According to Superintendent Cook, the school board rejected the Map Center site for three reasons. "Wetlands are on it," she says, "sewer access there is limited, and the land is too close to the freeway."
But Dick Gadler, former school-site planner for the district, maintains that Cook, whom he admires from her earlier work in the Grossmont School District, is wrong on all three counts. On the Map Center grounds, he says, "There are no wetlands as wetlands are defined by the Army Corps of Engineers. There is a stream running through the spot and some olive trees, and that's what the district must mean by wetlands."
Sewer lines at Map Center would be an easier problem to solve than at Dunbar Lane, according to Gadler, because, although they would have to run through an underpass to the other side of the freeway, the "rate of fall" there is greater than at Dunbar. And the Dunbar site, he says, is about as close to the freeway as the Map Center site.
Gadler thinks that putting the school at the far edge of the district rather than on a parcel of land that is even more suitable and closer to established communities defies common sense. He also argues that the project will contribute to ruining the view of scenic mountain areas.
Lonnie Glasco and his neighbors want to halt implementation of the middle school project at Dunbar Lane or at least force the Cajon Valley district to make the school's presence easier on local residents. As part of their effort, they acquired the help of Gadler through the Mountain Defense League, a loose association of activists to which Gadler belongs. They also hired attorney Julie Hamilton to halt the district's plans in court.
Hamilton maintains that the environmental impact report, which the district says justifies its actions, is defective. She says so in spite of an assertion by Christina Becker, the district's director of long-range planning, that 16 service agencies, including the local fire marshal, have signed off on the report. But Hamilton cites failures in the report, among other reasons, to address various problems, including how runoff from the new school will pollute water in the area and how raising the school 20 feet higher than neighboring properties will affect local residents. Most importantly, she says, the report does not adequately address the issue of traffic.
How are people going to get out of the area in case of a wildfire in the future? That is the question that most bothers Hamilton. "The district," she says, "is putting the new school on the primary choke point for people trying to leave the area." Becker, on the other hand, cites a statement by California fire marshal Brian Heyman in Sacramento. According to Becker, Heyman says that state law does not require schools and other public facilities to have more than one access.
Last year LSA Associates, Inc., representing the Cajon Valley district, solicited from the Grossmont Union High School District, in writing, answers to questions about the Dunbar Lane site. At one time the Grossmont district had considered, and then rejected, the same site for building a new high school. The sixth question from LSA reads: "Can you recommend any measures for mitigating project impacts that might be incorporated into the project?"
Grossmont's director of facilities planning, Thomas Silva, responded in a letter dated October 8, 2002. "The new middle school," he wrote in part, "will definitely add to the traffic already on Dunbar Lane, and congestion is very likely. Dunbar Lane should be widened to at least four (4) lanes and allow for two lanes of flow in both directions. It should also have enough room on the shoulder(s) for emergency access."
For a meeting of the Local Agency Formation Commission on August 4, 2003, however, LSA Associates prepared a long report with a section called "Project Significant Impacts," in which it stated, "The project will not create significant traffic or parking impacts."
In the meantime, the Cajon Valley Union School District used eminent domain to acquire the 80 acres of land it wants for the project. And local residents have dropped their lawsuit, in part because the district is charging them $20,000 (approximately $5 per page) to make copies of all the documents attorney Hamilton says she'd need for representation.
These days a detail about Santee's past pops into Lonnie Glasco's mind. "I watched on TV when Santana High School had that shooting over there," he says, "and all those people started to converge on the school. If something like that happened here, how would parents get in with only one access?"