On Tuesday, October 20, the Sweetwater Union High School District held a community meeting at Castle Park Middle School to receive feedback about the condition of existing schools.
Paul Woods, director of planning and construction, explained that the Long Range Facility Master Plan (LRFMP) has been in the revision stages for the past year and a half. Once approved by the district trustees, the master plan will serve as the blueprint for building upgrades and new construction during the next ten years.
In 2014–15 the district hired consultants who estimated that $780 million in bond money is needed for modernization.
Woods also said that SANDAG projects 17,400 new housing units in eastern Chula Vista, which will generate 1500 middle-school students and 3500 high-school students. The district currently owns 27.18 acres along Hunte Parkway and construction of a new school is anticipated there.
But the majority of meeting attendees represented Castle Park Middle and Castle Park High School. They wanted bond money to be equally distributed. Community member Paola Martinez Montes said, “I think it’s really important to try to invest in an equitable way, so as we build new schools we also make sure we include all those new things into the older schools.”
Many attendees then expressed the need in both schools for new bathrooms, a new gym, a new library, a new cafeteria, the addition of a multi-purpose room, a new parking lot, and installation of air conditioning.
Moises Aguirre, assistant superintendent of business services said, “Sounds like we need a cost-benefit analysis in terms of whether we rebuild or remodel, or tear down and build new.”
Matthew Dunkle, an English teacher at Castle Park High School, said, “A lot of students choose to transfer to the schools on the east side because of their new facilities. We all tend to judge a book by its cover. I really think it’s important at Castle Park High and here at Castle Park Middle that the front of those schools are really given a facelift or whole remodel.”
Viky Mitrovich, the principal of Castle Park High, explained that her school was built in 1963. She said, “My band room — the ceiling is going inwards. I’m waiting for something to happen there after a hard rain.”
One attendee said students don’t want to drink from the water fountains.
“We got a water-filtering system in place in our back storage lab room for our biotechnology program that we have at Castle Park High School. The person who put that filtering system in tested the water quality and found that the particulates in the water were 250 parts per million higher than what the actual dangerous level actually is…. I know some of our sewage systems come back up and I know maintenance has been out to take care of that, but you can actually smell some of the gases come back into the science rooms through the sinks.”
Another community member noted the positives.
“Our schools offer Title 1 monies. You’ve got a lot of free tutoring services. Our schools offer so much more than the east side schools do. They do not have co-teachers on the east side. We do…. Parents send their kids over there and then their classrooms are packed. Kids are sitting on the floor and they’re not happy because they’ve left their childhood friends. So for any parents who think because you drive through Eastlake you’re giving your child a better education, you are wrong. We’ve got as good teachers over here and we’ve got more money to spend on our kids.”
Principal Mitrovich added, “Our teachers will blow them out of the water on the east side.” She explained Castle Park High receives a large amount of LCAP funds. They are one of the few high schools that offer an after school-program and also have a “Saturday Scholars” program.
“That’s good, but then you’ll have to go ahead and offer our kids the same things that they get over there,” a parent remarked.
The district will hold two more community meetings: Tuesday, October 27th, at National City Middle School and Tuesday, November 3rd, at Montgomery High School starting at 6:30 p.m. The draft master plan goes to the district trustees for approval in early 2016.