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By Breeana Greenberg

After the Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees reached an impasse last month over a proposal to pursue another bond measure to fund facility improvements at Dana Hills High School, district officials this week, discussed next steps for conducting renovations.

According to CUSD staff, the district is in the planning phase of a new two-story classroom addition and is continuing to work on a seismic application for funds.

“We are excited about the new building planned for replacing some of our aging portables and we know it’ll be greatly appreciated by the faculty and students who get to use it,” Dana Hills High School PTA President Katie Anderson said Wednesday night, July 13.

The district is currently in the process of “responding to clarifying questions from the Division of State Architect,” Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton explained. “Once this Q&A process is completed, we expect to receive a concurrence letter from the State Architect.”

Staff on Wednesday night was unsure of how long this process may take.

After receiving the concurrence letter, the district will be able to submit the project application with full construction plans to the Division of the State Architect.

Staff confirmed that taxpayers are not paying for the new building. Instead, state matching monies are funding the project. According to CUSD’s staff report, the district has applied for about $48.59 million in matching funds and received about $23.98 million so far.

Projects to renovate Dana Hills that are eligible for the state matching funds include the new two-story high school classroom building, solar panel projects, STEAM/STEM buildings and modernization projects.

Noting the importance of getting funding for safety renovations at Dana Hills, Anderson said that the students and teachers “deserve safe facilities that both inspire and reflect the truly awesome educational experience at Dana.”

Trustees had considered placing the measure on this November’s General Election ballot that would have allowed Dana Point voters to decide whether to levy taxes on property owners so the school’s buildings could be updated to match state seismic safety standards.

During its June 17 meeting, however, the Board of Trustees voted 3-3, preventing the ballot measure from moving forward. The board currently has a vacancy following the departure of Area 2 Trustee Pamela Braunstein.

“I know the timing isn’t what I would like, I want it tomorrow but that’s probably not going to happen, but I’m encouraged that we are still going forward and I am really encouraged, Katie, by the groundswell of support from the Dana Hills and the Dana Point community,” Board President Martha McNicholas said. “We need to keep that going through this election cycle and into next year.”

District staff noted on Wednesday that there will be future opportunities for a ballot measure in 2024—either for the Primary Election in March or during the November General Elections, which would require a 55% voter approval threshold.

The district could also call for a Special Election, during which the ballot measure would need approval from 2/3 of the voters to pass.

“The disappointment we all felt as we left the meeting has fueled a groundswell of creative ideas and a future action plan that we hope will inspire our community from the ground up,” Anderson said.

“Our challenge will be to embrace the amazing resources and partnerships in our community and educate our families about the short-term and long-term vision for Dana Hills,” Anderson continued.

Breeana Greenberg

Breeana Greenberg is the city reporter for the Dana Point Times. She graduated from Chapman University with a bachelor of arts degree in English. Before joining Picket Fence Media, she worked as a freelance reporter with the Laguna Beach Independent. Breeana can be reached by email at bgreenberg@picketfencemedia.com

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