Q: When are we going to get a high school for Castaic?
A: Barring unforeseen difficulties, the Hart District anticipates opening a high school in August 2013 for incoming ninth graders only. The school would add one grade a year until it becomes a full four-year high school.
Q: The Hart District has been promising to build a high school in Castaic since 2005, but we still don't have a high school.
A: Actually, the Hart District has been searching for a high school site in Castaic since 2001. The search has started all over again many times due to community opposition, the downturn of the economy which stalled development attached to a potential site, deed restrictions, etc. Dozens of other prospective sites were turned down due to earthquake faults, lack of access, undesirable uses on adjacent land and more. Most recently, the Hart Board examined three possible sites and settled on two potential sites. The Romero Canyon and Hasley/Sloan sites are currently undergoing extensive review so that a final site can be recommended to the Governing Board this summer.
Q: Why does it take so long to build a high school?
A: Generally, it takes from four to five years to construct a high school. Site selection is just one piece of the puzzle. A site must be large enough, economically within range and approved by the State of California. Schools must meet very rigid standards-much more than residential or industrial buildings. Reviews include an Environmental Impact Report, Department of Toxic Substance Control and more. Then plans must be drawn up that will fit the specific site chosen and meet the educational needs of the community. The plans then undergo extensive review by the Division of State Architects, which can take from six to 12 months. Actual construction can take up to two years.
Q: We keep hearing about the budget crisis and its impact on schools. Will this delay a high school for Castaic even more?
A: The budget crisis covers the cost of operating a school. School construction comes from a totally different source of money-traditionally a mix of developer fees, state construction bonds and local funding. While the economic downturn may slow down collection of developer fees and the availability of state bond money, the Hart District has sufficient funds from local bond measures to build a school while we wait for the other funding to materialize.
Q: We expected a high school to be built in Castaic when we voted for Measure V in 2001, but there's still no high school. Now we've voted for Measure SA, which made the same promise. Will we actually get a high school this time?
A: While the Hart District tried to find a viable site for a high school in Castaic, Measure V funds helped fund those preliminary studies and modernization of other schools. Construction of a high school in the Castaic area is a priority for Measure SA bonds, approved by local voters in 2008, and design and construction can begin as soon as the district is able to obtain approval of a site.
Q: Why is the Hart District dragging its feet at building a high school in Castaic?
A: The district has been proceeding as rapidly as possible. In the past, we have been able to build new schools in conjunction with local developers, who provided construction-ready sites before the area around the new school was developed. Schools in the past have been tied to developer funding. If the residential development did not materialize (homes were not built), there were no mitigation fees available for school construction. This is what occurred with the Northlake development in Castaic.
Q: Why is it so hard to find a site for a Castaic high school? There must be lots of properties available.
A: The district has investigated dozens of sites over many years. There are no "perfect" sites, so we are currently doing extensive studies on two potential sites. Preliminary studies will help us determine whether there are any issues which would render either of the sites unsuitable for a school. The district hopes the Board will be able to make a final site selection by this summer.
Q: If a high school opens in Castaic, will it reduce large class sizes and overcrowded campuses on our existing schools?
A: A new high school will indeed reduce overcrowding on other Hart District campuses, particularly at West Ranch and Valencia high school, which currently are housing Castaic-area students. Class size, however, is an issue negotiated with our teachers' union, and is a reflection of the current state budget crisis. It will not be affected by opening of a new school.