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Newhall Ranch could need up to seven new schools

Funding would come from state and from Newhall Land

Posted: June 20, 2009 8:41 p.m.
Updated: June 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
The proposed Newhall Ranch development near Highway 126 could require the construction of up to seven new schools to meet the needs of the 21,000-home mixed-use community.

The project's environmental impact report estimates that 6,404 elementary school, 1,893 junior high and 2,868 high school students would be added by the Newhall Ranch development.

The elementary schools would be part of either the Castaic Union or Newhall school districts. The junior high and high school would belong to the William S. Hart Union High School District, a ninth- through twelfth-grade school district.

The figures are estimates and could change as discussions with the three school districts continue, said Marlee Lauffer, spokeswoman for Newhall Land and Farming.

"We have a plan that provides for full funding and sites for up to five elementary schools, one junior high and one high school," Lauffer said.

"We've long been in discussion with the school districts that (would) serve Newhall Ranch," Lauffer added.

"We wanted to make sure we have the capacity and planning to build the full amount of elementary schools," she said.

Anything north of the Santa Clara River would include Castaic Union, she said. South of the river, which is where Lauffer said the vast majority of the development will be built, are within the Newhall district's boundaries.

Only a small portion of the project would impact Saugus Union School District, she said.

Castaic Union serves kindergarten through eighth-grade students, while Newhall is a kindergarten-through-sixth-grade school district.

The first elementary school, which would fall within Castaic Union's boundaries, is proposed to be constructed as part of the first "village," named Landmark. It awaits approval from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, she said.

Four neighborhoods, or villages, are expected to make up Newhall Ranch: Landmark, Mission, Homestead and Potrero.

Pending county approval, Newhall Land hopes to break ground on Landmark around 2013, she said.

As homes are constructed, the elementary school would be built to serve the incoming families, she said.

"We anticipate that the high school that will serve much of Newhall Ranch will be in our third village, Homestead Village," Lauffer said.

The junior high school is also proposed for the third village, she said. Funding for all the schools would come from the state and from contributions from Newhall Land.

However, LandSource Communities Development LLC, which owns Newhall Land, is in the midst of bankruptcy reorganization.

Company officials say they hope to have worked their way through that in the near future.

A bankruptcy judge in Delaware is scheduled to decide at a July 13 hearing whether to approve the submitted reorganization plan, or to rule in favor of converting it to a chapter 7 filing, in which case the company would be liquidated.

Meanwhile, the company is continuing to work on the plans and permits needed for Newhall Land.

Part of the planning for the development and its schools involves developing a reliable count of the students who would be generated by a development that proposes to build more than single-family homes.

Newhall Ranch, proposed to be located near Highway 126 and Six Flags Magic Mountain, would involve condominiums, single-family homes and a mix of businesses and homes.

"They're talking about building a whole new product out there," Newhall School District Superintendent Marc Winger said.

The typical formula calls for 0.5 or 0.6 kids for every single-family home planned.

"We're not sure how many kids it will generate," Winger said.

Kids usually live in single-family homes, but a struggling economy has changed home affordability and occupancy.

"Now with this economy, (we're) seeing more kids from townhouses, condominiums and apartments," Superintendent James Gibson said.

Newhall Land is also taking a more proactive approach with school districts in an effort to plan out how many schools would be needed for 21,000 homes.

"We supplied schools to Valencia and Stevenson Ranch when those projects were coming online," Winger said. "It wasn't as master planned as what they're talking about in Newhall Ranch."

That means creating a sophisticated approach to figure out how many students will come if Newhall Ranch comes to fruition.

"We're trying to get that agreement in place well before the first shovel of dirt is turned," Winger said.

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