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New campus, not enough kids

West Creek Elementary nears completion, but might stay empty

Posted: January 25, 2009 9:18 p.m.
Updated: January 26, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 

Construction on the $55 million West Creek Elementary School will be complete in June, but a dearth of students could keep district officials from opening the new school in the fall.

"The board (of trustees are) keeping all their options open, but we will open that school when we have an appropriate number of students and when it's economically feasible and fiscally responsible to do so," said Saugus Union School District board president Judy Umeck.

The board of trustees has not taken any action relating to West Creek, Umeck said.

"It is not likely that we would be occupying the school this coming school year," superintendent Judy Fish said.

Enrollment numbers at the Saugus district were on the decline in previous year after a spike, but have now leveled off, Fish said.

About 11,000 K-6 students attend the district's 15 schools.

The newest Saugus school is Tesoro del Valle in Valencia, which opened four years ago and has an enrollment of about 700, Fish said.

Fish attributes the lower attendance to students who move on to higher grades and the poor economy.

"I think most of our growth in recent years has come from new (residential) developments," she said.

"When the developments slow down, of course, it impacts student population."

Fish estimates only 100 students would attend West Creek, located near Copper Hill Drive in the West Creek and West Hills community in Valencia, if it opens for the fall.

An enrollment of 350, 400 would be more sufficient, she said.

"It's very much tied to when the families might move into the homes," Fish said.

Roughly a few hundred homes in the West Creek and West Hills neighborhoods are occupied while remaining homes are on sale or under construction, said Newhall Land spokeswoman Marlee Lauffer.

"Certainly the Santa Clarita Valley, like all of California, has been impacted by the slowdown," Lauffer said.

West Creek is a developer-built school and marks the first for the Santa Clarita Valley, she said.

Instead of giving money to school districts to manage construction, Newhall Land managed West Creek's construction, Lauffer said.

Funding for the school came from Newhall Land, state funding and the Community Facilities District, Fish said.

School officials held a groundbreaking ceremony in April 2007, she said.

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