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Board starts planning Castaic high school

New campus will serve 2,600 students

Posted: January 12, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: January 13, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Construction of a Castaic high school, which should reduce student loads at two other local high schools and give kids a shorter commute to school, should take one step closer to reality this month as district officials begin discussing how to spend bonds local voters passed in November.

Optimistic and pushing for a four-year construction period, Steve Sturgeon, president of the William S. Hart Union High School District, said the board is going full speed.

While the district has the funds to buy the land, money to erect the district's seventh high school is part of the $300 million in Measure SA bonds.

Sturgeon does not expect the state's financial crisis to affect the project.

"We don't anticipate any problems," Sturgeon said. "The only thing I can possibly see is if the state doesn't have matching monies or if we have difficulty selling bonds."

Though the Audit and Budget Committee will begin meeting this month, selling the bonds soon is improbable.

"The bond market has actually improved," Sturgeon said. "We won't be seeking any actual bond sales for another 12 to 24 months. But that may change."

Finding a site for the Castaic high school has been a challenge.

The Santa Clarita Valley Facilities Foundation first purchased a 70-acre site in Hasley Canyon for the school, said Rob Gapper, district chief operations officer.

"That site encountered opposition from neighbors and the Castaic Town Council," Gapper said.

In 2003, a second site was chosen in the Northlake area of Castaic but was tied to the failed SunCal development planned for the area but was discarded in 2008.

"(The community) was doomed by lack of government permits and a waning residential market," Gapper said.

The district continued searching sites in Mandolin, Romero and Hasley canyons but settled on its third site in October, which is located on the Sterling Gateway site at the end of Witherspoon Parkway off Commerce Court, which is located near an industrial center, Gapper said.

The 60-acre site is within 1,000 feet of ultilities and paved access - two major factors in the district's choice of site, he said.

"We are in the negotiation stage right now," Sturgeon said. "The district and the foundation are talking with the owner of our first choice."

"The timeline is still four years," Sturgeon said. "It will be two years before we actually start construction, and two years after that, we could open up."

Officials expect the new campus to service 2,600 students.

"The high school's maximum will be 2,600, but what we may build may be a smaller physical structure," Sturgeon said. "But infrastructure will be there to add on."

Castaic is expected to provide between 1,600 and 2,100 students for that high school.

"We will begin (the school) with the freshman class and establish an educational criteria," Sturgeon said.
When the school opens, the first year's freshman class will attend alone. In four years, they will become the first graduating class of Castaic High School.

Access to the school is through the commerce center rather than through a residential area.

Board members want to avoid another public outcry like the one that happened a few years ago when the Hasley-Sloan site was suggested for the high school in Castaic, Mercado-Fortine said.


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