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By Allison Jarrell
At the Capistrano Unified School District’s Sept. 9 meeting, Trustee Gary Pritchard of Aliso Viejo led a discussion regarding the creation of a potential performing arts school in Dana Point’s south bus yard as a part of the Doheny Village redevelopment project.
Pritchard said he has been discussing ideas for such a magnet school with Dana Point City Councilman Scott Schoeffel for about a year and a half now, as both are musicians with backgrounds in the arts.
“We believe it would be an interesting notion to have something on the level of a Julliard in a public school setting on the West Coast,” Pritchard said. During his presentation, Pritchard showed trustees examples of successful arts schools across the country such as Colburn School in Los Angeles, the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan.
Schoeffel attended the meeting to speak as a resident of Dana Point, as well as the president of the Dana Point Symphony, and said the school “could be one of a kind in the entire country.”
Pritchard said CUSD has “some of the most talented young people” he’s ever heard, and added that a performing arts school would not detract from other district high schools, as it would take only the top percentage of arts students. Pritchard estimated the school would enroll fewer students than Dana Point’s South Orange County School of the Arts, which has about 400 students total.
Toward the end of his presentation, Pritchard proposed possibly creating a public-private partnership in the form of a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization—rather than a joint powers authority—in order to develop the district’s bus yard. Pritchard said having a smaller entity representing the district’s interests in the project would allow for a “more fluid discussion on developing that land” rather than waiting for trustees to convene once or twice each month.
A few trustees expressed hesitation and concerns about the proposal, including Trustee John Alpay, who said he felt having a new performing arts magnet school next to SOCSA would “mean the death of one of them.” Board President Lynn Hatton-Hodson worried that developing the arts school would take the focus off of the board’s other educational goals.
At the end of the discussion, the trustees agreed to direct staff to develop a “concept definition” as the first step moving forward. The Sept. 9 dialogue was an information item only on the agenda, so no board action was taken. Further discussion has not yet been agendized.