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Paul B. Strickland: Candidates speak out on Castaic high

Posted: August 1, 2009 5:47 p.m.
Updated: August 2, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
The William. S. Hart Union High School District includes land from Castaic on the west all the way to the Agua Dulce border on the east side of the valley.

The boundaries extend beyond the city of Santa Clarita, and include a good deal of county areas such as Stevenson Ranch and West Ranch.

As one of two Hart district board members who served on the "Pass Measure SA Committee," I worked hundreds of hours alongside many others in the Santa Clarita Valley to secure the passage of a $300 million bond last year.

The building of a high school in Castaic was chief amongst the reasons for voting for Measure SA.

In fact, one piece of campaign material states that passage of the bond "guarantees it (Castaic high) will be built once a site is identified."

As far as I am concerned, I stand by that statement.

Alas, before a school can be built, a site must be identified and agreed upon by all interested parties.

The Hart district has identified a number of sites, only to see them be rejected by county officials and disgruntled Castaic businesses and homeowners.

District administrators began looking for a Castaic high site as early as the year 2000.

By August of 2002, the Castaic Area Town Council was presented with a list of nine specific choices.

That list was narrowed down to three, and ultimately the chosen spot for the potential high school was the area known as Hasley/Sloan.

The Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation purchased the property and a planning committee of district administrators, teachers and Castaic parents and residents was formed.

Unhappy neighbors near the chosen site complained to county officials, and the Hart district was told to look elsewhere. The Not-In-My-Backyard campaign was successful.

The next selected site was the NorthLake project owned by SunCal.

This developer tried very hard to get county approval for the school site, but it was delayed by the county for various reasons over several years.

The Hart district was continually led to believe by county officials and the developer that an agreement was imminent.

In 2007, the district met with the Castaic Area Town Council and the Castaic school board to discuss property studies in Mandolin Canyon, Castaic Mesa, Sterling-Gateway and Romero Canyon.

After a thorough analysis of each site, the Sterling-Gateway site was selected, but the Valencia Commerce Association was unwilling or unable to remove a no-schools code restriction on the property.

Currently, the Hart district is diligently searching for sites in Castaic.

Whatever the selection may be, the entire Castaic community, including business owners, parents, residents and elected officials, must approve it.

On that note, I sincerely believe that all interested parties now clearly see the need to identify the site and start the building process.

One great attribute of our valley is the marvelously symbiotic relationship between all of our elected officials, as well as business, educational and civic leaders.

When we recognize the need, we ban together to get things done. The time has come to build a Castaic high school.

I never understood the concept that a high school near a residential area is a negative.

Studies show that families move to Santa Clarita chiefly because this is an area with desirable public schools.

This is truly a unique community, not only in California, but also in the United States.

Over 90 percent of our sophomores pass the high school exit exam the first time they take the test.

This is a test normally required of high school seniors.

Many of our schools have won state and national awards in athletics and in performing arts. The keystone of our amazing community is the undisputed fact that we have strong, safe public education facilities that are focused on student achievement and student success.

Information about Measure SA on the Hart district Web site states the following: "In November 2008, voters approved a $300 million school facilities general obligation bond for the construction of new school facilities and the improvement of existing facilities. Listed as priority projects for Measure SA is the acquisition and development of a high school site in Castaic, construction of a high school in Castaic ... "

Castaic needs a high school. Measure SA passed based upon the premise that the high school will be built there.

As an elected Hart district board member, I pledge to do everything possible to see to it that a Castaic high is built as quickly as possible.

Paul Strickland is a resident of Santa Clarita and is serving his second term on the William S. Hart Union High School District governing board. He is the only incumbent seeking re-election for the Hart school district election Nov. 3. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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