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San Clemente Journal

A Plan for Upgrading San Clemente High School

by Ryan Burris, Chief Communications Officer Capistrano Unified School District

San Clemente High School (SCHS) was built in 1965 and serves over 3,000 students each day. While SCHS has a longstanding track record of strong academic performance, aging classrooms, science labs and school facilities are outdated and require upgrades for safety and to keep pace with rising academic standards. Recently, our local school district has engaged in a thorough process to evaluate local school facilities, identify and prioritize needed repairs and upgrades, and develop a plan for addressing the most urgent and high priority needs. This process included input from parents, teachers, principals and other members of the local community.

 Chris Carter has served as Principal of SCHS for 4 years and is proud of its rich history of academic, artistic and athletic success. As Principal Carter prepares for the start of the 2019 – 2020 school year, we sat down with him to discuss the plan to improve SCHS.

Q:  What are some of the facility needs and improvements that have been identified at SCHS?
A:   We have a 54 year-old high school that has served hundreds of thousands of students. Just like an aging home, periodically we have to tackle basic repairs like replacing leaky roofs, old rusty plumbing and outdated electrical systems. We have found termite damage and dry rot in wood and support beams. Plus we have safety issues like removing hazardous materials such as asbestos and lead paint from the classrooms and ensuring our schools keep our students safe in an earthquake or fire. These are just a few examples of the basic repairs and upgrades needed at our high school.

We also need to consider that our high school was built for a different era of education. Fifty year-old classrooms, labs and facilities need to be upgraded to support today’s instruction in science, technology, engineering, math, performing arts and athletics. To prepare our students for the current job market we need up-to-date career technical education classrooms and labs to support 21st century instruction.

Q:  What has been done to maintain the classrooms and facilities at SCHS?
A:  Our district maintenance team does an amazing job of taking care of our aging classrooms and school facilities by keeping up with minor repairs and maintenance. Unfortunately, significant upgrades and improvements needed at a fifty-year-old high school are beyond what can be accomplished by our maintenance team and funded by our regular maintenance budget. The State of California provides very limited funding for school improvements like we need and most state funding requires local matching funds.

Q:  What is the plan for funding these repairs and upgrades?
A:  The Capistrano Unified School District Board of Trustees is considering placing a local school improvement bond measure on the March 2020 ballot that could generate up to $116 million in locally controlled funding to repair and modernize our schools in San Clemente and Capistrano Beach. A school improvement bond measure is the method available to school districts in California to fund periodic repairs and improvements as schools age. Most Orange County school districts have passed similar measures to provide locally controlled funding to keep their schools safe and up-to-date. The money generated by a local school improvement bond measure must go directly to repair and upgrade the local schools serving San Clemente and Capistrano Beach communities only, with a large focus on SCHS. No funds can be used for other schools or taken away by the State. To access these funds, a local school improvement bond measure must be approved by 55% of local voters. While no decision has been finalized, the annual cost of a school improvement measure would not exceed approximately $34 per $100,000 in assessed value (not market value) of a property per year.

Q:  Will this help our local schools access state matching funds for facility upgrades?
A:  Yes, a local school improvement bond measure will provide the matching funds needed to access state dollars that will otherwise go to schools in other communities. If matching funds are available, accessing these state dollars will help reduce the cost of school improvements for local taxpayers.

Q:  How can we be sure these funds will be spent as promised?
A:  A local school improvement bond measure requires mandatory fiscal accountability protections. For example, a detailed list of projects is required and funds may only be used for the projects on that list. An independent citizen’s oversight committee comprised of local residents must be formed to review the use of funds and report their findings to the public. By law, no funds can be used for administrator salaries or benefits and all funds must stay local to improve local schools. No funds can be taken by the State.

Q:  How can we follow this process and learn more?
A:  Parents can learn more at Back to School Night at SCHS. In addition, we will be sending information to the broader community through the mail and online at The school board will be discussing this topic at their meetings in August, September and October. We encourage the community to participate in these conversations and share your thoughts and priorities.
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