The first new schools in Capistrano Unified since San Juan Hills High School was built in 2007 were the topic of discussion Monday night.
Rancho Mission Viejo, South Orange County’s last mega-development, is finally under construction. But its future students may not number enough to fill out a traditional high school, the Capo’s District’s Board of Trustees learned.
So the district will have to consider several options for the 846 ninth- through 12th-grade students the 14,000-home development is expected to generate.
Most of the students who will live in what could become Orange County’s newest city will skew younger, said Tim Holcomb, a district consultant working with the developer to plan school facilities. Based on current calculations, among Rancho Mission Viejo’s future residents will be 4,561 students who are expected to break down as:
- 2,724 K-5 students
- 991 junior high school students
- 846 high schoolers
The numbers make planning traditional schools more difficult, Holcomb said. While the developer and school district are in the preliminary planning stages, Holcomb said he could imagine a scenario of two new K-8 schools and a traditional K-5 elementary to accommodate most of the students.
With the Ranch being built in stages, the first students to move in will likely be asked to attend existing schools, such as Ambuehl Elementary in San Juan Capistrano, Holcomb said.
This will give the district time to build the permanent school sites so the new students do not have to attend a school made up entirely of portable buildings, he said. The Ranch would pay for the transportation costs.
But as for the high school students, there are several choices, Holcomb said. Initially, the students could be dispersed among existing schools. San Juan Hills High isn’t full to capacity yet, he noted.
Alternatively, the district could choose to build a smaller high school, he said. It could wait to until the students grow into needing a comprehensive high school, or the district could expand an existing high school.
Holcomb said there are 20 acres next to Tesoro High School in Las Flores that could make a decent addition or smaller, separate high school. Currently, the land is zoned for either multi-family housing or a cemetery.
“This topic is going to be on lots of board agendas, this is very preliminary,” said Superintendent Joseph Farley. “We just wanted to begin the discussion.”
Dan Kelly, senior vice president of governmental relations and corporate communications for Rancho Mission Viejo, called the district and the developer “married” in a partnership to provide schools for the future residents. The two organizations worked together previously, most recently on Ladera Ranch.