A New Middle School for Scripps Ranch

Background

Scripps Ranch has three elementary schools (Miramar Ranch, Jerabek, and Dingeman) that have an average population of about 900 students each. This is above the school district’s goal of 700 and will continue to increase. We have one middle school (Marshall) that has 1,040 kids and will soon reach its maximum of 1100-1200. Marshall originally was intended to be an elementary school, but the district and the community decided to change it to a middle school. It is, therefore, a small middle school on a small site and has modest facilities compared to more typical middle schools. Within a year or two Marshall will be inadequate to serve the Scripps Ranch community.

The school population problem has been dramatically worsened by class-size reduction (K-3 at 20 kids per class) and by all-day kindergarten. A couple years ago, it became very evident that we needed more school space, and the pressing issue was at the elementary level. A committee selected a site and Prop MM provided designated funding for a new elementary school–Ellen Browning Scripps (EBS)–at the corner of Scripps Poway Parkway and Spring Canyon Road. This land was purchased and the initial planning for this school is done. If built, EBS would be online in September 2002.

It then became evident that there also would be serious overcrowding at the middle school level. The solution to this was to move 6th graders back to elementary schools and to build a long-term (10 to 20 years) modular school on the Fairbrook property, which is land owned by the school district on Fairbrook Road south of Pomerado Road.

Current Scenario

On March 9, at a Scripps Ranch Schools Committee meeting to discuss current overcrowding issues, the idea was brought forth by Sue Braun, our School Board Representative, and by Bruce Husson, the Deputy Administrative Officer of the school district, that instead of building the new elementary school, we apply that money towards a new larger “real” middle school and then convert Marshall to an elementary school. This seemed like a great idea.

We get a new full-sized middle school with more playing fields, more classrooms, and more extracurricular facilities, and we get a fourth elementary school; and no permanent modular school is needed. But few details were presented at the meeting on March 9, and subsequently several serious questions arose that need to be answered about this proposal. The following are answers to many of those questions.

Is the school district really going to do this?

The school board will likely approve the first steps for building a new middle school in Scripps Ranch at their meeting on March 28. These steps include first making an environmental assessment of the proposed middle school site, in the Scripps Ranch business park, and then negotiating purchase of the land.

Will any new taxes be needed?

No new taxes or assessments will be required. This idea was considered initially, but now is not necessary because the school district increased their contribution using Prop MM bond funds, which were approved in November 1998.

Will my Mello Roos assessments go up?

No. Mello Roos fees, as assessed in parts of Miramar Ranch North, are unrelated to schools.

I thought my Mello Roos paid for schools!

A common misconception, but Mello Roos fees, as assessed in Miramar Ranch North, pay for non-school infrastructure in the assessed area, such as streets, the water tank, and parks, and for part of some community-wide facilities, such as the library and the fire station. [The MRN partnership did contribute $1 million for planning and joint use facilities at the high school, but I am unclear whether that was ever made part of the Mello Roos assessment].

Where does the funding come from?

A new middle school costs about $50 million, or about $15-20 million more than the $33 million budgeted for each Prop MM elementary school. So where will the money come from to build a $50 million middle school? The school district plan is to use Prop MM funds for all but about $5 million of the total cost of the middle school.

The school district has requested that the Scripps Ranch community help fill this gap, in particular by using existing funds maintained by the City to help cover the cost of constructing some of the playing fields and other joint-use facilities. The total of these community funds is about $8 million and includes the Scripps Ranch special park fund, the Village and Country fund, and the SRPG FBA funds.

Aren’t these community funds already committed to other projects?

Yes, in a general sense so that the funds do not disappear into balancing the City’s annual budget. But very few of the funds are earmarked for specific, well-defined projects.

The few ongoing projects that we do have–building permanent bathrooms at Lakeview Park, constructing batting gages at each park, adding the finishing touches to the rec building and the community park–total less than $300K and would be completed.

But, for example, most of the special park fund, which now totals $3.6 million, has been unspent awaiting matching funds from the school district to build joint-use recreation such as playing fields at the high school. It seems that the significant “matching funds” brought forward by the school district to construct the middle school may be sufficient incentive to use the special park fund to help create additional playing fields or a gymnasium at the middle school, facilities that can be used by both the community and the school district. The Scripps Ranch Planning Group and the Scripps Ranch Rec Council,who advise the City on disposition of the special park fund, will need to make these decisions.

The Village fund ($770K fund, which is now $1.0 million) is completely undesignated and was being saved for some major opportunity for the Ranch. A small amount from the fund, less than the annual interest, will be used to construct restrooms at the overlook park on Scripps Ranch Blvd., primarily because we were unable to fund these in any other way. Use of the Village fund requires consensus from the community (both planning groups, Rec Council, and SRCA).

The Scripps Ranch FBA funds ($2.7 million) are designated for specific projects such as a sidewalk near the library. But some of the designated uses, such as the improvement to Scripps Ranch Blvd., might be considered an off-site improvement for the middle school and therefore count toward the $5 million. The Scripps Ranch Planning Group advises the city on use of these FBA funds.

Won’t the middle school bankrupt the community?

No. At worst, the community would have about $3 million in the bank. Also, because of the type of funding used for the SRPG area, community funds continue to grow as future projects are developed. Construction of the Kmart condos and Peace property (Spring Canyon Road and Pomerado Road) will add about $500K into both the special park fund and the Scripps Ranch FBA. There is also a new environmental fund for Scripps Ranch, which totals about $300K, obtained as a result of a lawsuit regarding the Mira Mesa MarketCenter.

The situation is that most of all the school district wants a buy-in from the community to go forward with the new middle school, especially since they are bringing additional funds to the table. The magnitude and kind of contribution that the Scripps Ranch community makes undoubtedly will depend on the specific design of the school and the benefits to the community. However, Scripps Ranch has a sufficient line of credit to sit at the table, negotiate, and help create a new middle school.

What is the timeline?

The new middle school can be open by September 2005. A modular school would be needed for the interim and is scheduled to be open in September 2001.

Where will the modular school be located?

Either the EBS site or the Fairbrook site. This decision will be made soon (April 4) in order to begin site preparation.

Will the modular school be a good school?

The photos we have seen of modular schools in San Diego are not bad. Indeed, they resemble new schools like Dingeman. They are not constructed to withstand 50-100 years of wear and tear, but they not an eyesore either. The modular school will be air-conditioned to alleviate noise from traffic. All the planned changes to Spring Canyon Road to make for a safe permanent school will be done for the modular school if it is sited there.

So what’s wrong with the plan to build EBS?

Compared to where we were 3 years ago, it is a great plan. But it has significant limitations, some of which are listed on page 23. Perhaps most important, it has limited surge capacity to accommodate any future errors in demographics or increases in students. Also, it either permanently splits the 6th graders between Marshall and the elementary schools, or it encourages about 200 more students from outside Scripps Ranch to attend Marshall and then perhaps be grandfathered into the high school, further overcrowding it. The new middle school plan adds surge capacity, keeps the 6th graders together, and adds another school site for the community.

What if the middle school cannot be built?

Then we return to the original plan: build a permanent EBS school, opening one year later in 2003, and a semi-permanent modular school at Fairbrook. However, the only real stumbling blocks for the school district to build the new middle school are completing an environmental analysis and acquiring the land. We should know the success of these steps within a few months.

Where will we put all the kids during transition?

Since the announcement on March 9, several different scenarios have been developed. More undoubtedly will be developed as more people gain an understanding of the overall situation. Where the kids go to school in fall 2000 is independent of the new middle school plan. So basically we need a 4-year plan that creates stability and predictability for families on the Ranch. The table on page 23 lists some initial ideas and a brief description of each. A full description of each scenario including annual enrollments and capacities at each school are maintained in a folder in the Scripps Ranch Library and will be on the SRCA website [www.scrippsranch.org].

How can I make sure my ideas are heard?

Passing your ideas and comments to the planning groups, the PTSA-type groups, the Rec Council, or SRCA, or at one of the many community school meetings will be the best ways to make sure your ideas are heard and incorporated in future decisions.

[Prepared with information from many individuals including Linda Sloan, Jan Hintzman, Roy MacPhail, Karl Treffinger, Bob Dingeman, Marc Sorensen, Joyce Berzle, and Lynn Parke. Thank you for your collective hard work pulling this together.]

Transition Scenarios until the New Middle School Opens

 

Scenario

Description

Pros

Cons

A-1

All 6th graders return to elementary schools; use 2-story portables for modular school.

All 6th graders are treated similarly. Elementary sizes are about the same as fall 2000 enrollment.

Marshall is underutilized (933/1188). Modular school needs capacity of 900 students, which would require 2-story portables. But district says it will not support use of very expensive 2-story portables for a temporary school. Scenario may not be feasible.

A-2

All 6th graders return to elementary schools; use multi-track at some/all elementary schools.

All 6th graders are treated similarly. Elementary sizes are 130 kids smaller (826) than fall 2000 enrollment. Modular is limited to 500 students. Jerabek school was previously on multi-track.

Marshall is underutilized (933/1188). Multi-track was not supported previously by community or school district.

B

Place 1/3rd of the 6th graders in elementary schools, and leave 2/3rds of 6th graders in Marshall.

Marshall is fully utilized (1244). Elementary sizes are about the same as fall 2000 enrollment.

6th graders are treated differently. Modular school must have capacity of about 590. Marshall needs 2 portables.

C

Keep all 6th graders at Marshall.

All 6th graders are treated similarly. Marshall is fully utilized (1400). Elementary sizes are about the same as fall 2000 enrollment. Modular school has 430 students.

Marshall is over its core capacity, and 8 portables would need to be added, which would use much of the playground or parking lot.

D-1

Place 2/3rds of 6th graders in Wangenheim and keep 1/3rd in Marshall. Minimize size of the modular school.

All 6th graders are treated academically similarly. Elementary sizes are about the same as fall 2000 enrollment. Modular school has 430 students. Only needed for 3 years (2002-2004).

One portable is needed at Marshall. Some 6th graders will spend 1 year attending school outside Scripps Ranch.

D-2

Place 2/3rds of 6th graders in Wangenheim and keep 1/3rd in Marshall. Maximize size of the modular school.

All 6th graders are treated academically similarly. Elementary sizes are about 60 fewer students than fall 2000 enrollment. Modular school has 600 students. Only needed for 3 years (2002-2004).

One portable is needed at Marshall. Modular school has 600 students. Some 6th graders will spend 1 year attending school outside Scripps Ranch.

E

Build the EBS school as planned, to open in fall 2002.

Elementary sizes are about 900, or 120 less if the modular school is maintained at the Fairbrook site.

Splits 6th graders indefinitely, starting in 2003 or 2004. Some 6th graders need to attend Marshall to use it’s available capacity; some would need to return to elementary school(s). Fairbrook modular school might remain for 10-20 years. No expansion capability or other school sites are available if demographic projections are low or other housing developments are approved.

F

If middle school cannot be built, then build EBS to open in fall 2003.

Same pros as Scenario E, but they occur one year later.

Same cons as Scenario E, plus EBS opens in fall 2003 one year late. One portable needed at Marshall in 2001; 3 more needed in 2002. Modular on EBS must be converted to permanent school. Elementary schools remain at 2001 capacity until 2004.

Your idea …

Your idea …

M

New Middle school.

Will have one 6-8 grade middle school with capacity of 1600-1800, and 4 elementary schools with capacity of 1,000. Schools would operate at about 1400-1600 and 820 students, respectively.

Transition lasts 3 years (2002 to 2004) and requires adjustments such as those described in scenarios A-D above.