The Solana Beach School District has set attendance boundaries for students generated by new homes being built in Pacific Highlands Ranch — some students will be heading to Solana Ranch Elementary School while some will be attending Solana Santa Fe Elementary School in Rancho Santa Fe. The new assignments will take effect in the fall of 2017.
On June 29, the board assigned families in Hallmark, Meadowood and a still unnamed development of 69 homes in “Unit 18” to Solana Santa Fe. At the previous board meeting on June 8, the board approved attendance boundaries for Almeria and Olvera units to Solana Ranch and units of Artesana and Casabella to Solana Santa Fe.
“We like to be proactive and complete this process so when homes come online they are already assigned,” Superintendent Terry Decker said. “Over the next four years, we’ll add another 171 homes to the Solana Santa Fe boundary.”
Decker said Solana Santa Fe’s current enrollment is at 328 students with a capacity for 437. Using a low generation factor, Decker said with the new homes they could add about 74 students altogether, leaving 35 spaces still available. He noted that if they see a higher generation factor, adding 105 students over a four-year period, they will be close to capacity at the school.
Decker noted that Solana Santa Fe is in the next big round of Prop JJ modernizations, scheduled for completion in 2020-21. Board President Debra Schade said they may consider moving that up if the district sees accelerated growth in Pacific Highlands Ranch and higher student generation numbers.
While most of the homes that the district assigned are yet to be built, there are some families who purchased homes in Pacific Highlands Ranch with the belief that their home school was Solana Ranch.
There are two families with three children living in Meadowood that will be impacted by school of attendance change. The students are currently attending Solana Ranch and will be entering the sixth, second and fourth grades.
Decker said he is not recommending “grandfathering” those students into Solana Ranch but instead having the students go through the traditional method of applying for an intradistrict transfer.
Board member Julie Union advocated for making an exception for the students, as there are only three of them.
Union said she’s heard from other families who have gone through the intradistrict transfer process and just how “emotional and upsetting” it can be when students don’t find out until the week before school starts where they will be attending.
“It’s really impacting on their lives to have to find out every year if they’re in or not,” Union said.
As Solana Ranch nears capacity, Schade said the intradistrict transfer decision is one that each family will have to make for themselves — instead of taking the risk of not being able to attend Solana Ranch as it fills with students who live in the attendance area, parents may ultimately decide to just attend their home school of Solana Santa Fe.
Schade said the good news for families is that Solana Santa Fe is a “wonderful” school, and the choice for families is between two great schools.
Union still said she would like the district to consider changing the intradistrict transfer process to let families know sooner which school their children will be attending.
Board member Vicki King said the decisions on attendance boundaries are tough, especially when acknowledging the “elephant in the room”— the location of the district’s potential eighth school in Pacific Highlands Ranch, 10 acres on Golden Cypress Place in the middle of homes just assigned to Solana Santa Fe and Solana Ranch. Some homes next to the new school may be closer to Solana Ranch — “I think we’re at the beginning of some tough decisions to make,” King said.
The district has an option to purchase the land when development reaches 1,500 dwelling units in the Solana Beach School District’s attendance boundary in Pacific Highlands Ranch — that target is expected to be triggered in 2019.
“With the accelerated growth in that area…the decisions are going to get harder,” Schade said.
She said making a clear-cut decisions now and being proactive is the best move for the board to make as the next pieces of development loom ahead for the district.