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Hart moves ahead on buying Castaic high school site

District would pay $37.6 million total to purchase Romero Canyon land and upgrades

Posted: November 8, 2012 5:04 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2012 5:04 p.m.
Artist's rendering of planned Castaic high school  Artist's rendering of planned Castaic high school 
Artist's rendering of planned Castaic high school 

Hart district board members unanimously approved a revised purchase agreement this week to buy the proposed site for a Castaic high school.

The William S. Hart Union High School District agreed Wednesday night to pay $37,664,412 total to purchase the Romero Canyon property from local developer Larry Rasmussen after a more than 10-year search for a school site.

That price includes 18 monthly progress payments averaging around $1,718,220, according to the purchase agreement.

Those payments depend on weekly reviews from the district and will fluctuate depending on progress made on the project, according to Tom Cole, the district’s chief operations officer.

Cole estimated the high school will cost between $120 million and $150 million to complete.

That estimate includes buying the land, building the structures and purchasing materials necessary to open the school once construction is completed.

To cover some of the costs, the board approved issuing up to $65 million in bonds. Those bonds will be issued from the $300 million in Measure SA funds Santa Clarita voters approved in 2008.

The primary difference between this purchase agreement and the one governing board members approved in December is the requirement that the property be delivered in “construction-ready condition.”

Construction-ready condition means the seller will install permanent utilities, construct and improve public access routes to and from the site and complete grading and compacting on the site so construction can begin immediately.

The purchase agreement also does not require the seller to construct a secondary access route prior to the district taking control of the property. This is so the district can have flexibility as the project nears completion, according to board legal counsel Wendy Wiles.

The board-approved project requires construction of a secondary southern access route for the school. At their meeting Oct. 17, board members approved that route using Baringer, Romero Canyon, Sloan Canyon and Valley Creek roads as well as emergency access using Romero Canyon Road.

Though the plan is to have this dual access at the school, the board previously approved conditions that would allow the school to open even if the southern access route is not completed in time.

Some residents have complained that the school would generate too much extra traffic without the secondary route. Earlier this week Citizens for Castaic, a local advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against the district over the lack of a requirement for dual access when the school opens.

In addition to discussing finances, the architectural firm designing the school, Ruhnau, Ruhnau and Clarke LLC, delivered an overview of its design proposal at the board meeting.

While governing board members said they were pleased with the overall design, board president Gloria Mercado-Fortine said she was worried about the lack of shade in outside student common areas.

Richard Landy of Citizens for Castaic said the design should take care to incorporate some of the rural and equestrian aspects of the Castaic community.

“This high school will eventually define the character, look and feel of Castaic,” Landy said.

Megan Mestas, a student at Saugus High School and member of the board, called the designs “beautiful.”

“If this school was there now, I would want to go there,” she said.




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