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By Collin Breaux

The Capistrano Unified School District is looking to improve communications with families, as well as launch a series of new programs and initiatives.

During discussions between CUSD staff and the Board of Trustees on Aug. 18, the district said it intends to communicate via text with families by messaging them in their respective native languages. The district is also planning to launch more College and Career Centers at high schools, as well as create a multiyear proposal to secure funding for facility upgrades.

District staff outlined various goals for CUSD and how to achieve them for the 2021-22 school year, which started last week with students returning to campus, and for the years ahead. District officials said bonds were one of the only options to fund upgrades to aging campuses, and the need for such should be emphasized to local residents.

“We need to make sure we have 100% backing, support and involvement from the Board of Trustees when it comes to bonds,” said Ron Ruth, chair of the CUSD Facilities and Finance Advisory Committee. “We recommend that each trustee develop their own focus group. Their group should consist of stakeholders in the trustee’s election area.”

Stakeholders could include PTAs, school clubs, and other such groups, Ruth said.

Voters in both November 2016 and March 2020 turned down bond measures that would have funded school facility renovations.

Trustee Amy Hanacek said previous trustees put a lot of effort into reaching out into the community and communicating funding needs.

“We’ve got to think what and where the root causes are,” Hanacek said of bond hesitancy.

As for the new text message communication to families, Trustee Krista Castellanos said such direct communication had changed her life for the better as a teacher.

“I know it has an expense to it—but, truly, if we want transparency and communication with our parents, I think that’s where we’re moving, towards this text messaging,” Castellanos said. “The emails coming in are overwhelming, and if you have multiple children, you have different sites with 14-page emails coming in, and you just can’t keep up.”

Other goals mentioned included maintaining a positive fund balance for the district’s Food and Nutrition Services, ensuring the department is self-supporting, conducting regular surveys with principals for feedback, and revamping CUSD’s website.

College and Career Centers, which provide support for students, will open at high schools in the near future—at Capistrano Valley High School in the fall and at San Clemente High School, San Juan Hills High School, and Tesoro High School in the spring.

District staff also reviewed accomplishments from the 2020-2021 school year. The graduation rate remained steady during the COVID-19 pandemic, all self-contained special education classes returned full-time, and 220 extended learning positions were filled, according to a staff presentation.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com.              

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