Dear San Marcos Candidates

Letter to the editor-

Dear San Marcos Candidates,

As a mother of three children, all attending the three most impacted schools in the San Marcos Unified School District, I would like to ask how you would help alleviate the impacted schools and align the city’s growth plan with the school districts size. I was a parent representative on the 2013 attendance boundary committee for San Elijo Elementary.  As a member of the committee, I saw the need of alleviating the impacted schools of Discovery, San Elijo Elementary, and San Elijo Middle was critical.  The boundaries were realigned in an attempt to best address the impacted schools and a recommendation was made in favor of creating a K-8 school. This recommendation did not address the even larger concern, where do all of the elementary and middle school students attend for high school if those multiple schools are at capacity? How do you feed twelve elementary schools with average student populations of 1,000 into four middle schools, and ultimately  into two high school? What happens when more development occurs? I posed the question then to the committee of what  was the capacity of both Mission Hills High School and San Marcos High school.  I was told 2800 and 3200 respectively after additional buildings and portables added.  Surely, creating one K-8 school does not fully address the underlying problem of rapid city development and growth resulting in a larger student population impacting all  school grades. My children attend San Elijo Elementary,  San Elijo Middle,  and San Marcos High each school has the largest student population of their respective grade level school populations. San Elijo Elementary has 1,100 students in attendance,  granted this has decreased significantly by the opening of Double Peak for the 2016-2017 school year. San Elijo Middle has a student population of over 1,900 and is the largest middle school  in the district, whose attendance area includes Carlsbad and San Marcos. San Marcos High school has a student population of 3,200 which is at capacity according to the 2012-2013 attendance boundary committee projection. What happens with the influx of future students that will come with the completed development of the former quarry area, the college, and creek side development.  Where will those students from elementary through high school attend? The San Marcos Unified School district does NOT own any land for future school development. This  was an  issue in the acquiring land and developing Double Peak K -8. San Marcos High school is at its projected capacity and Mission Hills has a student population of 2600 of the 2800 capacity. In addition to the development in San Elijo Hills/Discovery/CSUSM area there has been the addition of multi unit family homes along Norhdal, Mission Rd, and Twin Oaks north of the 78. Those areas are just in City of San Marcos. The San Marcos Unified School District is comprised of  portions of Carlsbad, Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, and Unicorporated County areas. That means five seperate areas within the district  have their own city growth design, development, and approval process. I understand all those cities and unicorporated  areas within the district boundary pay taxes to the school district. How do you align reasonable and responsible school growth size when another city or San Marcos itself approves 20, 100, 400 homes for development?

What will your role be in creating a responsible balance between city growth and development as well as maintain an excellent school district and not create overcrowed underfunded schools?

Sincerely,
Alexis Barbuto
Voter and Mother of 3 students in San Marcos Unified School District

*** Editors Note-We welcome letters to the editor and political statements from San Marcos Candidates -San Elijo Life

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Dear Candidates,

I am responding to your inquiry with regards to the  piece I wrote and was posted on San Elijo Life Facebook. As stated within my letter, I am interested in how you will be able to align the City Council and the School District to provide balanced development and adequate schools for the growing student population in San Marcos. This seems to be a difficult task when all of the North County School Districts are comprised of multiple cities and unincorporated areas that are not solely within the city itself as implied by the name of the school district. Another example beyond San Marcos Unified’s composition, residents in Carlsbad  could live in an area in that city where their children attend either Encinitas Union/San Dieguito Unified for middle and high school, Carlsbad Unified or Oceanside Unified. How will north county cities which are all under rapid development create smart growth to support their school districts, when the school districts themselves were drawn including multiple cities? How can one city tell another to stop developing homes because it will affect another’s school district? Can San Marcos City Council really demand Carlsbad or Escondido to not approve more housing developments because the San Marcos Unified School District does not have land to build another school or currently the schools are overcrowded? The problem is multifaceted the school district boundaries drawn years ago, included multiple municipalities under one educational district roof.

Cities, NOT school districts approve and design development plans.

In addition to the fact the district itself does not own real estate for future development. The city approves plans without looking into whether or not the school district can support more students in certain areas.  Where would a new middle school or high school be developed in the high population density and development areas that drastically need another campus to alleviate the problem? Those areas don’t have land to purchase and build another school or are slated for more homes and businesses. The district is then forced to find a parcel to purchase large enough to sustain a school and traffic needs, but must maintain that school.  Will the San Marcos City Council rezone areas or transfer city owned land to the school district to accommodate land acquisition? What happens when a campus needs to be built within another city in the district to meet the demands of a growing student population such as Escondido or Carlsbad? How will the San Marcos Unified School District be able to support not only purchasing land, developing a school, and maintaining another school both infrastructure costs and administration when the San Marcos City council or any other municipality in the district approves more home development? This isn’t just a build more schools to match the development problem. How can a district support these schools caused by the excessive development

approved solely by the cities that reside in the district? Where will the San Marcos Unified School District obtain revenue to support the educational demands due to the increased student population? Do we just pay more taxes to stop gap the imbalance and shortsighted rapid development without looking into sustainable growth and support for our district? This is obviously a big picture problem that affects the overall quality of life in San Marcos and needs to be addressed.

What will your role be to align two very separate structured government entities for smart growth and educational excellence? Where will the balance be sustained so that development approval supports the schools to enhance the city? What rules and regulations will you seek to reform to support this vision?

Sincerely,
Alexis Barbuto
Voter and Mother of 3 students in the San Marcos Unified School District

7 comments

  • This is so well written and I don’t think a parent in San Marcos would read this and not agree. Aside from safety in the community being the top priority I believe the management of growth and development is next. Just a couple days ago a consulting firm recommended our council scrap the original Creekside District plans approved in 2007 to change with the current times and I think that’s a great step in adapting to a smaller amount. But I think you’re right and I believe you gave the solution in your letter; the development of schools (excellent schools) need to be in line with any (current and future) projects to ensure we aren’t overcrowding with specific areas (homes/businesses). The focus needs to be in Middle and High School to accommodate Elementary numbers. We need to communicate openly and effectively with surrounding cities and their development as well as communicate effectively with our residents. My son is 9 months old and when he’s ready to go to school I want him to go to a school that isn’t overcrowded or under funded. I would love to talk about this more and so appreciate your courage to speak out in your letter. San Elijo Life I would love a chance to reach out to Alexis personally if you can pass on my information – stackforcitycouncil@gmail.com. Thank you.

  • The Creekside District Plan was a great plan when it was approved and people were excited for it. But after things have adapted in the city over these years it’s good it is adapting too. It’s bitter sweet but at this point it seems necessary.

  • Thanks to Ms. Barbuto for asking this question. Public school districts like ours are mandated by law to educate every student who lives within our boundaries, but the district plays no role, and has no say in the approval of new housing. That is entirely a function of the City of San Marcos (or the other city/county areas our district covers). Once new housing is approved, we can only predict (through demographic studies) how many elementary, middle, and high school students the new houses will yield once built, and that is an inexact science to say the least.

    I can assure you this is an issue that the current board takes seriously. We talk regularly about this topic and about how we might address it, and have even directed the district to identify available land for an additional elementary school and middle school (or maybe K-8) in the vicinity of Kaiser/CSUSM (or now maybe in the scaled-down Creekside area?). We are also having conversations about how to alleviate future crowding at the high schools. But as you can imagine, new school construction is an incredibly expensive undertaking and there is not a lot of available funding for it. Prop K allowed us to rebuild and expand the capacity of San Marcos High, and some older bonds and other funds allowed us to piece together the financing of Double Peak, but funds for the purchase of market-rate land and new school construction are not readily available. It is possible that the passage of Prop 51 in November could help, and we are looking at ways to finance additional schools.

    In some ways, SMUSD is a victim of its own success. Families are moving here in greater numbers than predicted because of the reputation of our schools, making SMUSD one of the last growing districts in the county. That’s usually a good thing. Filling up our schools to their capacity and beyond is not. This is a subject that is important to me, and I would be glad to speak to anyone further about it. Feel free to email me at rwalton@legalpad.com.

    Sincerely,
    Randy

  • Dear Candidates,

    I am responding to your inquiry with regards to the piece I wrote and was posted on San Elijo Life Facebook. As stated within my letter, I am interested in how you will be able to align the City Council and the School District to provide balanced development and adequate schools for the growing student population in San Marcos. This seems to be a difficult task when all of the North County School Districts are comprised of multiple cities and unincorporated areas that are not solely within the city itself as implied by the name of the school district. Another example beyond San Marcos Unified’s composition, residents in Carlsbad could live in an area in that city where their children attend either Encinitas Union/San Dieguito Unified for middle and high school, Carlsbad Unified or Oceanside Unified. How will north county cities which are all under rapid development create smart growth to support their school districts, when the school districts themselves were drawn including multiple cities? How can one city tell another to stop developing homes because it will affect another’s school district? Can San Marcos City Council really demand Carlsbad or Escondido to not approve more housing developments because the San Marcos Unified School District does not have land to build another school or currently the schools are overcrowded? The problem is multifaceted the school district boundaries drawn years ago, included multiple municipalities under one educational district roof.

    ​ Cities, NOT school districts approve and design development plans.​ In addition to the fact the district itself does not own real estate for future development​​. The city approves plans without looking into whether or not the school district can support more students in certain areas. Where would a new middle school or high school be developed in the high population density and development areas that drastically need another campus to alleviate the problem? Those areas don’t have land to purchase and build another school​ or are slated for more homes and businesses​. The district​ is then forced to ​find a parcel to purchase large enough to sustain a school and traffic needs​,​ but must maintain that school. Will the ​San Marcos City ​Council rezone areas ​or transfer city owned land to the school district to accommodate land acquisition? What happens when a campus needs to be built within another city in the district to meet the demands of a growing student population such as Escondido or Carlsbad? How will the San Marcos Unified School District be able to support not only purchasing land, developing a school, and maintaining another school both infrastructure costs and administration when the San Marcos City council or any other municipality in the district approves more home development? This isn’t just a build more schools to match the development problem. How can a district support these schools caused by the excessive development ​approved solely by the cities that reside in the district? ​Where will the San Marcos Unified School District obtain revenue to support the educational demands due to the increased student population? Do we just pay more taxes to stop gap the imbalance and shortsighted rapid development without looking into sustainable growth and support for our district? This is obviously a big picture problem that affects the overall quality of life in San Marcos and needs to be addressed.
    What will your role be to align two very separate structured government entities for smart growth and educational excellence? Where will the balance be sustained so that development approval supports the schools to enhance the city? What rules and regulations will you seek to reform to support this vision?

    Sincerely,
    Alexis Barbuto
    Voter and Mother of 3 students in the San Marcos Unified School District

  • You ask many complicated questions which do not have simple answers. The city and school district have a long history of successfully working together for the good of the community, but in general, the city doesn’t get involved in the running of the school district and the school district doesn’t get involved in the land use planning of the City. We do collaborate together as much as possible and the school district did participate in the General Plan update in 2012. Our staffs meet regularly to discuss common issues.

    Obtaining revenue for new school financing is provided primarily by the state and because we wouldn’t be knowledgeable of how the program currently works it would be better for us not to speculate.

    San Marcos is known as the education hub of San Diego County. The foundation of this is our K-12 San Marcos Unified School District. We are very proud of their success and often hear that people move to our city for the sole reason of having their kids attend San Marcos schools. Some feel our home values are higher here due to their education successes. Though we have mostly in fill projects these days and not large developments builders want to be here due to the reputation of the school district. This can pose challenges, but we try to make sure developers are working with the school district.

    There are several things we can do as a council. First, make sure our staffs are talking on a regular basis to address the effects of new homes in the community. Second, we will instruct our staff that we should have a joint meeting with the School Board in the first quarter of 2017 so that we can better try to understand their needs and they can better understand the process the city must legally follow as we vet new homes in the community. Third, as projects come before us we can inquire to make sure there has been final resolution between the district and the developer as to the impact of the new homes.

    While we probably didn’t answer all of your questions we tried to respond to what is within our authority. We would be happy to discuss this further if you would like to meet one day.

    Sharon Jenkins and Rebecca Jones.

    • I just moved into San Elijo Hills with my Family. We have two toddlers who will be attending Double Peak k-8 in the next few years. I was wondering, with Prop 51 passing, if there are plans to build a high school for the growing San Elijo Hills area. Any light you can shed on this matter would be greatly appreciated.

  • Randy Walton said: ” in some ways sumsd is a victim of its own success.families are moving here in greater numbers than predicted ….”

    If new families are arriving they are buying the homes of families that are leaving the area, or they are buying new homes that have been planned and agreed by the city in accordance with schools extension also planned.
    If the schools are overcrowded it is just because of poor planning.

    it is easy to blame expensive land cost to build a new school, when higher real estate prices are also fueling the budget of the city of San Marcos in the same way.

    Road traffic and pick ups seem also to be poorly planned in San Marcos.

    What the point of paying such high mello Roos if the city is unable to plan the development of the schools.

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