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Tim Myers: Would a new Castaic high be a rump?

Myers’ Musings

Posted: August 8, 2009 6:37 p.m.
Updated: August 9, 2009 4:55 a.m.
When the Myers family moved to the SCV in 1996, a short-lived movement arose to make the Castaic Union School District a kindergarten-through-12th-grade unified school district by withdrawing the Castaic Unified School District students from the Hart district, where most of the CUSD students fed into then-two-year-old Valencia High School.

At the time, I met with a member of the CUSD school board and the Castaic Area Town Council who did not support the creation of a Castaic high school, which I found strange.

After hemming and hawing about appropriate school sites and other obfuscation, this individual finally admitted that any Castaic high school at that point would enroll about 700 students and put the kids in athletics, particularly football, in a dog league and a dog team, drawing them away from the surging Valencia Vikings - who within one year would play in a CIF championship game, though it would take another seven years before they could overcome the Hart Indians.

Fast forward to 2009, and no Castaic high school exists, despite the pretty much uninterrupted, though unsuccessful, efforts of the past 13 years.

First, NIMBYs defeated a school site up a two-lane road to a lonely canyon. Next, the real estate and liquidity bust, including the direct bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, scuttled a school site in NorthLake.

A failure of due diligence resulted in the loss of an optioned property near the Valencia Commerce Center.

These fits and starts caused each of the candidates running for the Hart school board during this cycle to make the building of a Castaic high school the centerpiece of their campaigns.

But do the numbers now support a Castaic high school that can compete effectively academically and athletically with the other schools in the Hart district?

A few numbers: If one believes that the Hart district grew exponentially from 1996 to 2008, one would be absolutely right. During that time period total enrollment doubled from a base of 12,300 to more than 25,000, with the district easily adding 1,000 students per year and an astounding 2,000 students between 2001 and 2002.

Let us examine 2003. Each of the four comprehensive high schools at that time boasted enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, and three of the four (Saugus, Hart and Valencia) held three of the four semi-final spots in the CIF Division III football playoffs.

A coincidence? I think not. After that dominance, the CIF required the Foothill League to reconfigure and move up an entire division.

What happened since 2003, when two new comprehensive high schools came on line?

The rate of overall growth slowed substantially, and the Hart district added a rather anemic 400 students in the last school year.

All high schools' enrollment fell significantly, with only Valencia High School remaining near the 3,000 mark, primarily with Castaic students.

People agree that Golden Valley, with a mere 2,000 students, runs into great difficulty competing athletically and academically with the other schools in the Foothill League.

A fact not often discussed: Hart High School stands only 180 students away from falling below the 2,000 threshold.

What would a Castaic high school look like under current demographics?

Castaic Middle School currently possesses 1,200 students in three grades and it actually endured a slight decline in enrollment in the last year.

Extrapolate that out and a Castaic high school would open with four-year enrollment of about 1,600, and it would stay at that for the foreseeable future - 20-percent less than Golden Valley High School.

How would they rank against other schools in the district, both academically and athletically?

Ironically, a Castaic high school could possess a fighting chance against West Ranch and Valencia high schools, since with nearly flat growth its student body would eventually cannibalize those schools, lowering them to an enrollment of 2,000 or less, so they could join Hart and Golden Valley.

I suggest no conspiracies, but could those responsible for school development realize subconsciously that a Castaic high school would exist solely in rump form, with Golden Valley High School continuously running the clock in the second half of the annual football game after putting up 77 points in the first half without any pass plays?

Ready for Saugus to become the dominant high school athletically and academically in the SCV?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident and CPA who thinks numbers hold the key to everything. His column represents his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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