reynolds was in urgent need of a rebuild.
âI think, quite frankly, it’s run down,â Evans said. âIt gives me the dÃ©jÃ vu of the schools I attended in Virginia. It’s sad because it’s a learning and working environment, and it definitely affects morale.
Nearly 20 people signed up to make public comments at Tuesday’s meeting. Most of these people were surprised by the board’s decision and changed their comments against consolidation to thank the board for their decision.
âThank you for listening to us parents,â said Michele King. “The only thing in the future is if we, like the parents, could be better informed about this. We only had a few weeks to absorb and process all this information, and it caused us a great panic.”