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Public invited to weigh in on campus

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The new Camarillo high school and performing arts center are slated to be built behind the Camarillo Library o Las Posas Road.
The first stages of an environmental impact report are underway for the proposed Camarillo Academy High School and Performing Arts Center.

Representatives from California Construction Management and HMC Architects presented the campus plans at a public informational meeting—more formally referred to as a scoping meeting—in the library at Adolfo Camarillo High School on July 24.

Terry Zinger, an executive vice president with California Construction Management, said the meeting was an opportunity for the community to voice concerns with the project. Those who want to comment on the environmental report have until Aug. 15 to do so.

“We want the project to be sensitive to the community and to the students of the district,” said Zinger, whose firm was contracted by Oxnard Union High School District to oversee the planning stages of the campus. The company will not be involved in the construction of the campus, which is more than a year away, according to Zinger.

The high school and the 700-seat performing arts center are slated to be built behind the Camarillo Library off Las Posas Road on farmland just outside of city limits.

The proposed campus will be smaller than originally planned and will initially accommodate 700 students. If needed, the school could be expanded to include 1,000 students.

The $60-million project will be funded through Measure H, 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 the other in Camarillo.

Gabe Soumakian, superintendent of the high school district, said the Camarillo Academy High School and Performing Arts Center would provide a “21st century approach to education.”

“Large high schools are not the best learning environments,” Soumakian said.

The school will be designed with a focus on technology, and its smaller size is meant to offer the student a more personalized education, according to Soumakian.

Kate Diamond, the project architect, said the campus will have various amenities, including wireless Internet access.

Diamond said the school’s curriculum will focus on three main areas of study: performing arts and media, science, and engineering and technology.

But Diamond was adamant that the school not be thought of as a specialty campus.

“This will be a full comprehensive school and will meet all CSU and UC requirements,” Diamond said.

The high school will not offer sports teams. Students wishing to participate in sports will do so at the high school which draws from their area.

The campus was originally slated to occupy the 77-acre site the district owns off Las Posas Road. It was later decided less than 30 acres were required.

One of the concerns with the space has to do with the farmland adjacent to the campus. Under California law, there must be a safe distance between a school and any potential toxins in agricultural areas. Zinger said any toxins would be from chemical sprays used in everyday farming, not something the community should worry about.

The district would remove about a foot and a half of topsoil from nearby farmland. Zinger said the district would probably move the topsoil away from the campus and replace it with clean dirt.

Zinger said another study would be conducted in the next month or two to determine how much soil, if any, must be replaced.

“It’s all about strategizing what the lowest impacts to our environment would be,” Zinger said. “There’s very little as human beings we do that doesn’t have some sort of impact. If you add one more car to a street, that has a traffic impact.”

Transportation was another of the concerns voiced at the meeting.

Cheryl Gump has lived at Country Lane, a condominium complex next to the proposed site, for 11 years. She’s concerned that Mar Vista Drive, a two-lane street with light traffic, would become a major thoroughfare if the school were completed.

“I think there are many other areas where they could put a high school before tucking it into a little corner like this,” Gump said.

Gump said she and other residents of Country Lane have suggested areas surrounding the Camarillo Airport or California State University Channel Islands as alternatives.

Her reservations stem from the construction of the Camarillo Library, which opened about five years ago. Gump said the construction crews were working at all hours of the night and weren’t sensitive to the proximity of the residential areas. Gump said she called the city several times during construction to complain about the noise but nothing changed.

“All of us here in Country Lane have the feeling that everything we say will make no difference,” Gump said. “ They’ll just do what they want.”

The next step for the project is to complete the environmental report, according to Zinger. Under California law, the report is required to go through various public agencies, a notice to the community and, ultimately, approval by the city of Camarillo and the Local Agency Formation Commission before construction can be considered. Zinger said he hopes to receive feedback from the agencies and residents by Aug. 15 to complete the report.

Zinger said though the process is long, it’s moving at a good pace.

“I don’t see any major issues with this project,” Zinger said. “We just have to keep it moving so we don’t miss a stitch.”

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