New campus focus of open house

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© Acorn Newspapers
Michael Pederson, an architect with Los Angeles-based HMC Architects, left, explains to Elena and Joe Davis and their daughter Paige, 9, how the Oxnard Union High School District and the design firm will strive to use environmentally friendly practices to build the proposed new high school in Camarillo. The informational open house took place on May 6. © Acorn Newspapers
Paige Davis, 9, looked up at a 7-foot-tall billboard that showed architectural designs for a proposed high school in Camarillo. The billboard was one of many at Oxnard Union High School District’s open house in Camarillo last week.District officials aimed to show residents what the campus will look like and the type of programs it will offer.

Joe and Elena Davis of Camarillo brought their daughter Paige to the open house at the Center for Spiritual Living on May 6, where OUHSD employees and volunteers used the billboards and other materials to explain and answer questions about the proposed campus.

The new high school, slated to open August 2015 behind Camarillo Library off Los Posas Road, will offer three programs: biomedicine, engineering and performing arts.

The Davis family said sending their daughter to a school located near their home in Camarillo is preferable to sending her to Rio Mesa High School.

“We’ve been thinking about it since (Paige) was born,” Elena Davis said. “The prospect of her being just down the street is really exciting.”

The Davises have considered sending Paige, who has shown an interest in the arts, to Newbury Park High School.

They like the program at Newbury Park High but reconsidered when they heard the Oxnard district planned to build a 700-seat performing arts center on the new campus.

Not everyone is enthused about the proposed high school.

Former Pleasant Valley School District board member Patty Lerner sent her daughter, Sarah, to Newbury Park High School, where the teen is a junior in the school’s International Baccalaureate program and participates in choir and drama.

Lerner said the proposed performing arts center at the new campus is too big for a small school.

The district has consulted with several committees in developing the school’s curriculum and architecture, including the Measure H Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, which was formed to regulate how the district spends the Measure H bonds.

Measure H was a ballot initiative passed in November 2004 that gave the district $135 million in bond money to renovate existing high schools and build two new campuses—one in Oxnard and another in Camarillo.

The bond oversight committee includes Camarillo residents, but the debate remains on how the money should be spent.

Many parents whose children attend Adolfo Camarillo High School would rather see the money spent on upgrades to the existing campus.

Indeed, there is even a Facebook page—Camarillo High First—created by parents who want more improvements made to the high school.

Parents with younger children, though—such as Joe and Elena Davis—are generally happy with the plan to build a new high school.

A done deal?

Some in the community have said they feel the new high school is a done deal, but when Mayor Jan McDonald was asked if the city has the power to veto the district’s proposed plans, she answered, “Absolutely.”

“(The district) doesn’t have the zoning to build this,” McDonald said, referring to the 27 acres of land behind the Camarillo Library. The unincorporated property belongs to the county and would need to be annexed and rezoned before Oxnard Union can build the new high school.

To ensure the public has all the details about the campus and to give community members a chance to voice their thoughts on the project, the city and the district will host another town hall meeting from 7 to 10 p.m. Tues., May 22 at the Ventura County Office of Education, 5100 Adolfo Road.

The mayor said the public forum should be a two-way conversation and she encouraged people to email their questions and concerns to NewCamarilloHS@ ci.camarillo.ca.us.

“I really want to stress it is (the community’s) opportunity to not only hear about the new high school but give their input,” said McDonald in a phone interview last week.

The city will study environmental reports and apply for annexation from the Ventura Local Agency Formation Commission, an independent agency that reviews boundary changes for cities and special districts.

It’s unknown if the City Council will vote to apply to the formation commission. McDonald said that will depend on what the public wants.

If the City Council opts not to apply for annexation, Oxnard Union officials would be left to explore other options and reconsider how to spend the bond money. Superintendent Gabe Soumakian said that would be costly for the district and would leave the new campus in limbo.

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