Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Vacaville needs new high school?

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Vacaville needs new high school

By Audrey Wong

-- By 2008, Vacaville may teem with 5,000 teenagers who will crowd the city's high schools and 1,800 of them will attend class in portable buildings, according to the Vacaville Unified School District.

Because of those projections, the district is proposing to build a new high school with a 2,000 student capacity in the northern portion of the city. VUSD officials presented Wednesday night possible sites for the high school and the steps they would need to take before construction can begin.

Even with a decline in middle school students, future growth in Vacaville may draw families with teenage children. This would necessitate the building of another high school, said Leigh Coop, director of facilities.

Vacaville residents Laurie and Jerry Malicki agree.

"Our kids went to Vacaville High School and Wood several years ago and it was overcrowded," Laurie Malicki said. "When they were at Wood there were a lot of classes that didn't have chairs."

Current enrollment at Vacaville and Will C. Wood high schools is 4,000, with 800 students in 45 portable classes, Coop said. Facilities such as Wood's cafeteria can't accommodate all students.

The district is considering two sites. One is a swath south of Elmira Road and east of Leisure Town Road. Much of the property is used for agriculture and just outside city limits but is within the city's sphere of influence.

The city may have to annex the land for the district. The property is divided among six landowners with whom the district must negotiate. Because of the farming, the district must test the site for pesticides. It must take into account the proximity of power lines for safety reasons as well how a high school will affect traffic and neighbors at both sites in an environmental study.

The district has scouted the second site by Eubanks Drive but doesn't favor building a school in the the heart of an industrial park, Coop said.

Purchasing a site can take 18 months and the district hired architects Murray & Downs from Placerville for the project. Planning and design will go on through 2004-2005. The district wants to start construction in the spring or summer of 2006 and open the school by fall 2008.

The district is exploring two options for the new facility. One is to build just the high school on 60 acres. The other is to construct a high school on a corner of a 100-acre lot and include an elementary school and a middle school on the other side of the property.

The $67 million high school is included in plans for Measure V, a $101 million bond. The bond will contribute $46 million toward construction. The district wants to raise $17 million through a state school bond in 2006 and $4 million from developer fees. But it must have all plans completed and voters must approve of a bond in two years.

High school plans are also dependent on whether the district can purchase land at a reasonable price. The middle school and two elementary school proposed in the district's general plans will be funded by developers fees.

Audrey Wong can be reached at awong@dailyrepublic.net.

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