By Miriam Raftery
Updated April 1, 2019 with clarifications from Catherine Martin at the GUHSD.
March 31, 2019 (Alpine) -- For over two decades, Alpine residents have sought a high school in their community. After the Alpine Union-High School District (AUSD) board recently voted to close the Alpine Elementary School in June due to declining enrollment, the AUSD and the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD) are exploring options to bring some high school programming to the campus on Alpine Boulevard. But it won't be a full-service high school, as the community was originally promised in two past bond initiatives.
GUHSD Superintendent Tim Glover confirmed in an e-mail to ECM, “We’ve been having discussions with AUSD over several months regarding potential programs and services as part of a satellite program option. We look forward to creating an MOU (memorandum of understanding) with AUSD and gauging the interest in some specialized program offerings such as Independent Study, Home Choice, and Adult Education classes.”
The statement from Glover came in response to questions sent by ECM, after the San Diego Union-Tribune reported a letter of intent between the two districts to “formalize a process to bring high school options” to Alpine, according to AUSD Superintendent Rich Newman.
We sent the Grossmont district's public information officer, Catherine Martin, a list of questions:
- How many students will the new Alpine high schooil serve?
- Will it include Blossom Valley or only Alpine students?
- How large is the Alpine Elementary property?
- How large (what is the range) of the other high schools in the GUHSD?
- Will the new Alpine high have a similar curriculum to other schools in the district?
- What changes are planned to the facilities there?
- What athletic fields will the Alpine high school have on site or in close proximity for students to use in Alpine?
- Is there room for a football stadium or football field with bleachers?
- Will the new school have a pool?
- Will it have a theater or performing arts center?
- Does it have the technology needed or will that be added?
- If there is not room for amenities such as a stadium, pool and theater such as the other schools have, are there longer range plans for a bigger location to provide parity for Alpine students?
- How will this be funded – is there bond money left form Prop U or is the money coming from somewhere else?
- Will the front part of the property near the buried Powerline be an area that students would regularly utilize? This was a concern raised by some parents to to EMF (electromagnetic frequencies) which are low on most of the property but higher near the sidewalk).
- When is the anticipated opening?
In response, she sent Superintendent Glover's quote. ECM followed up by asking if this meant the site would not be a full-fledged high school. Martin responded, "That's correct. The consideration is to offer Independent Study, Home Choice and Adult Education."
The AUSD board voted 4-1 to close the Alpine Elementary School and consolidate its students into Boulder Oaks Elementary.
George Barnett, director of the Alpine Education Association, formerly headed up the Alpine High School citizens committee. He provided his personal opinions on the recent developments in an e-mailed response to ECM.
Regarding the AUSD’s action, Barnett states, “That decision as made on the basis of optimizing costs, collaboration, and easing the delivery of enhanced programs to students.” He adds that parents were told at a board meeting earlier this month about the letter of intent and that the two districts are exploring options on the types of programs the GUHSD could potentially offer.
“Anything beyond the intent to evaluate ideas is speculative,” he states. “We’ll see the outcome of the discussion perhaps after some months.”
Barnett adds, “The Alpine High School Citizens Committee, and the Alpine residents formerly associated with Alpine Taxpayers for Bond Accountability, support this direction of cooperation between the two districts, and the ongoing discussions between the respective superintendents. They are grateful to both boards reaching out on ideas for a high school program.”
Several years ago, Alpine taxpayers twice voted for bond measures for the GUHSD to build a state-of-the-art high school in the vicinity of Wright’s field. But the GUHSD backed out, arguing that enrollment had fallen A County Grand Jury report chastised the GUHSD and advised it to build the school or turn over bond money for the AUSD to do so . The GUHSD did neither so the AUSD and Alpine taxpayers group filed a lawsuit. But after a judge sided with Grossmont, the Alpine groups lacked funds and opted not to appeal. A settlement was signed in which the Alpine groups agreed not to disparage the GUHSD.
The AUSD had also sought permission to unify, meaning expand to operate high schools as well as elementary and middle schools. The County Board of Education agreed, but the state denied that request, leaving the community with few options.
Bringing any high school instruction to Alpine would be welcome by some parents of students who currently commute long distances to Steele Canyon or Granite Hills high schools. But without a full curriculum and extra-curricular activiites such as football and performing arts, Alpine will continue to lack parity with communities in the district that have full-service high schools, where bond monies were invested on improvements and new facilities instead of building a high school for Alpine.
The announced closure of the Alpine Elementary, meanwhile, has brought disappointment for some families and teachers. April Daniel, the school's Parent Teacher Student Association president, told the Union-Tribune, “I’m heartbroken and so are my kids.”