At its Jan. 11 meeting, the Rancho Santa Fe School District board heard presentations from two architectural firms as its considers a new or refreshed master plan as well as reconstruction, modernization or expansion of its R. Roger Rowe campus, particularly the school gym.
The district put out a request for proposals for architects in November 2017 and an advisory subcommittee interviewed candidates and narrowed them down to finalists Ruhnau Clarke Architects and StudioWC (formerly Webb Cleff Architecture). Both of the firms have local connections: Studio WC has been working with the district for the last eight years, involved in the campus reconstruction and field replacement and Ruhnau Clarke’s CEO and principal David Ruhnau is a Rancho Santa Fe resident.
Both firms have experience in educational master planning and school modernization projects.
The presentations provided the board with “useful information” although members had questions about what the scope of their master plan update would be.
Board Vice President Tyler Seltzer said he had some concerns about redoing the master plan for the entire campus as he believes the gym is the most urgent facility and assessment need the district has.
“I don’t feel a tremendous urgency to launch into a new master plan at this time,” Seltzer said. “But I am keenly interested in an assessment of the gym.”
Board Trustee Scott Kahn said he doesn’t think that assessing the gym condition and refreshing the master plan are mutually exclusive. He said his sense of urgency on the master plan is not that it is at the top of his list but that he wants to make sure the district has a sense of what its needs look like for the next 10 years to make sure its focusing on what is most urgent or important.
Board Clerk Sarah Neal said she wants to have more discussion reviewing the current master plan, approved in December 2015, to determine whether their efforts are a refresh or a whole new plan, and if it is a refresh, what parts need to be refreshed. Neal also reiterated that the board needs to spend more time setting district priorities.
“I don’t want to see an architecture firm leading that work, I think it’s important that we do that as a district and that the community knows the district is leading the work of setting priorities,” Neal said.
Brad Johnson, director of finance, said some update to the master plan would need to occur if the district decides to pursue a bond effort. Superintendent David Jaffe said master plans are typically revisited every five years by school districts. He said he sees the need for some update of the master plan as there are new board members and new district leadership, as well as different demographics and program needs.
Board President Todd Frank said there is a bit of a “need to know” for future programming needs but he said the gym is at the core of the master plan needs, not redoing the whole school layout, educational priorities or open space.
“Primarily this is a functional re-do of a kitchen as opposed to a red-do of a whole house,” Frank said.
Frank said he is open to reviewing the current master plan as a group at the February board meeting before they make a decision on hiring an architecture firm.
Also at the meeting, the board gave direction to move forward with the conditions assessment firm EMG to perform an assessment of the gym. The results should be able to be heard at the February board meeting.
Frank also requested that Jaffe bring back a report on how the gym is used throughout the year: what a week looks like, how it is used, if it sits empty part of the time or if it is already “programmatically stuffed” with activity every day. Kahn said he is also interested in learning if there are activities that are not done in the gym because it is inadequate.
Elise Dufresne, currently the only candidate for the board vacancy, attended the meeting and shared some of her observations on the discussion.
"The district clearly needs strong leadership in order to forge a comprehensible path forward which immediately secures the safety of our children, serves the school's facility needs for the foreseeable future, gives due consideration to potential impacts on the overall community and ensures the continued financial health of the district,” Dufresne said.
The next regular board meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 8 at 9 a.m.