Marina officials plan to build a city high school.
Thursday, June 16, 2005
Nearly two weeks into summer vacation, school is likely the last thing on the minds of Marina students. But that’s not the case for many city staffers and some school district officials.
The Peninsula city doesn’t have its own high school. Today, 573 of Marina’s 900 high school students are bused to Seaside High School. The rest go to Monterey High.
But Marina’s population—about 21,140—is expected to almost double over the next 20 years, and development projects abound. To meet the educational needs of the future, city officials are beginning to plan for the construction of a Marina high school.
“It’s been a long time coming and there’s no doubt we need schools,” says Doug Yount, Marina’s Strategic Development Center director. “We’ve been meeting with the school district for strategy. First, on possible sites, and second, on how to fund this project.”
John Lamb, interim superintendent for the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District (MPUSD), says there has been a lot of talk regarding the prospects of a new high school but nothing has yet been determined.
“The timeline is still very fuzzy,” Lamb says. “I don’t think it’s in everyone’s best interest to speculate just yet.”
He says that since the closure of Fort Ord in 1994, student populations in MPUSD have plummeted from 16,000 to 10,400. They’ve since stabilized at around 11,000.
Lamb says these declining enrollments have made the idea of building a new Marina school a particularly challenging endeavor for the district.
“Nothing will be decided until October,” he says.
According to the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments’ estimates, Marina’s population will surpass 25,000 by 2007. By 2020, Marina’s population could grow to 40,000.
The city’s own Parks and Recreation Facilities Master Plan projects a total of 3,300 additional Marina school-age children will be eligible for school facilities by 2014. This number takes into account the 4,907 new housing units in the developments of Marina Heights, University Villages, Marina Station, Central Marina, Cypress Knolls and CSU Monterey Bay North Campus Housing.
Over the last several months, city officials have been meeting with developers, MPUSD staff, and CSUMB authorities to construct a tentative “working plan,” for the new school, Yount says.
Last month, the school district held a public study session and site tour, attended by school district trustees, Marina representatives, educators and residents. Nine possible sites were visited and evaluated on the tour.
Potential high school sites include the CSUMB baseball field, the Marina Coast Water District Corporation Yard, Cypress Knolls, Marina Station, Preston Park, Bunker Hill, East Garrison, the 35 acres along east Reservation Road, and the Central Coast High School site.
But environmental concerns may eventually eliminate some of the potential sites.
“We haven’t taken any sites off the list yet,” Yount says. “It’s tough. The environmental issues associated with building a school are increased. There are places where you can build a house but the state says you can’t build a school.”
In the meantime, the city is looking to get an interim high school up and running. Ideally, it will start out as a temporary school, and then a permanent facility will be built.
“In order to qualify for state funding and maximizing funds, you must make certain that you can sustain your interim school,” Yount says. “But a full-blown, permanent high school is what we want and what we need.”
The goal is to construct a two-story high school with an indoor gym, outdoor and indoor pool, lighted football and soccer fields, tennis courts, basketball courts, a baseball field, fitness track and adequate parking.
Along with one high school, city staff have identified the need for two additional schools—either two elementary schools, or one elementary and one middle school—once all of the housing projects have been completed.
Funding for the planned schools has yet to be worked out.
Meanwhile, city officials continue to work with MPUSD to finalize a school facilities development strategy by August. A steering committee made up of parents and residents will make recommendations to the school district by January 2006.