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Public Hearings to be held on April 29 and May 7

By Sharon Penny

On the evening of March 12, the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) board members convened a committee meeting for transmittal of the petition to unify the Alpine Union School (AUS) District. 

Alpine residents successfully submitted a petition meeting all requirements to convert the K-8 Alpine Union School District to a K-12 Alpine Unified School District, which would then include a future high school in Alpine (http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/15043).

As required by the education code, one or more public hearings must be scheduled within 60 days. The board voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of a hearing on April 29 at 6 p.m. to be held at the Alpine Union School District, and a second hearing on May 7 at 6 p.m. at the Grossmont Union High School District (GUHSD). Unification will affect both districts. The SDCOE Board will administer both of the public hearings.

Twice, voters approved ballot measures that prioritized building the 12th GUHSD high school in Alpine. Land for the high school was purchased; architectural drawings were completed and submitted to the California Department of State Architecture (DSA) for approval. All fees were paid to the DSA in advance by the GUHSD.  The 12th high school project plans were withdrawn by the GUHSD from the DSA approval and review process by then-Superintendent Ralf Swenson without receiving prior GUHSD Board action permitting this withdrawal action. A majority of the Board later ratified the action retroactively.

The GUHSD Board has evaded committing to the 12th high school even after the board was reprimanded by the Grand Jury for failing to address its intent (http://eastcountymagazine.org/node/13274).

According to a report read by SDCOE’s Assistant Superintendent of Business Services, Lora Duzyk, the State Department of Education must receive a report within 120 days of the first public hearing, which would be August 27.  The report must outline nine different items of criteria that must be met for the unification process to move forward.

Criteria include adequate enrollment numbers, equitable division of services, no racial or ethnic discrimination, insignificant costs to the state, a sound education platform, and more.

Duzyk noted that the feasibility study would be conducted by an independent consulting firm, School Services of California (http://www.sscal.com/).

If all criteria were met, the next step would be for the California Department of Education to review and conduct analyses. The State Board has the authority to amend the proposal. This process could take from two to two-and-a-half years.

If approved then, the county will submit a recommendation to voters. Following that step,  “negotiation of division of assets and liabilities” would be held between the AUSD and GUHSD.

Final approval would be from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors (CBOS). Unification would then take effect on July 1 of the calendar year following final approval.

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That Was Then...

I think what's seldom discussed regarding GUHSD/Alpine High School is the change in projected enrollment. Given the K-8 schools are reported to see this year a sudden drop of 120 students, that means there would be 120 fewer high school students (and most importantly their ADA funding) going to that Alpine High School if it had been built. And we know the birth rate in 2008-2009 was reported to be low as people either waived or postponed having children, another factor in future enrollment rates. While a high school may have been financially feasible at the time it was floated on the bond, it's not looking like it would be a wise investment of resources at this time and in the foreseeable future. What ought to disturb us more is the reported use of funds stated to be for an Alpine high school for other uses in the district. Now if I was in Alpine, I'd really be peeved at that..property taxes going up for projects not what the stated purpose for borrowing for was.