Castaic high faces hurdles
Education: Romero Canyon residents protest school board’s decision
Castaic leaders say Romero Canyon residents who don’t want a high school in their neighborhood don’t speak for the entire community, which has been fighting for a high school of its own for a decade.
“It’s relatively a very small number of people who happen to live near the site,” said 23-year Castaic resident and parent Beth Hansen. “99.9 percent of Castaic supports the high school.”
The reaction comes as about 50 Romero Canyon residents this week objected to the William S. Hart Union High School District’s plans to build the much-needed Castaic high school in their neighborhood.
Among the concerns: fire dangers in the rural, equestrian community and the possibility of landslides on the property, which is undeveloped and extremely hilly. The group is in the process of hiring an attorney to protect its rights.
Residents also say that building the school there would cost up to $30 million more than elsewhere, and the school would not be ready for the district’s projected 2013 opening.
Rather than moving forward with the Romero Canyon property, critics say the district should build the school on a plot of land known as the Hasley/Sloan site, which is owned by the SCV Facilities Foundation.
Hart district board members in July selected Romero Canyon over the Hasley/Sloan property.
Residents living near the Hasley/Sloan property also voiced opposition to the Hart district in building the school near their homes.
A community waiting
Castaic Area Town Council member Renee Sabol has spent the last decade working with the Hart district and the Castaic community to build a Castaic high school.
Sabol said she just wants the high school to get built, whether it’s at Romero Canyon or Hasley/Sloan.
“I would like it if members of my community would please stop, I repeat, stop, looking for reasons why a school shouldn’t be built at either site,” said Sabol, the advisory committee’s land-use chair.
“It’s selfish. It’s self-centered. It’s not in the best interest of our children.”
Sabol said she’s not impressed with any of the concerns brought up by the residents.
“I’m not worried about the landslide issues,” Sabol said. “As far as the wildfires go, should we all go live somewhere else?”
For Hansen, the high school would bring the community together.
“This is a high school for our Castaic kids so they can go to high school in our town of Castaic,” Hansen said.
For the last decade, the Hart district has been trying to build a high school to serve the Castaic community, which is located north of Santa Clarita along Interstate 5.
High school students currently living in Castaic have been shuffled between Valencia and West Ranch high schools, which Castaic families say tears their community apart.
In an effort to get the high school built, local voters in 2008 passed Measure SA, a $300 million construction bond with money earmarked for the school.
The process continues
After months of preliminary studies, the Hart district board in July selected Romero Canyon as the preferred site for a Castaic high school.
Since then, consultants hired by the Hart district have been in the midst of completing studies on the Romero Canyon property.
The studies, expected to be finished in coming weeks, will examine any potential issues, including the likelihood of landslides.
The district has also begun work on the environmental impact report.
The Hart district earlier this week said any speculation before the plans are completed is “premature.”
Rather than arguing about which site is best, Sabol wants the community to move forward with the Hart district.
“This community needs to get behind whatever site the district chooses and then let the district know that we support the site,” Sabol said.
Castaic Union School District board member Laura Pearson said every building site brings concerns that can be worked through.
For instance, Northlake Hills Elementary School is surrounded by dry brush, which is regularly cleared, Pearson said. And after realizing a rattlesnake problem, the school installed extra fencing to keep the unwanted creatures out, she said.
Yet Pearson appreciates the steps that the Hart district has taken so far, given the challenges in constructing the school.
“I think that every building site brings concern,” Pearson said.
It’s a thought Sabol shared, as well.
“I like the progress that’s being made,” Sabol said. “It needs to keep going in that direction.”
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