After a decade – Ventura County residents see their millions at work

In November of 2004, Ventura County voters passed a school bond, Measure H, which would begin construction on two new high schools for the Oxnard Union School District.

After more than a decade since the district was granted $135 million in funds for the project, construction is finally beginning to emerge.

The Oxnard Union School District serves an estimated 16,000 students among seven high schools, according to the Educational Data Partnership. Among those seven are: Hueneme, Oxnard, Channel Islands, Rio Mesa, Camarillo and the latest edition, opening in late 2001, Pacifica.

Courtesy of: www.ouhsd.k12.ca.us

Map of Oxnard Union High School District Courtesy of: http://www.ouhsd.k12.ca.us

 

“There has been increases to the enrollments for every [high] school year after year,” says Cecilia Ceja, Director Of Teacher Personnel for Oxnard Union High School District. “That is why the district requested money to build new schools in the area.”

According to Rio Mesa Principal William Dabbs, Pacifica is over capacity by about 1,000 students and Oxnard by 600 to 700.

Pacifica High School Overcrowded Image by Raelene Kajkowski

Pacifica High School Overcrowded
Image by Raelene Kajkowski

Measure H passed and the Oxnard Union School District was given the requested $135 million to renovate current facilities and build two new high schools.

Yet, it took the Oxnard Union 10 years to set proper plans and for construction to finally take place.

They were given a push by the Ventura County grand jury in June 2013, who investigated into the matter, with a statement given in the final report:

“The Bond Measure H passed by 62.7% of the District voters. The BOC was established as required by Proposition 39. It met once in March, 2005, and did not meet again until March, 2011. District officials delayed issuing funds from the $135 million in authorized bonds while the Camarillo school unification proposal was considered.”

The report calls out members of the district’s school board and bond oversight committee for failing to issue the funds in a timely manner.

Jay Whitney, grand jury foreman, told the Camarillo Acorn in 2013 that the [Oxnard] high school district should have formed a more organized plan for the use of the bond before asking Ventura County voters to approve Measure H.

Depending on their location, most voters did not know there was to be a new high school built in Camarillo.

During the election, political fliers distributed by district officials within the school district’s boundaries, varied drastically. In the Ventura County grand jury final report, it states how the advertisements changed depending on the location, meaning they came in two different formats.

Oxnard voters were notified that the bond money would help with the overcrowding in the high schools within Port Hueneme and Oxnard, however neglected any mention of Camarillo.

Hueneme High  Image by Raelene Kajkowski

Hueneme High
Image by Raelene Kajkowski

The flyer read: “Local high schools in Oxnard and Hueneme are overcrowded due to increasing numbers of students entering each year.”

Camarillo voters were handed fliers that encouraged them to support a new school within their very own community, reading:

“Measure H will add a new high school right here in Camarillo . . . Vote YES on Measure H to help Camarillo High School and add a new high school in our community.”

Each flyer was altered to persuade the individual communities. The Oxnard Union mentioned two different schools that would be built in previous statements and flyers.

Yet, Measure H neglected to mention the locations of each new school.

Sure enough, voters passed the bond due to the persuasing technique.

“No, I didn’t know there was a new high school being built in Camarillo. Didn’t even know they needed one,” said Anna Bruno, 15 year resident in the city of Oxnard and has two children in the Oxnard Union school system. “I voted to pass the bill [Measure H]. Oxnard really needs updated high schools. The ones now are from the 80s.”

According to the Educational Data Partnership, all the current high schools in the Oxnard Union district, with the exception of Pacifica, were opened in July of 1980.

“The overcrowdings are still there, and the bond authorized new school facilities to reduce overcrowding, but millions of bond dollars later, that’s still the case,” Whitney tells the Camarillo Acorn.

The process of eliminating the overcrowding for the high schools located in Oxnard and Hueneme are at a halt.

Overcrowded lunch area Photos by me

Overcrowded lunch area 
Image by Raelene Kajkowski

“Eating lunch is impossible, becuase there is so many people,” said Janelle Arevalo, freshman at Oxnard High School. “My brother goes to the high school down the street [Pacifica]. My mom couldn’t get us in the same school.”

The Arevalo family has a senior, Solomon, who attends Pacifica and a freshman, Janelle, who attends Oxnard High School, even though they are living in the Hueneme High School boundaries.

According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, nearly 40 percent of schools reported transfering students to accommodate overcrowding.

In the NCES 2005 Fast Response Survey System (FRSS), it found:

 “The percentage of principals who said that they considered their school to be overcrowded (15 percent; table 2) was not significantly different from the percentage who indicated that their school was more than 5 percent over their design capacity (10 percent at 6 to 25 percent over capacity, plus 8 percent at more than 25 percent over capacity).

Directing the school bond to help the Oxnard Union’s issue of overcrowding, continues to be in negotation.

In an Oxnard Union High School District board meeting of May 2012, district leaders have their eye on farmland north of Wooley Road and east of Harbor Boulevard. However, members of the Cooluris Family Trust, who own the land, have no intention to sell.

In a statement given at the meeting, Ann C. Diacos, property owner, said that they wanted to perserve the farmlands in Venutra County insisting that they decline the boards offer.

According to the California Department of Conservation’s Farmland Mapping Program, Ventura County in 2010 contained 316,666 acres of agricultural land.

The amount of agricutural land is less than the years before due to its lost to the development.

Even though voters have approved laws intended to protect farmland and open space from development, the county has lost nearly 9,000 acres of farmland to development since 1992, reported by Ventura County Agricultural Commissioner.

The members of the Cooluris Family Trust are looking to perserve their farmland and not lose it to the development.

In an interview with Ventura County Star, Superintendent Gabe Soumakian said the board might go through eminent domain to acquire the Cooluris property, which in his words “is very fair process. It forces the evaluation of the property to determine a fair value”.

If the Oxnard Union High School District can finalize the design phase of the project, then the new Oxnard high school is projected to open in 2016.

The new Oxnard High School is to accomdate 2,250 students and focus on marine biology and agriculture, reports VC Star.

Voters of Measure H can finally see some of their money be put into construction this year with the opening of Rancho Campana high school in Camarillo.

Camarillo’s new high school is looking to open Fall of 2015.

Courtesy of: www.ouhsd.k12.ca.us

Rancho Campana under construction   Courtesy of: http://www.ouhsd.k12.ca.us

Rancho Campana high school is a 28 acre site in Camarillo, near the Camarillo Public Library. According to the new high school’s website, RCHS will open with 200 ninth-graders and 200 10th-graders.

Adding 200 students in each of the following two years, will bring the school its capacity of 800 students.

A lottery system is in place if there is more than 200 students applying for enrollment within each class grade.

“We’re not exactly sure how many (from each school’s attendance area) will enroll,” said Rio Mesa Prinicipal, William Dabbs .

Camarillo currently has one high school, Adolfo Camarillo High School, which is home to about 2,600 students. It was designed to hold about  400 less than that.

Families in the surrounding Camarillo area will be recieving application packets November 1, which will have important dates listed like when the selecting process for students will begin, December 5 – January 16.

The new Camarillo high school will be a smaller campus then its neighboring campuses, however will provide enough room to help Rio Mesa and Pacifica from experiencing overcrowding the years to come.

In late June 2014, the Oxnard Union supplied an updated report on the “Building fund (MEASURE H) financial and performance audits“, stating the long-term obligations and where the bond money is getting directed to at what time.

District Interim Superintendent Bob Carter told VC Star that officials plan to work closely with the various agencies to help ease the planning for the upcoming Oxnard campus and fix the matter of overcrowding.

“We need to work in a collaborative way to go through this process,” Carter said.

Without a set plan and dates keeping the project on board, the Oxnard Union might lose the state grant money that continues to come in for the renovations and new schools.

Rio Mesa High School Image by Raelene Kajkowski

Rio Mesa High School
Image by Raelene Kajkowski

 

 

 

 

Oxnard High School Image by Raelene Kajkowski

Oxnard High School
Image by Raelene Kajkowski

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