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Our View: It's time for Castaic high school's construction

Posted: February 12, 2011 11:00 p.m.
Updated: February 12, 2011 11:00 p.m.

Now it's time to crack the books, shop the design and debate the programs.

A site for Castaic's long-awaited high school is humming along through the pre-construction process. With a second-choice location waiting in the wings, but the first-choice site passing hurdle after hurdle and the property owner - along with Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich - standing by the smooth the way, it looks like Castaic will finally get the high school that was promised - or at least identified as a need - 11 years ago.

Or was it 19 years ago? At this point, it's hard to keep track of the number of years there hasn't been a long-awaited high school in Castaic, or the number of proposed sites that have fallen through for various reasons.

Says Rob Challinor, superintendent for the William S. Hart Union High School District, now is the time to turn attention to the school itself. It's time to talk about curricula, the construction needs of specific academic or vocational programs, the architectural design that will accommodate those needs and please the residents of Castaic.

And eventually, as district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker noted, time to choose a name, to select school colors and a mascot for the Hart district's seventh comprehensive high school.

In short, it's time to consider the school, not the school site.

Hart district officials have scheduled a meeting Tuesday night at Castaic Middle School for that very purpose. Residents can expect a progress report, architectural renderings and a chance to weigh in on what they want their school to teach.

During a recent visit to The Signal's Editorial Board, Challinor and site owner Larry Rasmussen outlined some good news for Castaic residents, including those who don't have pre-high-school-age youngsters.

Construction of the high school means more than the long-awaited benefits of a community high school.
n New water tanks constructed above the school location will increase water delivery capacity to all property in the area, as well as improved fire-suppression capabilities.

- New roadways will improve emergency evacuation abilities and access to the area. Challinor and Rasmussen report that Romero Canyon Road will be paved all the way through, and Barringer Road is being considered for development as a secondary route to Romero Canyon.

- Sewer lines will provide obvious benefits to area residents and property owners.

- Tangible improvement in air quality can be expected as parents no longer have to drive their youngsters to West Ranch or Valencia high schools.

- Castaic will gain a location for a community gathering spot, not to mention a potential evacuation center in the event of wildfires or an earthquake. The campus, like many in the Santa Clarita Valley, may prove a valuable emergency staging area, as well.

Besides all that, plans call for the newest Hart district high school to have a football stadium. That's great news for high school football fans in Castaic and elsewhere in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Some disappointing news was mixed with the good during last week's Editorial Board meeting.

The school's projected opening date has been pushed back from the fall of 2013 to the fall of 2014.

That's one more school year's worth of students who will miss being the first graduating class from Castaic's high school; who will instead have to make the trek to Valencia or West Ranch high schools and eventually graduate from one of those schools.

It's a disappointing development for parents and students who have waited for years to support and attend a high school in their own community.

But the rationale for the decision is a sound one: That single year will buy the district a permanent campus, rather than the temporary one initially planned.

Such a temporary campus would have a short shelf life and would have to be replaced with a permanent campus later - a situation that would call for sometimes-dangerous construction conditions at the same time students would be attending the school.

It's a fiscally sound decision - construction costs are so low at this time that putting off construction to a later date, which could result in much higher costs, would be an irresponsible use of taxpayers' money.

Like the rest of Santa Clarita Valley residents, we want to see the district get the most bang for its school bond buck - school bond money that we all agreed to underwrite.
So we join Challinor in calling for the community to turn out Tuesday night and let its voices be heard on issues of curricula, vocational education, architectural styles, lab facilities and football stadiums.

It's time to start building Castaic's high school.



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