SPUSD Board: Special workshop
addresses new East Area 1 schools

July 25, 2014
Santa Paula News

School Board tours schoolsThe Governing Board of the Santa Paula Unified School District (SPUSD) toured several newer elementary schools Wednesday. The district is under the gun to come up with plans for a new school as a part of the East Area 1 development. The school scheduled to be completed in 2017. One of their stops was at Rio Vista Elementary School in Fillmore. (Above l-r) Board members Christina Urias, Assistant Superintendent Robin Freeman, Gama Aguilar (Facilities Supervisor for the Fillmore Unified District), Consultant Gary Gibbs and SPUSD Superintendent Alfonso Gamino. Other schools visited were Cal Aero Preserve K-8 Academy in Chino, Rosa Parks Elementary School in Corona and Dr. Augustine Ramirez Intermediate School in Corona. They also visited the site of the new school at East Area 1.

Santa Paula Unified School District Trustees hit the road to visit schools to give them ideas of what should be built in the new Limoneira East Area 1 development.

Trustees heard details of the proposed 1,500 dwelling unit residential development and how new campuses will fit in at a special July 17 workshop attended by Limoneira President/CEO Harold Edwards and several consultants. 

Edwards told trustees “This is year 11,” in the process to develop East Area 1 and now that the 500-plus-acre property has been annexed to the city “We now are able to become very, very specific,” on land planning.

The development will have “about 1,000 single family,” and 500 multi-family units, about half of the latter for sale.

There are more hearings with the city and more planning, but it is expected ground will be broken the “first part” of 2015.

“We’ve laid out the areas where schools might be,” an elementary and high school that Edwards said Limoneira at this point, “Wants to be pretty agnostic about this based on your decision,” regarding the new campuses.

Edwards said there are 34 different parties interested in the development ranging from homebuilders and land developers to investors and by October there should be specifics on partnerships.

“We’re still in that lump of coal position now,” he noted.

Mike Penrod told trustees the process was particularly long due to the challenges such as amending the greenbelt, which itself took three years. 

Changes have been internal also with much of the commercial being relocated across the highway to East Area 2 where stores will have better visibility to commuters.

Others are also interested and a possibly 50,000-square-foot learning center to house satellites of what could be several colleges and universities as well as technical schools is being designed.

Penrod noted such a facility would be expensive but is a priority for Limoneira and seen as a “complete win,” including offering a site with opportunities to be shared with the new, nearby high school.

When it comes to the elementary school, Penrod said, “We can design pretty much what you need,” either K-5th grade or K-8th grade.

Edwards said the city would have a role in determining sports facility needs but the present 8-acre soccer field will be doubled in size and also serve as a detention basin.

There is also the potential for the Ventura County Health Care Agency to build a new facility and there will be limited commercial serving neighborhood needs. 

Historical areas of the new development will remain intact but one thing that will be taken out is rock, tons and tons of river rock just below the surface that will be recycled into gravel.

There will be fully contained drop-offs for students at the 11-acre elementary school and the 8.3-acre high school campuses.

The first homes will probably be occupied in early summer 2016 to meet what Penrod said is “The significant demand” for housing in Ventura County.

Built out will be done at a rate of 250 units a year and prices in the $300,000 to $600,000 range.

Consultant Gary Gibbs spoke about new campuses, the regulatory screening required and the timeline for building the schools to serve up to 900 students.

He said an architect should be hired within the next couple of months and school construction - which would last a year - would have to start in early 2016. 

Gibbs also addressed funding issues and grants to supplement Limoneira’s contribution of about $40 million including the value of campus properties.

He urged trustees to tour new schools in Chino and Corona/Narco, as well as Rio Vista in Fillmore, areas that reflect Santa Paula’s demographics that also offer the latest technology.

Trustees agreed to take the schools’ tour on Wednesday, July 23. (See photo and caption below). 

Rob Corley,   a state Department of Education school facilities field representative, said the proposed campus locations have passed muster.

Trustees must decide, “What kind of schools do you want... this is a 100-year investment,” and noted Corley, the “Better the decisions, the more money you save later.”

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