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Teachers and families from Garrison-San Luis Rey Elementary are adjusting not just to distance learning in response to the coronavirus pandemic. They’ll also have to adapt to a new decision made by the Oceanside Unified school board: the permanent closure of Garrison Elementary School, and the revamp and modernization of the San Luis Rey Elementary School site.
Tuesday’s decision came after months of deliberation as well as site and cost evaluations. Last summer, both schools merged at the San Luis Rey site due to several sinkholes at the Garrison site. In the process, the district forced students from Garrison Elementary to transfer to San Luis Rey in the beginning of the current school year. An engineering report recommended the district remove and replace the entire storm drain system at an estimated cost of $13 million.
The board originally presented a few options: It could repair the storm drain system and reopen Garrison Elementary School, or continue to accommodate students from Garrison at San Luis Rey. The board also proposed closing both schools and moving all students to neighboring schools or coming up with some other plan.
A group of teachers from the merged schools were adamant that the board build a new school site at a new location and proposed Buddy Todd park in Oceanside. They reiterated those sentiments at Tuesday’s board meeting and in a letter to Superintendent Julie Vitale on April 16.
“We believe this to be the best possible option for our community of students, staff, families and neighbors. Both OUSD and the City of Oceanside have an inherent interest in investing in the future of Oceanside,” the letter reads.
But that recommendation wasn’t mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting. Parents and staff said they’re concerned about the environmental health risks to staff and students at the San Luis Rey site because it’s close to high-volume roads and a nearby airport. But at the same time, they said, they’re glad the district’s staff, students and families at the school will be able to stay together.
Michael Rael, a special education teacher at Garrison-San Luis Rey, said he and the other teachers at the school will be working closely with the district to redevelop the new site. He said he doesn’t agree with the board’s decision and thinks the school community is paying now for an old decision the district made to build the San Luis Rey site near the airport. He vowed to do his own research on the safety of the San Luis Rey site, but said he and the other teachers don’t plan to push back on the decision right now.
“We’re going to make sure we’re part of the committee and want to make sure we’re at the forefront of them making their decisions and the environmental part of it is still a concern,” he said.
Victoria Mariani, another teacher in the Oceanside Unified School District, also supported the idea of a new neighborhood school at a new location. She said staff will not be quiet about the inherent problems at the site no matter the outcome and will remain dedicated to the school’s students and families.
Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed frustration Monday after beach-goers flocked to the ocean at Newport Beach and other California beaches over the weekend.
Despite his concerns, some North County officials opened beaches for exercise-related activities like walking, running, swimming and surfing on Monday. Encinitas officials opened Moonlight Beach and Oceanside officials (one of the last cities to close beaches) opened city beaches on Monday. Beaches in surrounding cities Carlsbad, Del Mar and Solana Beach remain closed — at least for now. Del Mar plans to open beaches Thursday and Solana Beach is preparing to open beaches for limited activities next week.