Solana Santa Fe modernization will include new two-story classroom building

The drainage culvert on the corner of El Apajo and San Dieguito Road will be paved over as part of the Solana Santa Fe School modernization.
(Karen Billing)

Solana Santa Fe Elementary School’s modernization project took another step forward as the Solana Beach School District board gave direction for the project’s scope at its Nov. 14 meeting. The board has selected a scope that entirely paves over the existing large drainage culvert on campus in order to enhance the school, add a two-story classroom building and improve the site’s parking and traffic circulation.

The board expects to complete the schematic design in January 2020, continue the design development and approval process throughout the year and start phased construction in December 2020. The project is anticipated to be complete in 2022.

The board was excited to see the project moving forward, particularly being able to pave over the culvert with the blessing of the county flood control division. “I never thought that would actually happen,” said SBSD Clerk Debra Schade.

Modernization plans also include an expansion of the undersized kitchen and food service area, updating the administration office for security and efficiency and re-configuring the kindergarten classrooms and play area.

The district held community design meetings this fall as it considered different options for the challenging site, limited in buildable acres due to its proximity to a hillside and that culvert.

The biggest driving factor in the modernization design is solving the traffic ingress and egress issues. Anyone who has experienced morning or afternoon traffic knows that San Dieguito Road and El Apajo are heavily impacted. Caroline Brown, executive director of capital programs, said the more they can maximize parking and stacking, the better off they will be in the overall plan for the school.

In the plan, there will be 74 total parking spaces on site, an upgrade over the existing 45. A separate staff parking lot will be on the other side of the school near the kindergarten building and playground. On site, there will be room for 39 cars to stack up and queue where there is room for about 24 now.

The school’s original main building was built in 1993 and an additional eight relocatable classrooms in portables were added in 1994. In 1997, the school added building C close to the fields and school garden.

The portable classrooms will be removed and the new two-story classroom building will be situated adjacent to building C and the new lunch area, closest to San Dieguito Road. Brown said they did speak with all of the neighbors about view impacts.

The board had some concerns about the placement of the enhanced kindergarten playground. Schade also thought there might be some opportunity to create additional instructional space in the open space corner of campus close to the school garden—such as a covered outdoor lab for science, art or discovery.

Like other Measure JJ projects, the project has seen construction costs escalate. Originally budgeted for $10 million in 2018, hard construction costs have escalated to $11.6 million for a total project budget of $16.2 million. Funds are available for the remodel with a combination of Measure JJ money and $4.5 million from the Crosby’s community facilities district funds.

SBSD Board member Vicki King requested more information about how the phased construction will work for that two- year time period with students on campus. As parents might have concerns about construction on a site that small, SBSD Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger said they will come back with more discussion on construction logistics in the spring as they further refine the project scope.