By Shawn Raymundo
A site master plan for potential renovations to San Clemente High School is in the works following a workshop discussion among the Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) Board of Trustees on Wednesday, May 8.
CUSD has continued to hold ongoing talks over a potential bond measure to fund updates to schools throughout the district. The latest meeting focused on San Clemente High and developing a site master plan to “better illustrate what can be accomplished” should the district achieve its goal of getting a bond passed in the March 2020 Primary Election, CUSD Deputy Superintendent Clark Hampton said.
To renovate San Clemente High, the district is currently considering a bond of approximately $34 for every $100,000 of assessed home value, according to Hampton.
At the start of the workshop, Chief Facilities Officer John Forney addressed questions trustees had raised during a previous workshop meeting regarding whether renovating the school’s facilities would be cheaper than constructing new buildings.
“As we looked at it, it’s actually cheaper to renovate than start over,” he said.
According to Forney, the cost of construction to build a new student service and library center with the cafeteria and kitchen, performing arts theater and pool building is close to $55 million.
The cost to renovate San Clemente High’s classrooms would be nearly $32.5 million. Such renovations include roof, electrical, lighting, paint, flooring and furniture upgrades.
To move forward, Forney and CUSD staff sought direction on drafting the master plan to show the potential placement of the school’s buildings on the site. What will come later is a rendering of what the potentially new and renovated buildings would look like.
Much of the workshop conversation focused on the renderings and whether they should evoke the city’s “Spanish Village by the Sea” aesthetic or incorporate a more modern look.
For some input, the trustees turned to San Clemente High School Principal Chris Carter, who said he’s been having conversations with colleagues about the potential look of the school. Carter noted that some in the community would like to see the campus be in line with the rest of the city’s Spanish architecture.
“But there’s also people coming out of the woodwork saying, ‘We like the current look of the school the way it is, and so we would like San Clemente High School to look like San Clemente High School,’ ” Carter said. “So our goal is to get more input from our community on that rather than putting the cart before the horse.”
When it comes to altering the look of the campus, Carter also said it’s important that the design remain consistent and uniform, so as to avoid the entire school looking “hodgepodge” with various styles.
Mona Amirseyedian, student advisor on the Board of Trustees, said it would be more useful if the engagement with students and teachers focused on the “things that directly impact them,” such as the placement and sizes of the buildings rather than on the aesthetics.
The board, particularly Trustee Jim Reardon, who represents parts of San Juan Capistrano and Mission Viejo, stressed that the best way to raise support for the bond is to provide renderings.
“Without renderings, without pictures, without being able to illustrate what we’re talking about, people aren’t going to grasp” what CUSD is hoping to accomplish, Reardon said. “These things are important early . . . I think that would go a long way with building the public trust.”
In regard to getting renderings, Forney noted that those are likely to change, as the district gathers feedback from students, teachers, parents and the local community.
“To me, the most important thing is having a master plan, to first know potentially where these buildings would go,” Forney said. “We can do a high-level rendering of an overview of the site, where it just shows a rendering … it could be more of a box, so no one has to be fixated on what it looks like.”
Superintendent Kirsten Vital agreed with Forney’s suggestion to currently move forward with the site master plan, which would allow staff to come back to the board with costs based on the placement of the buildings. Following that, she added, the district could get the community feedback on architecture and building design.
CUSD spokesperson Ryan Burris said in an email that trustees will discuss the “architecture and design of the buildings” during the June 12 meeting, “which would then provide the information we need for building renderings.”—Shawn Raymundo