HEARINGS ON ALPINE HIGH SCHOOL AND UNIFICATION

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By Miriam Raftery

January 9, 2018 (Alpine) – Two key hearings that could determine the future of students in Alpine are coming up: a court appeal and a State Board of Education hearing  January 19 at which the Board will consider a recommendation by the Department of Education to deny a unification petition, and a January 11 appeal of a lawsuit over funds to build the long promised Alpine High School.

On January 11 at 9 a.m., the Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments in an appeal of a lawsuit filed by Alpine taxpayers and the Alpine Union High School District against the Grossmont Union High School District (GIJSD).  At stake are funds from two bond measures that Alpine parents want to see used to build the high school that the GUHSD has declined to build.  The hearing will be held at Symphony Towers, 750 B St., Suite B, in San Diego (docket #D070583).

A lower court judge initially dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeal reinstated it. The lower court judge then ruled against Alpine.  The three-judge panel from the Court of Appeal that will hear oral arguments on January 11 includes two judges who previously ruled in Alpine’s favor.

On Friday, January 19th at 8:30 a.m, the California State Board of Education includes a hearing to consider a unification petition proposing formation of a new Alpine Unified School District that would include the Alpine Union Elementary School District and a portion of the GUHSD.  Parents hope is that if a unified district is approved, the new district could ultimately build a high school in Alpine. 

In a troubling turn for Alpine parents and students, the state Department of Education (CDE) has recommended that the State Board of Education deny the unification petition, or alternatively, postpone action until after all litigation has been completed, a process that could take years. By contrast, the san Diego County Board of School District Reorganization earlier voted to recommend approval of the unification petition.

The CDE cited two reasons for its recommendation:

  • Inconsistencies with, and lack of clarification and supporting data for, County Committee findings and recommendations regarding the unification proposal.
  • Pending litigation regarding the disposition of Grossmont UHSD general obligation bond funds. The effect of the outcome of this litigation (currently on appeal) on the unification is unclear.

Alpine parents twice voted for bond measures, Prop H and Prop U, believing funds would be used in part to build an Alpine High School. But the GUHSD board majority reneged, claiming enrollment triggers had not been met, a contention supporters of the high school dispute. Bond funds were used to fund other projects, including some not listed in the bonds.  The San Diego County Grand Jury, in a scathing report, recommended that the GUHSD set a firm timetable to build the Alpine High School on land the district had already acquired, or turn over the money to the Alpine Union School District so that it could unify and do so.

The GUHSD board did neither, so Alpine residents filed suit to get the funds turned over and launched their unification petition.  Alpine parents contend it is unfair for their children's safety to be put at risk driving on icy roads in winter long distances, noting that in the past, students have died commuting to other district schools. Long commutes also make it difficult for Alpine students to participate in extra-curricular activities such as sports.