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SC Trustee says new amenity would help keep students at the school

San Clemente High School. File photo

By Jim Shilander

Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees President John Alpay, who represents San Clemente, encouraged the board to move forward Wednesday with constructing a new pool at San Clemente High School as the leading edge of a program to improve the physical plant of the districts oldest high school building.

At Alpay’s request, CUSD staff investigated the conditions at the school, in terms of short- or long-term maintenance needs and areas that might require modernization at the school. The survey found a need for major roof repair or replacement, replacement of dry rotted wood and the need for new flooring throughout the campus, as well as cracked concrete, among a number of other issues. The district has approximately $6.2 million in a fund earmarked for capital improvements at the high school, but that fund also provides funds for upkeep at San Juan Hills High School and Vista Del Mar Elementary School.

Alpay said that while projects needed to be undertaken to address the immediate needs at the school for safety and health, he felt it was important to provide a new amenity to help signify progress was being made to rehabilitate the school.

Alpay noted that when Avenida La Pata was completed in a few years, parents in Talega would have more of a choice to make between sending their students to San Clemente High School and the newer facilities at San Juan Hills High School, they may be more likely to choose the latter option, making funding future improvements more difficult.

“We need a draw to keep people at the school, something unique,” Alpay said. Fresh paint or a new roof, Alpay said, did not attract people the way a new pool would. The pool was also a necessity, he said, since the current pool was “wholly inadequate,” for the school’s population and for sports like water polo.

He noted that if the pool was built to USA Swimming standards, it could also serve as a draw to bring meets to the area.

The most recently built pool in the district cost approximately $2 million, Alpay noted, so the cost may be something similar and affordable with the district’s current funding.

“I really think this is the first step in rehabbing the campus,” Alpay said.

Another possibility, he said, was to partner with the city on a joint project to build a performing arts center that could be used by both the high school and the city. Alpay indicated he had had conversations with San Clemente City Council members and other city officials about the possibility in the past.

Trustee Amy Hanacek, who represents portions of San Clemente and Dana Point, and had sent two sons to SCHS, noted that a new pool could also have a vocational element, since the school had always produced a number of lifeguards. She also said she was surprised just how much work was needed on the school buildings.

“I was taken aback by the level of maintenance the school is necessitating,” Hanacek said.

Superintendent Joseph Farley said some improvements were already underway at the school, including repairs to the parking lot but said that without students in the halls, “it looks worn out.”

“Some areas are looking pretty shoddy,” Farley said of the school.

Other board members agreed something needed to be done to improve conditions at the school, but said the immediate needs, such as roof repair, needed to take precedence over a new pool.

Trustee Jim Reardon said the district needed to “treat San Clemente High School as a special case,” in terms of repairs, due to its status as the one school shared by the entire city. The possibility of partnering with the city was very exciting, he said, but immediate repairs, such as repairing leaking roofs, needed to be prioritized, since, if left unfixed, they could cause significant damage to the school.

Reardon also suggested that if there was to be a reduction in school population due to students going to San Juan Hills, it might actually allow the district to sell the upper campus. The upper campus could face a number of necessary additions in order to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act if there was a significant upgrade to the facility.

Trustee Ellen Addonizio said the pool seemed to misplace priorities.

“It’s tough to picture a beautiful pool when the rest of the campus has such issues,” Addonizio said. “We might get more bang for the buck if we maintain the asset.”

The board voted to move forward with an examination of possible costs for a pool, as well as the necessary repairs to the facility.

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