It seems like it’s the last straw for parents of High School students in Castaic. They have showed up in force at the Hart District Board meetings to protest the possible splitting up of their students because their current home, West Ranch High School, will not be able to accommodate them.
It’s a constant problem any Castaic dwelling student has faced. First they were at Saugus, then Valencia, now West Ranch. Close to 400 students graduate from Castaic Middle School each year, and they look with growing uncertainty for their next institution.
Three years ago, boundary lines were re-drawn and Castaic students began to shuffle into West Ranch. At the time, West Ranch wasn’t even built, so some students spent their freshman year at Rancho Pico Jr. High.
Now, West Ranch is a two year old school, and can house 2,600 students. The problem lies in that with only three grades in attendance currently, the school population is already near 2,200 students. At this rate, they will be well over capacity during their first year with a full four grades.
So the Hart School District Board took the issue up at their meeting, and there were three options discussed.
One, they contemplated purchasing enough portable classrooms to accommodate West Ranch’s over crowding for one year, at a cost of almost 2 million dollars.
The second was to buy enough portables for two years, which would cost between 3 and 4 million.
The third, and most controversial one, was to split up the Castaic students and send half to Golden Valley, deep in Canyon Country. This did not go over so well at the meeting, which School Board President Paul Strickland called “The largest public meeting I have ever seen in Santa Clarita.”
Ultimately, it comes down to the parents not wanting their kids split up and bussed all over town.
No action was taken at that meeting, but they should make a decision at the February 21st meeting.
The whole problem could be solved if there was a High School in Castaic. That’s a feat that’s been in the works for quite some time and is substantially delayed.
“We’ve got a location for the school, and now we’ve got to hold the County, Castaic Council and the developer’s feet to the fire to get it built as promised,” said Strickland.
It is clear that the school will be built eventually, and so all plans now will most likely focus on temporary solutions until Castaic High School is ready, hopefully by 2010.
Some ideas on the table include taking the next two graduating Castaic Middle School classes and sending them to Valencia for their first two years, then over to West Ranch for their junior year. After that, the new school should be complete and they would finish their High School careers there.
Strickland has an idea that he’s been kicking around as well.
“Before West Ranch, most of the students up there went to Hart, and the Castaic students went to Valencia,” he said. “Families have that history and familiarity with those alternate schools and some of them might want to send their kids there because they have different or more established programs.”
Both Valencia and Hart do have different attributes that might make them more desirable, whether it be athletics or choir or academic programs.
Strickland’s idea would allow for prospective West Ranch, Hart and Valencia students to open enroll to one of those schools if they wanted to.
“We’d first need to do a survey to see if there were enough families who would be interested in open enrolling,” Strickland said.
If there were between 300 and 400 students that would open enroll, then that could ease the burden on West Ranch’s overcrowding.
It would also make use of the population decreases that are occurring at Hart and Valencia right now, as more students are being re-directed elsewhere.
The whole issue is thick with emotion for many in Castaic, who want more than anything, a place they can call their own. But until 2010, something’s got to happen.