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John Kunak: Hart district doesn’t want a Castaic high

SCV Voices

Posted: July 11, 2009 7:39 p.m.
Updated: July 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.
I have, on occasion, been told the ending to a movie I wanted to see or a book I was reading.

Now I get the chance to tell you the ending of this article before you read it.

I believe the William S. Hart Union High School District does not want to build a high school in Castaic.

My initial involvement on this issue began about eight years ago while I was serving on the Castaic Area Town Council.

The Hart Facilities Foundation had purchased land in Hasley Canyon as a potential school site.

The Castaic community had not been consulted with regard to the location and there was considerable discussion as to whether or not this was the appropriate site.

The Hart district then proposed a new site in an area of Castaic referred to as NorthLake, which was being developed by SunCal.

The Hart District advised the town council that this new high school would be the “jewel of the district.”

The way it was presented made this switch to the new location seem like a no-brainer.

As the Castaic Area Town Council reviewed the SunCal NorthLake Project, it became very clear that this was a bad proposition for our community.

A large housing development would need to be built and, upon review, we realized that it was poorly planned.

Proposed roads would have led to traffic nightmares, required parks would not be built, ecological problems would abound, and so on.

The Hart district was advised by the Castaic Area Town Council and the county of Los Angeles that there would be numerous obstacles to overcome with the NorthLake site, and that it was extremely unlikely that NorthLake would be built.

The Hart district was advised to explore new options.

I was personally involved in these discussions and spent a lengthy period of time begging the Hart district to explore other options. Finally, they acquiesced.

They looked at a parcel of property owned by Sterling-Gateway located in the Commerce Center at the end of Witherspoon Drive.

As most of us know by now, a recorded use restriction on this Commerce Center property prohibiting a school was allegedly not uncovered by the Hart district until last month.

If this is true, then clearly the Hart district is as incompetent as can be.

It is inconceivable to me that an entity such as a school district would overlook what should certainly be one of the very first steps taken in reviewing a parcel of property to be used as a school.

The Hart district is placed in the position of having either misled us or having denied that problems exist and have, metaphorically speaking, “stuck their heads in the sand.”

As a member of the Castaic Union School District school board, I have continuously urged the Hart district to look at many options while they focused on any particular site.

I did this so there would always be an alternative if for some reason the first site they were focusing on would not work out.

They have continuously failed to follow this advice.

There are a number of potential properties that owners would love to sell to the Hart district for a Castaic high school for what is an established market price for their land.

These include parcels which are commonly referred to as the Romero Canyon Road property, the Mandolin Canyon Road property, the Castaic Mesa, the Lombardi property, the Sterling-Gateway residential property and the Palmer property ... just to name a few.

If the Hart district is serious about building a high school in Castaic, they should be speaking to the owners of each and every one of these parcels. But they are not.

It is unbelievable to me that a high school is not currently located in Castaic.

If the Hart district truly wanted a high school to be in existence, it is hard to believe that after all these years, they still have gotten nowhere.

I truly hope I am wrong, but I do not see the current Hart school board and administration being successful in building a high school in Castaic.

In November we passed a $300 million bond after being promised by the Hart district the money would be used to build a high school in Castaic.

Regrettably, we are no closer to having the school built now than we were eight years ago.

On behalf of the students of Castaic, I am pleading with the Hart district to immediately begin discussions with the owners of any and all land that could potentially be used for a high school in Castaic in order to begin construction without any additional delay.

We have been told by the Hart district that it is expensive to review a potential site.

Since I began discussing a potential high school eight years ago, the cost has at least doubled and may have tripled from the initial projection of $80 million.

If all of the potential options had been properly reviewed (not mishandled like the Sterling-Gateway property), I believe our students would now be attending Castaic High School and the Hart district would have saved over $100 million in construction costs.

It is clear to me that the Hart district does not wish to build a high school in Castaic. I look forward to the day that they prove me wrong.

John Kunak has served eight years on the Castaic Area Town Council and is in his eighth year as a member of the Castaic Union School District governing board. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of the town council, school board or The Signal.


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