Officials say larger campus requires more studies but will be worth it

The Hart district has pushed back the opening of Castaic high school to fall 2015, saying the addition of more property to the high school site requires more studies, officials said Monday.

Officials with the William S. Hart Union High School District previously wanted to open the high school to students in fall 2014. That was the goal when the Hart district board named Romero Canyon as the preferred site for Castaic high school, a project that’s taken the 23,000-student school district more than a decade to complete.

Romero Canyon is a 114-acre plot of undeveloped Castaic land owned by developer Larry Rasmussen.

In recent months, Romero Canyon neighbor Eugene Lombardi lost his property in a public auction, which gave the Hart district an opportunity to acquire 84 more acres.

With more space, the Hart district says, it can cut down on construction costs and give students more room.

That also means pushing the opening date back by a year to allow for state-required studies on the revised site.

“I think we have an opportunity to make Castaic high school a much better school,” Hart district board president Gloria Mercado-Fortine said Monday. “I think our end product will be much, much better and the community will be much, much happier. I think that outweighs the time element.”

Under the new time line, Castaic high school would open to ninth-graders only in fall 2015 with grades added until it becomes a comprehensive high school.

“The school will open with all academic, extracurricular and athletic programs that are available to our ninth-graders at our comprehensive high schools,” Hart district spokeswoman Gail Pinsker said.

The Castaic community has long awaited a high school of its own. Without it, high school students living in Castaic and Val Verde commute to West Ranch and Valencia high schools, which have experienced overcrowding.

Castaic high school is being paid for by local voters who, in 2008, supported Measure SA, a $300 million construction bond, so the school and a number of improvements at other campuses could be completed.

Castaic Area Town Council member Flo Lawrence said the new property would better accommodate athletic fields and open space for students.

“I believe that waiting an additional year to have a dream site is worth it,” he said. “I think it’s worth doing it right.”

This week, the Hart district will release a revised notice of preparation, which is a planning document that outlines the high school project.

By early summer, the district anticipates releasing the environmental impact review, a hefty document that details the potential effect the high school may have on traffic, the environment and air quality.

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