An influx of new students may lead to additional need for schools

CUSD

By Jim Shilander

Representatives from Rancho Mission Viejo held the first of what will likely be several meetings with the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees Monday to discuss the impacts of the first of two sections of development slated to begin occupancy or construction next year.

Plans will have to be made to accommodate more than 4,500 students expected to be coming into the district in the coming years, according to the development company.

Tim Holcomb, who previously served as an interim deputy superintendent with the district and now works with the developer, told the trustees that the lion’s share of the projected student population would likely be in Kindergarten through fifth grade, approximately 2,724 students. Holcomb said another 991 sixth-through-eighth-grade students and 846 high school students are expected as well.

With district enrollment already exceeding capacity, it is likely that at least one new school would have to be constructed to accommodate the new influx, according to Holcomb. The best fit, he said, would be to construct, at the very least, a new K-8 school, which would be located in “Planning Area 2,” of the Ranch. The cost for constructing the school, assuming joint use of some facilities, would lower the purchase cost of the land, approximately $52 million.

For a high school, Holcomb told the board that since not enough students would be coming in to create a large comprehensive high school, the district could: create a model for a new small high school, plan for a larger school when funding became available or potentially expand an existing school. Holcomb noted that 20 acres of land adjacent to Tesoro High School could be used to accommodate such an expansion.

Future development in the four other planned development areas would likely be required later, as the full project would likely take 20 to 25 years to complete, according to Holcomb. It was also possible, he said, that this area would eventually form its own city since no municipality had expressed much of a desire to absorb it via annexation, and Orange County was unlikely to want to provide municipal services. A portion of the project near San Clemente may be incorporated into that city because it currently lacks road access to the other areas to be developed.

Board President John Alpay noted that the addition of more than 800 additional students to Tesoro would push the largest high school in the district to close to 4,000 total students, which might be stretching the school logistically, even with additional space. Holcomb noted that the district could come up with a plan that would accommodate the additional space.

Superintendent Joseph Farley also noted that changes in technology might also provide ways for the schools to use space more efficiently, as the district was finding with its online high school program.

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