Where will future Chula Vistans go to school?

Massive growth expected, but no funding for new high school

Chula Vista's 2017 residential growth forecast (darker blue indicates neighborhoods in development phase)
  • Chula Vista's 2017 residential growth forecast (darker blue indicates neighborhoods in development phase)

Chula Vista expects up to 7397 new housing units by 2022, predominantly in the east, but the Sweetwater Union High School District still doesn’t have land or funding for a new high school.

The district currently owns a 27-acre property along Hunte and Eastlake Parkway near the Otay Ranch Town Center. Initially, plans were submitted to the Division of State Architects for a facility that could accommodate grades 7–12. However, when the district presented this at community meetings in late 2015, residents expressed strong opposition.

At a district board meeting on August 28th, assistant superintendent of business services Moises Aguirre asked trustees to authorize modifying and re-submitting plans to the Division of State Architects for exclusively a middle school on the property. Boardmembers unanimously approved. That leaves the district with the need to buy property for either one or two high schools.

The middle-school student population at two eastern Chula Vista Middle Schools has increased only slightly over the past seven years. According to the California Department of Education, since 2010 Eastlake Middle increased student enrollment by 23 students and Rancho Del Rey Middle by 145 students.

Meanwhile, two of the three high schools in southeastern Chula Vista — where housing development has been most intense — have seen significant increases in student enrollment since 2010:

Eastlake High School (built 1992)

• 2010-2011: 2519

• 2016-2017: 3063

• (an increase of 544)

Otay Ranch High School (built 2003)

• 2010-2011: 2721

• 2016-2017: 2413

• (a decrease of 308)

Olympian High School (built 2006)

• 2010-2011: 1732

• 2016-2017: 2610

• (an increase of 878)

Over a two-year period, Olympian High School, the last school built within the district, has seen a jump in enrollment from 2367 to 2610, an increase of 243 students.

It’s hard to tell how many students each high school can accommodate. The district continues to construct portable buildings on the sites, thereby increasing capacity. Each year, the district submits a report to the City of Chula Vista’s Growth Management Oversight Commission, whose purpose is to review development issues. In 2017 the district reported that they planned to install additional re-locatable classrooms, including ten at Eastlake High and six at Olympian High.

Meanwhile, the City of Chula Vista projects 19,852 new units, predominantly in the east, which could bring as many as 65,000 new residents to the region by 2030, according to an Annual Residential Growth Forecast finalized September 1st.

The city’s report also documents the rapid eastern expansion that has already taken place: from 2010 to 2016, Chula Vista had 5809 units built, with 1538 units completed since January 2015 alone; the report forecasts that approximately 2839 housing units will be constructed in eastern Chula Vista by December 2018.

Kim Vander Bie, the associate planner in Chula Vista’s Development Services Department, explained in a phone interview that the California Department of Finance estimates an average of 3.29 persons per household; however, the city historically makes projections that are 50 percent to 75 percent over what will actually come on-line. In addition, developers tend to construct homes in fits and starts based on economic conditions.

Bearing this in mind, the district estimates eastern Chula Vista will add about 3786 high school students, which translates into 1.5 schools. Presenting the need for new schools to district trustees, Aguirre explained that the district needs 52 acres for a new high school, but all the land in eastern Chula Vista has already been spoken for.

Funding also might be an issue, since the district must balance eastern Chula Vista’s needs with repairs and upgrades for older school sites. The district has about 40,000 students attending 13 high schools, 11 middle schools, and 5 adult schools across National City, Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, and South San Diego neighborhoods. In 2015, a State of Schools Facilities report determined that the district will need about $710.4 million during the next ten years to maintain and repair existing facilities.

Aguirre estimates a new middle school will cost roughly $108 million and a high school will cost a similar amount, after the purchase of property. He suggests the district will look for a mix of funding, including applying for state funds. California voters approved Proposition 51 in November 2016, a $9 billion bond to fund improvements and construction of school facilities. Aguirre said, “The state has not necessarily released any funding at this point in time. We do anticipate at some point that they will start issuing the bonds.”

In a phone interview with Manuel Rubio, the district’s director of grants and communications, he said trustees have directed staff to start looking into a new bond to place on the 2018 ballot. Local Mello-Roos taxes also will be used, but because high schools have large facility needs such as athletic fields and gymnasiums, these taxes won’t fully cover the costs.

While the district continues to seek solutions, Otay Ranch’s growth may quickly outpace its ability to accommodate student enrollment in eastern Chula Vista. If projections are on target and the housing market remains strong, the city reports that by 2022 — four years from now — eastern Chula Vista will have 7397 new housing units.

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Barbara thank you for writing this story, and please keep the pressure on the district. Portables are not the answer. They keep adding portables to accommodate more students, but the land the school sits on has not changed! For example, my daughter goes to Eastlake High, a school built for 2400 students. They now have about 3100. Yea, they might add portables, but the campus is packed! Traffic and parking is a mess, the bathrooms and classrooms are wearing out rapidly, some books they give students are old and ripped, lunch lines are too long. Go on campus during lunch and see how the students are packed in like sardines. The fraud and incompetence of prior boards and administrators has put our district in this position. Now, they don't have the money for new schools as they continue to borrow from the Mello Roos fund to pay operating expenses. This situation will get worse as the population continues to grow. We need to keep the pressure on this board and administration to work towards a solution!!

kick the illegals out of the schools, the cars with tijuana plates dropping off students, the other people cheating the system and there will be plenty of room. no need for new schools

I'm not following your logic, cvret?

The reports and the numbers show that development over the last decade has brought a huge number of home buyers to the region. Look at the numbers. Look at the reports.

I am troubled by comments like these and wonder whether it allows developers to build and build without concern for accompanying infrastructure. Then they leave new homeowners stranded and wondering -- where is all the traffic coming from? where are all these students coming from? -- and the developers shrug and say: "Um.... Mexico?"

cvret you are xenophobic and poorly educated. Many U.S. Citizens live across the border due to housing and rental costs here. Some U.S. Citizen children were deported along with undocumented parents. You must get your information from Breitbart News .

So 4 - 5 years ago I attended many Sweetwater Union High School District Meetings with intent to get rid of the superintendents,(Successfully), there was a very large amount of available dollars in the Mello-Roos budget, this money was used as a very low cost loan pool. I suspect we still have around $108 Million in this account, not to mention any additional added since the recent building boom restarted. This money was held at a cost of 3 - 8% from previous bond issues, but was "Bridge Loaned" to the district for 0.125% ish. The stated reason for holding this money and not paying down the bonds was the next school will be built with CASH!!!! I guess the time is now so why the issue? ALSO hasn't land been designated for a South Bay University Campus off of Hunte Parkway? One would think an integrated multiuse facility of a High School and University would be complimentary. BBQ

Hi bbq --

Yes, SUHSD is in very very preliminary talks with the city about potentially getting part of the 375-acres set aside for a University and using 52-acres for a new high school.

And the song keeps playing!

This is why we really need that forensic audit going back about 20 years.

Yes, we have a new superintendent, but there appears to be a stranglehold on the thinking and planning--emanating from?

This Sweetwater USD still owns multiple properties--for what purpose? They were all purchased ostensibly for new administrative offices, but why purchase 4 different properties (non adjacent) for one administrative building? There has been much dishonesty, and the public is still paying for it.

It is time--far past time--to cut out all the nonsense, and tell the public what is really going on with Sweetwater finances. Then we can have a hope of being able to plan for the future.

We really do need honest leadership in this community--for the schools, for all of us. Why should we have to tolerate decades of misappropriation of funds? Why should we have to tolerate decades of obfuscation? Why should we have to tolerate decades of smirking administrators and their cohorts in (alleged) crime cooking up plausible tales for where the money is (and isn't)?

We know there was a major scam on that iPOD purchase of several years ago--and while LAUSD was able to crack their mess on that score, Sweetwater didn't even try. It really makes me wonder.

Not to take anything away from bvagency, cvret, bbq, and especially eastlaker, there are some points that could be missed. That state guideline that requires a whopping 50+ acres for a high school campus is becoming more ridiculous every day. It is a throwback to times when California land was cheap and plentiful, neither of which is generally true today. It provided space for many special purpose athletic fields, plus tennis courts, outdoor basketball courts, volleyball courts, etc., etc. And if you have that much space, there is ample space for s stadium, a performing arts facility, and parking for all. One reason was that the earthquake-proof buildings required in the state used to be single story. But in recent years the codes can be met with two- and three-story buildings. If you have a hard time imagining a high school campus of that size in, say, San Francisco, you have company. They simply aren't that big, not even close, and still get the job done. Locally, La Jolla High used to take up a mere eleven acres, and it is highly regarded.

So, it may be very possible to get state clearance for a high school campus that is much smaller than 52 acres. But there's another trend afoot. Public school enrollment isn't growing the way it did in the 80's, 90's, and 00's. Birth rates may be about the same as they were then, but two things are siphoning students away. Many folks are now convinced that they need to pay tuition to a private or parochial school in order to get a decent education for their kids, and they pay plenty for it, often more than they can afford. The other phenomenon is charter schools which are cranking up and cherry-picking the students who are easiest to educate. While publicly funded, they are not legally permitted to pick and choose students, but they do, using some ingenious tricks.

It is quite possible that all that growth of housing units will not require all that much additional school capacity after all. A few years back, Escondido was on the road to getting a fourth high school. Then, after reviewing growth projections the district scaled the fourth school to a smaller "academy" type of operation. Vista Unified, which had a crying need for a third high school, finally built one, out on the edge of town. (It had needed to address the high school overcrowding problems early on, but didn't get around to it until six new elementary campuses were constructed, and one new middle school.) That third high school now caters to interdistrict transfers as much as to those who reside in the district, and the other two high schools are dealing with reduced enrollment.

The future needs in Chula Vista may not be as severe as many fear.

Visduh hit upon American education's biggest disease: charter schools

Visduh hit upon American education unions' biggest threat: charter schools

There, fixed it for you.

I appreciate your fresh perspective, Visduh. You're talking about projections, which may or may not come to fruition. However, there are two facts you can't overlook:

1) Community members nixed the idea of a 7-12 facility on 27-acres of land and the district heard their voices. Community members don't want schools with large student populations.

2) The second fact is that the two high schools above are right now, as we speak, overflowing with students. You see that bvagency is upset by the current problem. I'm curious what your student enrollment numbers would be while still maintaining a high quality school? And, more importantly, could you get parents of rising high schoolers to agree with you?

What I didn't mean to imply was that no need exists or will exist. There's a good prospect for needing another high school in the growth area. But I was trying to point out that the urgency might not be as high as many think, and that other means of meeting the need could be feasible. I really "feel the pain" for those residents of the Sweetwater district who have been suffering under the fraud, lies, and failures of the administration. I know little of the current board and superintendent. Unless there is a major break with past practices in the district, it won't be up to the demands of the next several years. eastlaker and others have been commenting and criticizing the district for a long time. Vindication came when four of the five trustees made guilty pleas and were thus unseated. Trujillo is gone, Gandara is gone, and Brand is gone; what's left? Just about everything I think. Without some major changes in voting patterns, crooks could one day take over the district again and run it to their advantage. It happened recently, and could happen again.

I don't think it is a matter of getting parents to adopt a wait-and-see approach to high schools. It is a matter of doing some real planning for future needs that is realistic, rather than react, react, react to crises.

Visduh I have to disagree with your analysis. Barbara does a great job of outlining projected growth in CV, one of the most affordable remaining parts of SD County. Having been in Eastlake since 1997, and having my final child in Eastlake Schools (11th grade), I have seen the growth in east side CV schools and it's accompanying issues first hand. We are in crises mode. The cities you mention do not have near the rapid growth as CV does. In addition we have a city council beholden to developers who have consistently changed land use from commercial to residential without regard for whether infrastructure is there or not.

I have yet to have anyone explain what would be so terrible about instituting a moratorium on growth before we literally run out of space and resources. People love to claim, "Oh, but the growth is going to happen, where will the people go?" I don't know, maybe Oklahoma? If there's 100 houses and 101 families want to move in, one family can't. That's reality.

Every time another development is built, we need more water, schools, roads, fire stations, hospitals, etc. But those things are never built along with the houses... we just hear that "we have to build, we have no choice!" Then, after building and they come, "We don't have enough water and roads and schools, we need more taxes!" How about just say no, we're going to stand pat and keep some open green space and not try to achieve 100% capacity? How about just tell some people, "Sorry, we're full, no room for you here. There are hundreds and thousands of other places to live in the country, nearly all of which are much cheaper than San Diego. Go, fly, be free, find your happiness!"

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